There was something to be said, about stumbling down from one's pedestal. It provided a new perspective, a re-examination of one's life.
Back in high school, Rachel had witnessed the rise and fall and the slow crawl back to the top by Quinn Fabray. At the time, what she thought and felt about Quinn Fabray was a mixed bag: she admired the girl, for being to navigate the tricky world of high school with unerring poise and grace, but she had also feared and loathed the girl, for her unapologetic approach to establishing her rule of power.
When Quinn had gotten pregnant and the whole drama regarding the pregnancy ensued, Rachel had capitalized on the Cheerio captain's downfall to acquire that which she had wanted most. She can look back on it now and cringe at her own actions, because no matter how you looked at it, she had been instrumental in getting a pregnant teenage girl kicked out of a house in the middle of winter, and had been unapologetic about the whole thing.
She had since apologized, but the realization and guilt of it still sometimes keep her up at night.
But she honestly believed that Quinn's pregnancy had helped glue the Glee Club together. (They only really seemed to come together under duress.) They had been a mismatched group of kids and were falling apart at the seams, but they had all been protective of this then-unborn child, rallying behind two of the school's biggest bullies, who had fallen from grace with such a hard thud that even Rachel couldn't relish in it.
She had gone after what she had wanted (Finn), but what got her to that point (revealing Quinn's betrayal and the subsequent unraveling of the whole sordid affair) hadn't been something she particularly enjoyed.
But Glee Club had practically adopted Quinn's baby as their figurative mascot. They dedicated songs to her, shared childhood stories, and almost everyone had gone to great lengths to help ease Quinn through the second and third trimester.
The members of the Glee Club had been convinced that by giving Quinn such a positive last trimester, Quinn would choose to keep the baby. Puck had even named the child, which was establishing a relationship with the unborn baby. Mercedes had started talking about how she was going to spoil the child, while also having imaginary contests with Santana on who was going to be the cool aunt. The boys had started discussing the pros and cons of teaching the baby sports, and what movies it should see (Star Wars or Star Trek?). The girls had started discussing wardrobe choices (gender-specific, or neutral shades?). Even Mr. Schuester had told Quinn that if she needed help, he could ask his friends for their old cribs and the like.
Rachel had been the only one who hadn't bought into it.
She'd wanted Quinn to have the baby, sure, except she sometimes saw Quinn completely unguarded, and in those moments Quinn held such heartbreak on her face that Rachel had known, instinctively, that Glee Club's dreams for the baby were going to remain just that. And it had worried her, the fact that nobody else seemed to see it, or that Quinn seemed to be perfectly content letting Glee Club fawn over the unborn baby (and therefore Quinn) that no plans were being put in place for after the baby was born.
But she was Rachel Berry, and nobody thought to look to her for advice, especially not when she had been going through her own sordid drama at the time.
Quinn's baby had been a welcome respite from the stress of Regionals and how Jesse hadn't been fighting tooth and nail for the two of them to perform a duet at Regionals, instead making her focus on singing a solo (she learned just why a few weeks before Regionals).
Had it been a conscious decision, telling Shelby about Quinn's baby girl so soon after being summarily rejected by her mother? No. But had a part of her known what she had been doing, in telling the older woman? Maybe.
Because Shelby had been honest, telling her that she had wanted to get to know her baby girl, except she'd gotten a fully-grown teenager instead. Rachel, despite her bruised ego and inherent selfishness (and narcissism), had recognized the genuine heartache in Shelby's confession, and the part of her that wanted to fix things had wanted to help fix that for Shelby. And Rachel, having spent time studying Ohio's foster care and adoption system (for purely scientific research purposes, certainly not to understand more about how her own family and background came out legally, since her dads technically weren't married in Ohio... but she digressed), had considered Quinn and how the blonde's face hadn't really registered relief or gratitude at the presence of her own prodigal mother, and thought of the unborn baby that the Glee Club had come to care about and call their own.
No, she and Quinn weren't friends, but the child Quinn carried had come to be a part of Rachel's world. Rachel hadn't known the state of the waiting list for adoptive parents, but she had known about the difficulties of adopting a baby in Ohio. And she dare not imagine it in the foster care system.
There had been no real surprise when Shelby had called her up to tell her about the new adoption to her family. Rachel, so recently dumped by her duplicitous ex-boyfriend, wary of her on-again boyfriend who had once dumped her to embrace his so-called inner rock star, and facing the disbandment of her precious Glee Club, had been monosyllabic and noncommittal. She'd half-heartedly accused Shelby of rubbing it in her face that she had chosen a new baby girl to become her daughter instead of dealing with her actual daughter, and had decided that maybe being grateful for each other from a distance might really have been the best for them.
Rachel had never really reconciled how she felt about Beth, and who the baby was in her life. Her life was full of people who filled so many roles, and Beth hadn't been an exception.
But Shelby's daycare was full, and her next door neighbors, who could usually be tasked with babysitting, were out for the day, which left Rachel to take care of Beth Corcoran.
Which was fine, since rehearsals were over for the day, to prepare the dancers for the next day's performance, even if Amy (who wouldn't be dancing at the preview) insisted on going out to celebrate the afternoon off.
And Rachel wasn't in the mood to go out, really. It had been one of those days, when she'd felt she'd been sleepwalking through the routine - if anyone were to ask her what she'd had for lunch, she honestly had no idea. She only recalled that Anton had made a comment about Claire being vegetarian, which stood out because Claire denied it, and Rachel remembered offering to show them her PowerPoint presentation... and their polite (but very frank, very honest, and slightly-too-adamant) rejection of said offer.
She felt uncoordinated, dazed: it was as if she had missed out on her vitamin supplements for weeks (or even months) and her body was only now feeling the lack of additional nutrients, with the effect lasting the entire day.
But that wasn't possible, since she also remembered taking her supplements; and since the Shelby had trusted Rachel with her child, Rachel obviously looked alert enough, and had enough mental faculties, to have been trusted with a toddler.
But her phone. Her stupid phone hadn't stopped ringing the entire morning that she'd put it on silent first, then turned it off later, when the incessant buzzing had irritated her.
So she was drowsy and on an off mood, which pointed to some obvious factors but didn't apply to the situation since Aunt Flo had visited barely two weeks ago.
Luckily, Beth was a quiet child, content to play with her toys, and gave sufficient warning if she was wet or hungry before she really started to cry her lungs out.
(Still on the lucky side, Beth had seemingly inherited Quinn's pathetic breath control, and thus was unable to really throw a good-pitched cry.)
At the moment, the apartment was quiet, and Beth was content to take part in a staring contest with Rachel, who gazed thoughtfully at the child.
It had been easier, when Rachel hadn't had any kind of relationship to speak of with Shelby. Shelby Corcoran had been her birth mother, an unknown entity whose name she had just learned; a woman who she had met briefly but was off at another state raising a baby who just happened to be the offspring of two of Rachel's fellow Glee Club members. Then Shelby had returned to Lima, had thrown Rachel, Noah and Quinn off their respective axes, and redefined the relationships involved.
And now? Now Rachel was living with Shelby and was an option for babysitting duties.
There were things she could be doing, and she was pretty sure those were important things, but she couldn't quite remember them at the moment, so she instead stare at a toddler who was, by some technicality, her sister. Except she really wasn't.
Shelby was Rachel's mother only by birth: at the moment they were developing a relationship, but they weren't there yet. But Shelby was legally, and in every sense of the word but biologically, Beth's mom. Rachel and Quinn were friends; Beth was Quinn's biological daughter, but was really just a face she occasionally saw. Noah was... well, he was Beth's biological father, but at the moment he was just a name on a card and someone Rachel had known in high school (whose last interaction with her was to send her a cellphone picture of some guy throwing up on Barbra's star at the Walk of Fame).
But she was good enough to babysit.
Beth looked down at the cotton block she had been holding before holding it out to Rachel, who stared at the block for a moment before reaching out to take it.
Cue the crying.
Rachel blinked, shaking off her lethargic stupor, and quickly tried to hand it back. "No, no, here, you can have it."
Beth was not having any of it.
Rachel glanced around, panicked, because... well, a baby was crying.
She hadn't had much babysitting experience in her life. She had always maintained that children were petri dishes for virii, and she honestly believed that she lacked the patience or disposition to take care of young children, especially babies. And besides, back in conservative Lima, nobody other than her parents' friends were really willing to let the child of the most openly-gay couple in town to take care of (and potentially corrupt) their children and families.
She'd walked dogs. She'd taken care of cats. Taken care of homes while families were away. Ask her to perform at the different events at Temple, sure. But babysitting?
Crying babies were not one of her favorite things.
Wait. Quinn used to babysit Beth. She would know how to solve this dilemma.
Rachel reached for her phone, only to pull back and retreat when she remembered that Quinn was off on Spring Break back in Ohio and there was a reason why her phone was off.
"Please stop crying," Rachel pleaded with Beth, who reached out her arms in a cue for Rachel to hold her.
Rachel shrank back even further away from the baby, because there was a line, and she refused to cross it.
She had cared for Quinn's then-unborn baby. She had wanted the best for it, knowing that while the conception had been unwanted, both Quinn and Noah had wanted it, boy or girl, even though they probably wouldn't have had any clue on how to take care of a baby. Rachel had sworn to herself that if Quinn turned out to surprise her and decide to keep the child, she would help.
Just like she cared for Shelby's daughter. Rachel knew Shelby would make a great mom, if she ever put aside the selfishness that Rachel could only assume she'd gotten from her mother (because her dads were selfless to a fault). For a while there, Shelby had been a stranger to her, but it had comforted her to know that even if she hadn't gotten to know her mother, Shelby had gotten the baby girl she had wanted, and a child in need of a family had gotten a loving mom.
Rachel... cared about Beth. As someone whose life intersected so much with Beth's, she cared about the child.
But she was selfish, right? Narcissistic? Ambitious and ruthless and all those other things the people in high school - the people in her hometown of Ohio - accused her of? Was someone who everyone seemed to think would be willing to throw everyone, anyone - even her own friends - under the bus really supposed to go near a child? Wasn't that technically tainting the innocent?
Was this what all those families in Lima had been afraid of, when they didn't let her babysit? Had it been less about her dads... and more about her?
Should she really be allowed to be around Beth, considering how awful a person she was?
The knock on the door interrupted her mental (emotional, psychological) downward spiral, and she winced at the prospect that the little bubble she and Beth had been in - even despite Beth's current crying jag - was about to be burst.
Rachel thought to ignore it - ignoring was showing to be a good idea at the moment - but the knock sounded again, this time louder, and more insistent.
Rachel got to her feet and without checking the peephole - the security in Shelby's building was wonderful - opened the door.
Jesse glowered at her. "I don't appreciate being stood up." He made to move past her, except she quickly blocked his path. His glare intensified. "Rachel."
"I can't have boys inside the apartment." Rachel said quickly.
His laugh came off sharp, bitter. "That's supposed to stop me?"
Rachel intercepted him again as he moved to the side. "I mean it, Jesse. You can't be in the apartment."
"We didn't have solid plans." Rachel said as an excuse.
"So imagine how stupid I looked waiting for you outside NYADA this afternoon."
"We were let off earlier than I thought."
"I can tell."
Rachel opened her mouth to argue, but Beth, who had fallen quiet when Rachel had stood to open the door, started crying again.
Jesse looked over her shoulder to see the now-red faced baby. "Looks like you have your hands full."
"You stood me up."
Rachel winced, before she sighed and looked up at him pleadingly. "Please don't make this hard."
Jesse looked at her, and saw the quiet desperation, and instantly relented. "Fine. But you owe me an explanation."
"Yes. I will. I just..."
"Want me to leave?" Jesse guessed.
Her eyes widened to express her panic, her horror. "No! No. Please. Stay."
"You won't let me in." He reminded, startled by Rachel's reactions and wondered what exactly was going on with her.
Rachel held up her hands, in a gesture for him to stay put, and then turned and picked up Beth from her play pen. Once she was elevated, Beth's cries softened, but she still remained sobbing. Rachel returned to the door.
Jesse glanced at the baby, then at Rachel. "What did you do?"
"She gave me her toy."
"And you took it?"
"I thought she wanted me to."
"Why did you stand me up?"
Rachel tensed as she grimaced, which set Beth off again.
Jesse watched with interest. It was a rare thing, to catch Rachel being completely at a loss on what to do. "You should sing to her."
"I'm already holding her and carrying her. Why-"
"She's Shelby's kid. Wouldn't she obviously respond to song?"
Rachel paused, and looked at Beth as she considered the thought. The truth of it. She looked back up at Jesse. "What should I sing?"
"What's the most comforting song you know?"
"I'm not sure she'll respond to Don't Rain on My Parade very well."
Jesse had to smile at that response. He glanced at Beth, and began to sing softly to the toddler. "Funny. Did you hear that? Funny. Yeah the guy said, 'honey, you're a funny girl."
Beth stopped sobbing, looking up at Jesse in wonder. Maybe it was a familiarity with the song, or maybe (obviously) she was captivated by the sound of his voice, but Jesse couldn't help but inwardly gloat at being able to quiet the sobbing child.
Jesse glanced at Rachel, doing his best to try and be subtle with how proud he was of himself.
Rachel paused, and in a quick and sudden movement, handed Beth to Jesse, who instinctively held the toddler in his arms. "Hold her a second." Then she went back further inside the apartment.
Jesse blinked at Beth, who stared back at him. She probably expected him to sing some more (definitely Shelby's kid), but Funny Girl was a Rachel thing, not his.
A hand above the water
an angel reaching for the sky
Is it raining in Heaven;
do you want us to cry?
And everywhere the broken-hearted
on every lonely avenue
no one could reach them
no one but you
With Beth's eyes closed and her breathing even, Jesse looked up from his lullaby (he figured the chorus was too morbid to sing to a toddler) to see Rachel standing a few feet away, with tears on her face. He frowned. "Rach-"
"No, please. Keep singing." Rachel softly requested, coming closer and sitting on the floor by the door frame.
Jesse was puzzled, even as he maneuvered himself to sit beside her - right out of the apartment's threshold - but he obeyed.
Another tricky situation
I get to drowning in the blues
and I find myself thinking:
well, what would you do?
It was such an operation
Forever paying every due
Hey, you made a sensation
You found a way through and-
"Here." Rachel said quietly, handing Jesse her phone.
Jesse threw her a confused look as he took the device.
"Voice mail." Rachel explained, as she took Beth from him and held the little girl close. "Listen to it. It'll explain."
Jesse looked doubtful, but he did as he was told.
"Rachel." Kurt. "I know... I know we're not on very good terms right now, and I'm not your favorite person just now, but..." a sob. "I need you. Please. I need you here. I can't... Everything's so... Rachel." A quiet intake of breath. "I don't know if you can leave, but please, if you can, please, just..."
The message, while stunted, still managed to earn Jesse's concern, as the broken voice of Rachel's best friend conveyed something that shot dread through Jesse.
Jesse glanced at Rachel, who looked at him with an unreadable, if teary-eyed expression.
"There was an accident." Kurt's voice dissolved into sobs. "Finn's..."
Jesse kept his gaze on Rachel, who had again started crying, probably having memorized the message by now.
"Rachel, Finn's... He's..."
Jesse wrapped her arm around Rachel's shoulders and pulled her close, even as he listened to the last part of the message.
"He didn't make it."