Author's Note: Number Fifteen in the Don't Blink series. For Faberry Week Day 2 (Jealousy) and Day 3 (Beth.)
Endless thanks and cyber-hugs to Skywarrior108 for being an awesome beta, and also for running these amazing Faberry Weeks where we can all enjoy the talent and creativity in out fandom.
Disclaimer: I do not own Glee or the characters, I just like to play with them…strictly non-profit.
Forget The Wrong That I've Done
When my time comes
Forget the wrong that I've done
Help me leave behind some
Reasons to be missed.
~Leave Out All The Rest, Linkin Park
Watching them has become a habit—one born of wariness and gradually transformed into a reluctant sort of envy. Those early days were spent waiting for the first sparks of discontent to ignite so that she could wrap her daughter up in a metaphorical blanket and protect her from the inevitable explosion. If someone asks her which daughter, she'll be quick to claim both, but deep down (in that secret, selfish place that she doesn't like to acknowledge) Shelby Corcoran silently admits that it's always Beth who's her primary concern.
She thinks that's the way it should be. After all, Beth is the daughter that she cradled in her arms, that she fed and bathed and changed, that she's cared for in sickness and in health, that she's spent the last thirteen years raising and loving and sacrificing for. It's only this strange state of being half in and half out of Rachel's life that makes her feel guilty for putting her second daughter first.
Rachel was never meant to be hers.
Shelby knows this. She repeats it to herself like a prayer almost everyday and has for twenty-nine years, ever since she sat in that dreary orange chair between Hiram and Leroy Berry listening to the doctor confirm that she was, in fact, pregnant. In that moment, her world tipped sideways, and she's never quite been able to regain her balance.
It had seemed like such a little thing at the time—just a meager nine months compared to a lifetime beneath the bright lights of Broadway. She'd been eighteen and so stupidly naïve to believe that her big dreams of the future and the promise of a healthy bank account would numb her to the reality of carrying a child that would never belong to her. She'd signed away any chance to be a mother to Rachel before Rachel had even existed, and no amount of daily reminders of the selfless gift she gave the Berry men can ever fill the emptiness inside of her—not even Beth can quite manage to occupy every crack and crevice that Rachel left behind.
It's what makes moments like this almost unbearable for Shelby.
Across the room, Beth sits on the sofa next to Quinn, smiling widely and making sweeping gestures with her hands as she talks to Rachel, who's sitting on Quinn's other side. It's impossible to ignore the resemblance between mother and daughter, from their matching hazel gazes to their nearly identical smiles. And just like Quinn, Beth adores Rachel.
She's proud of her big sister—that's how Beth has come to think of Rachel, even though the complexity of their situation really can't be defined in such simplistic terms—and she's always eager to hear Rachel's endless stories about backstage chaos or onstage snafus or eccentric costars. Beth has always found Rachel's dramatics entertaining, but there's a little bit of a 'cool' factor in play now that she fully understands that her sister is semi-famous. Shelby is proud of Rachel too, but sometimes it's hard to see past her jealousy.
It was supposed to be her with a Tony sitting on the mantle and the possibility (probability) of a second statue soon to join the first. Shelby had given up her only biological child for that chance, and instead she'd been rewarded with failure and disappointment, forced to scratch out a living as a vocal coach and desperate for the family that she'd put off starting until it was nearly too late. Adopting Beth was supposed to make everything better, and it has for the most part, but karma is a real bitch because it's Beth that has brought Shelby to this strange place where she sits and watches the daughter that might have been hers had she made different choices along the way.
Shelby will always have mixed feelings about those choices. Giving birth to Rachel, obviously, is something that she'll never, ever regret, but the contract that she'd signed is something else entirely. On her good days, she remembers that she gave Hiram and Leroy the child that they'd craved and that Rachel has grown into an amazing woman. On her bad days, she hates them for insisting on the clause that had forbidden her from contacting Rachel until she turned eighteen. On her bad days, Shelby cries over what might have been had the Berrys decided to allow her to be part of Rachel's life from the beginning.
It was a bad day that first prompted her to convince Jesse St. James to introduce himself to Rachel.
It was a very bad day that had her walking away from the chance to know her fifteen-year-old daughter, but the reality of Rachel had been so different from the fantasy that Shelby had built up in her mind, and Rachel was barley more than a stranger with a familiar face. So Shelby had gone back to repeating her mantra—Rachel was never meant to be hers.
Beth, though—Beth was always meant to be Shelby's little girl. She knows that Rachel used to believe—maybe still believes deep down—that Shelby replaced her with Beth, but it isn't that simple. Rachel is the child that grew beneath her heart. She's the child who kicked and rolled inside of Shelby every time she sang. She's something that Shelby can never get back, never forget, and never replace. All she can do—all she has done—is open her heart to another child who'd needed her in a way that Rachel hadn't and never would.
Oh, she knows that Rachel would argue that point—that she's never really needed Shelby. Quinn would argue it too, on Rachel's behalf, but looking at them both now, Shelby can't imagine that her presence would have had much of an impact on the course of Rachel's life. If anything, her poor attempts at mothering Rachel had only ever made things worse.
Right now, the fingers of Rachel's right hand are entwined with Quinn's left in a simple, quiet gesture of intimacy that Shelby has witnessed countless times in the last six years. She remembers the first time she'd seen it happen, in an overcrowded Starbucks in Penn Plaza. Shelby had long accepted that Quinn and Rachel had somehow managed to remain friends through their college years, and she isn't ashamed to admit that she'd occasionally attempted to use that to her advantage, keeping tabs on Rachel's life with a few well-directed questions to Quinn.
Shelby had gotten in touch with Quinn almost two years after her first failed attempt to integrate her and Noah into Beth's life. That first misguided affair had blown up in her face, and frankly, she'd left Lima completely distrustful of Quinn and reluctant to ever allow her daughter be influenced by such an obviously troubled young woman. But Noah had kept in touch, wanting to stay in Beth's life as much as he could as he struggled to find his place in Los Angeles, and gradually through him, Shelby had learned that Quinn was enrolled in Yale and was turning her life around.
When Beth had been almost four, Shelby had made the decision to try again. She'd wanted her daughter to know her birth parents and to have the relationship with them that she'd never been able to have with Rachel. So she'd gotten Quinn's email address and sent a tentative message, and two weeks later, they'd met face-to-face to discuss the possibility of visitation.
Shelby had been understandably surprised when Quinn had very honestly—albeit very hesitantly—come out to her, making it clear that she wanted her second chance with Beth to be free of any secrets or half-truths. Quinn's sexuality hadn't been an issue—how could it be when she herself had acted as a surrogate for two gay men?—but then, Shelby had never entertained the possibility that Quinn's friendship with Rachel would ever turn romantic until they'd all but smacked her in the face with it.
She's a mother, first and foremost, and all she'd seen (after the haze of stunned confusion from having such a momentous bomb detonated so unceremoniously over her head cleared) were the impossible to answer questions that Beth would inevitably ask, assuming that the relationship lasted beyond what Shelby had assumed at the time to be Rachel satisfying the curiosity that she hadn't indulged during her college days. Shelby might not have been particularly motherly to Rachel, but she recognized enough of herself in her daughter to worry that Rachel would eventually grow bored with her lesbian experience and destroy her friendship with Quinn in the process. She'd (unfairly, she concedes) predicted heartbreak and a messy split, and her first priority had been keeping Beth from being caught in the fallout.
The fallout turned out to be—well, this. Shelby takes a sip of her water as she continues to watch Beth interact with the couple. Today is her thirteenth birthday, and Quinn and Rachel made the trip to Union City especially to see her, gifts in hand. Noah had Skyped Beth earlier, wishing her a happy birthday and checking to make sure she'd gotten the package that he'd sent. Beth loves the attention and the extra presents she gets from having three additional parental figures in her life.
For all of Shelby's concern about Beth's state of mind in those initial months of Quinn's relationship with Rachel, when she'd finally been forced to sit her daughter down and gently explain everything, Beth hadn't been fazed in the least. If anything, she'd been excited by the idea of getting to know Rachel better, and Shelby had come to the unpleasant realization that, despite her moderate efforts to improve her own relationship with Rachel, she'd been consciously keeping her separate from the part of her life that included Beth. Changing that had been a slow, painful process for all of them.
Shelby likes to think that things are better now. Rachel is never going to call her Mom, and she honestly doesn't want that anyway. She's only Mom to Beth—though more Mother these days in that exasperated tone that only teenagers can perfect—but Shelby's name on Rachel's lips no longer carries the same hard bite that it once did, and that's more than she probably deserves.
"That is so cool. Mom, come feel this."
Beth's excited voice pulls Shelby's attention to her daughter's hand resting on the noticeable curve of Quinn's belly. Her own stomach clenches at the sight, just as it does every time she sees Quinn lately. It reminds her of her own pregnancy, and how, despite the fact that she'd had Hiram and Leroy fussing over her, she'd never felt so lost and alone. Quinn has admitted to having felt the same with Beth.
Shelby doesn't really have a clear memory of Quinn's first pregnancy. Her focus during those brief months had been on Rachel, and she'd barely spared a second thought to the pregnant blonde in her daughter's glee club—at least, not until she'd heard that Quinn had given birth to a baby girl that she wouldn't be keeping—but she does remember the sadness in Quinn's eyes because she'd once seen that same look in her own.
Quinn radiates a quiet joy with this baby. It's her second chance, much like Beth was Shelby's, only this time Quinn has Rachel beside her, holding her hand and reflecting the same joy. They're in it together, and in about three months, they'll be mothers. Shelby is happy for them. Mostly.
"Honey, it's not polite to treat Quinn's stomach like a free carnival exhibition," she chastises gently. Inside, her desire to feel the baby move is warring with her need to protect herself from the sorrow she knows it will cause. Quinn's second chance includes a pregnancy that she can share with the person she loves. Shelby never got to have that experience.
"It's okay," Quinn assures her with a wide smile. She rests her hand over Beth's, and her shining eyes dart to Rachel before focusing on Shelby. "I don't mind so much when it's family." The message is clear—however messy and uncomfortable it can seem at times, they are a family.
"She moves around a lot," Beth comments with a grin.
"She does," Quinn confirms, laughing lightly. "I think she takes after Rachel. Always in motion."
"Funny," Rachel drawls, but she's smiling adoringly at her wife.
"It's true, though," Shelby feels compelled to add, addressing Rachel. "I felt you move for the first time at fifteen weeks, and you never stopped." Sometimes, if she's lucky, she can almost recall the sensation—feeling the phantom tickles and shifts in her womb. "I was lucky if I could get an hour of sleep at night before you'd wake me up."
"Some things never change," Quinn murmurs with a sly grin, causing Rachel's cheeks to flush.
Beth doesn't seem to notice, but her eyebrows are furrowed a little, and she's worrying her lower lip in a way that, once again, highlights her resemblance to the woman who gave birth to her. "Did I move around that much?" she finally asks Quinn, tilting her head curiously.
Quinn's attention is immediately back on Beth, and she licks her own lips nervously. Shelby catches the subtle flex of muscles in Rachel's hand, still wrapped around Quinn's like a lifeline. "You had your moments," Quinn says softly, a fond smile curling on her lips, "but you were typically more active in the afternoons and actually let me get some rest at night."
Shelby chuckles a little, shaking her head. "Which is exactly the opposite of what you did after you were born," she tells her daughter. "You napped all afternoon and kept me up all night. I can't believe it's been thirteen years already," she muses.
"Neither can I," Quinn sighs, rubbing her belly absently. For just a moment, her expression seems melancholy, and Shelby thinks back to the day Beth was born. She'd been watching Vocal Adrenaline win Regionals for the fourth consecutive time and lamenting her non-relationship with Rachel, while Quinn had been whisked away to the hospital. The couple hadn't even been friendly to one another at the time. The years may have sped by when it comes to Beth, but in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.
"Yeah, you're all, like, old now," Beth says, wrinkling her nose as she carelessly echoes Shelby's thoughts.
"Hey!" Quinn gasps, giving Beth a playful swat.
Rachel gasps dramatically and says, "I am certainly not old, young lady."
Shelby laughs and rolls her eyes. "You're such a brat," she tells her daughter.
"Am I lying?" Beth asks cheekily. "I mean, you're totally going to be a grandma, Mom."
Shelby's smile slips at the reminder. Logically, she knows it true. The baby Quinn is carrying is also Rachel's child, and therefore her grandchild, but thinking of herself as a grandmother just doesn't feel right. She's not that old. She's only—well, she's still under fifty, anyway. She's not a grandma. "Technically," she concedes.
"And I'm gonna be an aunt," Beth adds. "Like, I know the baby's kind of my sister, too, but not really...and being an aunt sounds so much cooler. Like, important, you know?" she shrugs.
Quinn sucks in a sharp little breath, eyes glistening. "Oh, Beth, honey," she whispers, lifting her hand to brush back Beth's bangs with gentle fingers. "You are going to be such an important part of this baby's life," she promises.
Beth fidgets a little, blushing at the unexpected attention. "Well, yeah, but she's gonna call me Aunt Beth, right? 'Cause that's the cool part."
Quinn's hand falls back to her belly, and she smiles, shaking her head. "Absolutely," she says.
"I've often wished that I had a sister or brother so that I could be someone's cool aunt," Rachel reveals, "like Mame Dennis in the classic Broadway musical Mame, the role made famous by five-time Tony Award winning actress, Angela Lansbury."
Beth's face lights up in recognition. "She was Mrs. Potts, right?"
Rachel's incredulous gaze whips to Shelby. "Really? That's the role you allow your daughter to associate with an iconic stage, film, and television actress?"
"Rachel," Quinn softly admonishes.
"No, that's like...like...letting her associate Barbra Streisand with Meet the Fockers! I'm very disappointed in you, Shelby."
Shelby shakes her head and attempts to stifle her smile. She's always appreciated Rachel's passion for the performing arts—she reminds Shelby of herself—but her poor daughter is going to have a rude awakening once she has a daughter of her own. Her collection of classic Broadway musicals and powerhouse divas will be shelved in favor of Disney movies and musically challenged boy bands in no time at all. She'll be lucky to have a child like Beth who's at least interested enough in theater to want to see the shows.
"But you like Beauty and the Beast."
"Not the point, Quinn," Rachel growls. "Beth, clearly your musical theater education requires some extra tutelage that I will be more than happy to provide."
"Does that mean you're finally going to take me to see the Spring Awakening revival?"
"No," Shelby barks, loudly chorused by both Rachel and Quinn.
"Not until you're at least sixteen," Shelby offers as a compromise after Beth huffily crosses her arms and glares at her.
"That's three years away," she whines.
"Did I say sixteen? I meant eighteen."
Quinn chuckles, patting Beth's thigh. "Quit while you're behind, kiddo."
"It's highly overrated anyway," Rachel soothes.
Quinn leans closer to Beth, dropping her voice. "And her opinion has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she was told she was too old for the role of Wendla."
"Quinn! That simply isn't true," Rachel denies, crossing her arms testily, "and anyway, if I'd gotten that role, I would have missed out on originating the role of Iris in Confessions, and possibly on my thir..."
"Third Tony nomination," Quinn finishes with a grin.
"You're totally going to win, too," Beth tells her, forgetting about her own mini-diva tantrum.
Rachel flashes a smile. "It would be a nice little bonus," she admits with attempted modesty.
Shelby sighs, smiling thinly. She's happy for Rachel. She is—it's just hard to be witnessing all her triumphs from the sidelines, but, "Beth and I will be watching."
Quinn elbows Rachel in the side, clearing her throat, and Rachel cuts her a look of mild annoyance before sitting up a little straighter and meeting Shelby's eyes. "Actually, if...if you and Beth would like, I have two extra tickets to the ceremony."
Shelby's lips part in surprise, but before she can formulate a response, Beth's face lights up with excitement, and she bounces on the sofa. "Yes, please, Mom. We can go, can't we? Please say we can."
"Of course," she agrees, thinking there was never any question as to where she'd be two Sundays from now. Beth jumps ups in a flash and crushes her in a hug, chanting a refrain of thank yous that has Shelby laughing. Beth repeats the action on Rachel and Quinn—well, she's at least a little more careful with Quinn. "Thank you, Rachel," Shelby says.
"It's nothing, really," she demurs, glancing away and settling her gaze on Beth instead. "I'll have Cheryl arrange a car, and Kurt has some fashion connections who can make sure you both have something suitable to wear. I'll call with the details."
"Oh, this is so awesome," Beth squeals.
"You say that now, but just wait until you're falling asleep through all those boring speeches," Quinn warns her.
"It'll still be awesome to go," she insists, and Shelby can almost see the stars in her eyes—literally. She knows her daughter well enough to guess that she's already making a mental list of which celebrities she might meet. She's already met a few thanks to Rachel, mostly by happenstance. Intellectually, Shelby knows that Rachel has never tried to buy Beth's affection, but she can't deny that Rachel's career (and Quinn's too) has provided Beth with some bragging points that she's all too happy to relay to her friends.
"Speaking of going, we probably should be," Rachel announces, glancing at her watch. Quinn nods, pressing her palms against the edge of the sofa as if to stand.
"Wait," Beth stops her, biting her lip and turning her hopeful gaze to Shelby. "Mom. Can I go get the thing for them?"
"What thing?" Quinn asks, furrowing her brows.
Shelby takes a breath, glancing nervously at Rachel. "Oh, it's..."
"A gift," Beth blurts out with a grin. "Can I?"
"Go ahead," Shelby says, trapped by her daughter's well-meaning enthusiasm. Beth races out of the room and up the stairs, her footfalls reverberating through the house. It's been such a nice afternoon so far, and she's not sure how Rachel will react to being ambushed, but Beth is so excited and she can't refuse her.
Quinn's eyebrow arches. "She got us a gift on her birthday?"
"Not exactly. It's...something we both want you to have," Shelby tells them. "For the baby."
Rachel's lips curve a little as she curls her palm over Quinn's thigh, rubbing it lightly while Quinn presses a hand to her stomach and sighs, "She's really okay with everything?"
"She seems to be," Shelby assures her. They'd had several conversations about Quinn and Rachel starting a family of their own, both before and after Quinn had announced her pregnancy, and Beth only ever admitted to it being kind of weird to think about how she'd be related to the baby. She's never seemed jealous or resentful. "If anything," Shelby reflects, "she just seems a little more curious about your first pregnancy with her than she's ever been before. Which I'm sure you've noticed."
"Yeah," Quinn whispers with a distracted nod, sliding her hand over Rachel's until Rachel turns her palm over and links their fingers together in silent support.
"I know some of those memories are probably still a little painful."
"They are," Quinn acknowledges, looking to Rachel with a trembling smile, "but...we're making new memories." Rachel nods in agreement, lifting their joined hands to her lips and pressing a tiny kiss there. Quinn's smile grows a little more confident. "All of us," she says, nodding at Shelby.
Beth's footsteps skip back down the stairs, and she glides back into the room swinging a pale green gift bag that she immediately hands to Shelby. "Here. You should give it to them, Mom," she instructs.
Shelby's hands tighten around the bag for a moment, and she steels herself, slipping off the chair and moving closer to the sofa before balancing her weight next to Rachel. "A couple of weeks ago, I...we...were going through some of Beth's baby things," Shelby explains, "kind of reminiscing, and well, this was packed away with them." She offers the bag to Rachel, who takes it with a small frown. She doesn't even look inside, passing it over to Quinn instead, and Shelby bites back her disappointment. "I want you to have it. Both of you...but, mostly you, Rachel," she clarifies, as Quinn opens the bag.
Quinn gasps when she frees the contents of the bag, and Rachel snaps her mouth shut, turning to look at her wife who's spreading open a green and white baby quilt over her lap. The center square holds an elaborately detailed tree, and the surrounding squares are stitched with intricate floral designs, except for a few multicolored patches that differ from the rest. "Oh, it's beautiful," Quinn whispers, gently fingering the soft material. Rachel reaches out to touch one of the odd patches—a teddy bear surrounded by a sky full of gold stars.
Shelby watches Rachel's shoulders heave and shudder before wide brown eyes turn their focus on her.
"My grandmother made it while she was pregnant with my mother," Shelby begins softly, "and my mother added the patch with the balloons when she was pregnant with me. I was meant to give it to...to my daughter someday," Shelby stutters, feeling her throat tighten with emotion as she remembers digging this quilt out of an old cedar chest after she'd first felt Rachel move inside of her. She'd wanted something that would connect her to her child that the damned contract couldn't take away.
"I...it felt right to...to add that patch," she nods at the place where Rachel's fingers are still resting, "when I was carrying you, Rachel, even though I knew I couldn't keep you. I wanted to give it to you when you were born, but your dads didn't think it would be a good idea." She takes a deep breath, pursing her lips for a moment. She feels Beth lean into her side, and she slips an arm around her daughter's shoulder, grateful that she's there. "They said I should keep it for...for my next child."
Rachel swallows heavily, looking everywhere but at Shelby. "But...you...Beth should have it," she finally manages.
Beth shakes her head, smiling down at Rachel. "But I totally want you to have it, Rachel. It's like how Quinn and Noah picked my name, so I could have something from them. Mom kept this for you, and it sucks that you never got to have it as a baby, but, like, now you guys can give it to your little girl."
Quinn sniffles, brushing at her tears and curling her arm around Rachel's bicep and leaning close. "Rach?"
Rachel looks down, shaking her head. "I...I don't know how to quilt," she whispers. Shelby's heart twists at the confusion in Rachel's voice. She shouldn't have let Beth convince her to do this. It's twenty-eight years too late.
"But I can sew," Quinn reminds Rachel softly, her own voice thick with emotion. "We'll buy a How To book or something. It can be a project," she urges. "You know how much you love projects."
Rachel exhales shakily, nodding as her fingers trace over the stars. "It...it really is beautiful," she murmurs, finally turning suspiciously shiny eyes back to Shelby. "Thank you."
Shelby offers a watery smile and nods. The tightness around her heart eases a little.
"Maybe you could put the baby's name on it," Beth suggests. "You know, when you decide on one. Or, like, a big gold star to go with the patch Mom added."
Rachel clears her throat, shifting off the sofa. "Excuse me for a moment, I need to use your bathroom." She stands rather jerkily, brushing past Shelby without a second glance and silently rushing out of the room. Quinn twists around on the sofa, watching her wife disappear with a concerned frown.
"Is she okay?"
Quinn turns back to Beth, forcing a smile that's meant to be reassuring but just looks pained. "I think Rachel is just a little emotional because you and your mom gave us such an amazing gift."
Beth seems appeased by the explanation, smiling as she slides back onto the sofa next to Quinn, but Shelby is still staring at the spot where Rachel disappeared, feeling unsettled. "Maybe I should check on her."
"You should probably just give her a minute," Quinn advises, a protective glint in her eyes.
Shelby grits her teeth, but she nods in acknowledgment, deciding to distract herself by picking up the empty glasses from the coffee table and taking them into the kitchen. She can hear Beth asking Quinn more about the Tonys, wanting to know which celebrities she might see. Shelby wants to smile at how well she knows her daughter, but right now all she can think about is how she'll never know Rachel the same way.
Shelby sets the glasses in the sink and leans on the counter, staring out the window into her modest back yard. She can almost see the ghost of a younger Beth playing there, giggling as she dances in the grass and pretends to be a princess. She tries to imagine a granddaughter doing the same in a few years, but the image barely manages to materialize before it's gone.
The unexpected interruption makes her jump, and she spins around to face Rachel, who's shifting her weight from foot to foot while she twists the rings on her finger. Shelby hasn't seen Rachel look so uncertain of herself in a very long time, and she feels like she's been thrown back in time thirteen years. "I...um...I just wanted to thank you again...for the quilt. I know you could have just given it to Beth."
"No, Rachel," Shelby denies, stepping away from the sink and catching Rachel's gaze. "It was always meant to be yours." Shelby puffs out a breath and crosses her arms, breaking eye contact and glancing at the wall. "I know I've made mistakes with you, and you'll never know how much I wish things could have been different for us, but I see you now," she says, meeting Rachel's eyes again, "the woman you've become...you've made a life for yourself that you can be proud of, and despite what you may think, I'm happy that I get to be even the smallest part of it. That I'll get to watch you be the most amazing mother to that baby girl."
Rachel sucks in a quick breath. "Do you really think I will be?"
"I know you will," Shelby insists, chuckling in self-depreciation. "Not that my opinion probably matters much to you."
Rachel nibbles on her lower lip, dropping her eyes to the floor before she finally sighs. "That's not true," she quietly denies. "Shelby...you...you're a really good mom to Beth," she says, looking at Shelby again. "She's an extraordinary young woman—intelligent, compassionate, and exceptionally responsible for her age. Granted, her appreciation of classically trained actors is somewhat lacking," she reminds Shelby with a small smile, "but you really have done a wonderful job raising her. And I know how much it means to Quinn that you've allowed her and Noah to be so involved in Beth's life. You and I...we're never going to be as close as you and Beth...or me and my dads...or even as close as Beth and Quinn, but...but we're still family," she says timidly, vulnerability shining through her eyes, "and I'd actually really like it if my daughter could have at least one grandmother who lives close enough to visit more than twice a year."
Shelby fights back the tears that have been threatening since Rachel said she was a good mom, reaching out to push Rachel's thick hair off her shoulder. "Just try to keep me away."
Rachel smiles through her own threatening tears, nodding, and then she's unexpectedly wrapping her arms around Shelby. The hug is so unusual for them, and Shelby's arms hang limp for a few seconds before they're curling around her daughter's shoulders and squeezing. "I really do want us to make some new memories," Rachel whispers.
Shelby's eyes fall closed as she commits this moment to her own memory before it slips away. "So do I," she agrees.
Rachel breaks the hug and steps back just as unexpectedly, daintily brushing her cheeks with the pads of her fingers. "Quinn and I really should be heading back into the city before it gets too late."
"Of course," Shelby agrees, following her back into the living room.
Shelby watches as Rachel asks Quinn if she's ready to leave, and Quinn warily glances back in Shelby's direction. She watches the silent communication that follows—the raised brow from Quinn, the soft smile and nearly indiscernible nod from Rachel, the instant relaxation of Quinn's tense shoulders before she reaches up and takes Rachel's outstretched hands, allowing her wife to help her to her feet. She watches as Quinn rubs idly at her lower back, and Rachel curls an arm around her waist, letting her own hand massage tiny circles over the strained muscles. She watches Beth hug them both goodbye and thank them for her birthday presents before they remind her that they'll see her soon.
Shelby watches Rachel, quilt in hand, open Quinn's car door and help her inside, and she watches the car back out of her driveway and disappear down the street. She watches and she thinks that maybe this is how Rachel was always meant to be in her life, and for the first time in a very long time, she feels like she has everything she needs.
A/N: Feedback is love.