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standing at the crossroads

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Exhale, five six seven. Inhale, one two three-

Quinn lets out a shaky breath as she stands outside her daughter’s room. How was she supposed to get through today? How was she going to bury her best friend, her daughter’s father today? How was she going to handle all the looks of pity? How was she going to handle all the questions that Beth would likely ask? That Beth had already asked?

She pushes the door open to see Beth fiddling with the teddy bear Finn gave her last christmas. It's an overstuffed, fluffy thing wearing a mini version of Finn’s football uniform, the number wearing off after almost a year of loving. Finn had been so happy to give it to her, with a big hug as he explained that even though they weren’t living in the same city anymore, she would always have something to hug that would remind her of him. Quinn’s eyes start to water and she blinks away the tears, coming to sit beside the toddler.

Quinn clears her throat before speaking, “Beth, sweetie, I have something important I need to talk to you about. It’s about what’s happening at the church.”

Beth looks up at her with innocent, chestnut brown eyes and Quinn almost has to look away. She has his eyes.

“Is Daddy going? I miss him,” Beth sniffles, turning the bear over in her hands and tracing the number over and over.

Quinn takes a deep breath and tries to gain some courage. How is she going to tell their three-year-old that her dad isn’t really going to be there? Again. “Daddy’s the reason we’re going. We’re going to say goodbye to Daddy, remember?”

God, she wishes Finn were here.

Beth’s eyebrow raises, and Quinn can’t bring herself to laugh this time. “We’re saying bye? Is he saying bye-bye?”

“He’s going to be… sleeping, baby. You’re going to be able to see him, but he won’t be able to see you. And it’s going to be very quiet, probably. And people will be sad-”

“Why?”

Quinn scrubs her face with the heel of her hand, pressing the tears back. “Because… because we have to say goodbye to Daddy, and no one wants to.”

“And he’s going where we can’t go?” Beth asks again, reciting what they’ve been telling her for a week now.

“Yes.”

It’s silent, for a moment, before Beth leans into her mother and takes a deep breath. The bear falls onto the floor, but no one makes any move to grab it. “And he won’t say bye-bye back?”

The blonde shakes her head, because anything else might result in a downpour. “Beth, you don’t have to go if you don’t want to. Do you want to say goodbye one last time?”

Beth nods once, before hopping off her bed and grabbing the bear. “Let’s go, Momma.”

Quinn watches her daughter go to her suitcase, pulling out a pair of light up tennis shoes and her jacket. “No, let’s get dressed for real. Come on, little one. I have a new dress for you.”

She pulls a plain black dress from her closet, along with white tights and black dress shoes, and pretends not to notice Beth’s frown. Beth hates black, because Finn hates black.

Hated black.

Surprisingly, Beth doesn’t say anything as she pulls on her tights, and then her shoes, and only complains a little as Quinn brushes her teeth. She goes back to being silent when the soft, boring dress is pulled over her head, before switching her bear for her doll and watching her mother get dressed. Neither of them say anything. Not when Judy walks in with bagels that no one feels like eating. Not when Rachel arrives, wrapping an arm around Quinn and kissing the nape of her neck, makeup already smudged. Not when they get in the car, Beth armed with a small stack of papers and her doll and Quinn armed with… well, Beth.

The last time Quinn was in this church, Burt and Carole were getting married. And now they’re burying their son. She guides Beth to the front, or Beth guides her, really, her head turned towards the mahogany casket on the stage. She doesn’t see him, she can’t see him, because she’s barely three feet tall, but Quinn can tell that somehow, Beth knows.

Quinn watches as Beth runs into Burt Hummel’s arms, accepting his cheek kisses with joy. She waves at Kurt, and he just acts like he doesn’t see them, staring ahead with an impossibly blank look. A few people are filtering in, taking their seats, and it’s only when Carole returns from the mahogany casket do people line up, starting with Quinn.

She loses track of how many people tell her how obvious it was that Finn loved her, and nods and smiles and thanks them, accepting their thoughts and prayers on autopilot. Ken Tanaka claps a hand on her shoulder and squeezes, and Beth hides behind Quinn’s legs, shaking her head when Quinn tries to coax her out to say hello. The toddler spends most of the time either in Quinn’s skirt or her arms, either giving shy waves or not saying anything. But then, it’s time for them to say goodbye.

Rachel passes Beth and smiles at her, softly, encouragingly, and Beth waves back, before following her uncle to the front and holding her arms up. Quinn lifts her, and feels Beth gasp, feels the little girl lean as far back as she can from the man, the boy in the casket, before leaning all the way forward.

Quinn’s shaking uncontrollably, and it has nothing to do with the thirty-pounder in her arms. She glances at him, once, and shakes her head, looking up at the ceiling. She can’t do this, she can’t do this, she can’t do this. She needs to leave, please, God, let me leave, I can’t do this. But Beth is still leaned over, oblivious to her uncle walking away without a word, whispering right upon her daddy’s face, her tiny hand patting his cheek as she speaks. She barely even notices being passed to Burt, who holds her up steadily as Quinn goes back to her seat, bent over and holding her stomach.

The papers that were scrunched in her hands for so long are placed in his arm, and she’s a bit louder as she explains what they are. “There’s me and you, and Mommy, and Rachel. Our family.”

She leans back, and Burt whispers something in her ear, something that Quinn can’t hear, but Beth leans back over the casket and pats her daddy’s cheek. “Goodnight, Daddy.”

Quinn doesn’t think she’s imagining everyone’s cries getting that much more obvious.

She’s almost glad when Beth nods off during the service, having gone to Rachel’s aisle to sit with her and Sam. She stays asleep through the car ride to the cemetery, and stands sleepily at Quinn’s side, inching closer to the hole in the ground with a type of concern that isn’t like Beth at all. It’s a lot like Quinn, however. God, her daughter’s gonna end up just like her.

Her tiny hand grabs an equally tiny handful of dirt, and she holds her mother’s hand as she sprinkles it into the ground. She wipes her hand on her tights, glancing at Kurt, but once again, he’s avoiding looking at her, not caring even the slightest that her white tights are now covered in dirt.

It’s the quietest Quinn has ever seen her daughter, up until they get to Rachel’s house.

Her dads are hosting the reception, and are more than ready to distract Beth. She’s received an abundance of toys, and the guest room is set up with her favorite blanket and a brand new pair of Paw Patrol pajamas. There’s a Happy Meal with her name on it, and everyone smiles at her when she walks in. It should be easy.

And yet, here they are, watching Beth scream and writhe on the floor because she didn’t like that Quinn told her to sit down while she ate.

Quinn ignores the multiple sets of eyes on her, and kneels next to her daughter, placing a heavy hand on her legs to stop her from kicking, but it only makes her kick harder, her screams turning fevered. It isn’t even words, just screaming, and Quinn knows that it’s all becoming too much for her baby.

Sam swoops in after what feels like ten hours, and picks the girl up off the floor, carrying her upstairs and leaving Quinn in a pile on the floor. Rachel quietly walks over to her and kneels down to grab her hand.

“Let’s go for a walk,” she murmurs, squeezing the blonde’s hand with all her might.

Quinn doesn’t say anything, just lets Rachel pull her up and lead her out the door, avoiding all eye contact with the other guests. It doesn’t mean she can’t hear the murmurs, can’t feel the pity coming off the group in waves.

They’re a block away from the house when Quinn breaks down, finally letting loose all the tears she was holding back. She cries for Finn. She cries for her daughter. She cries for Burt, Kurt, Carole, Rachel...and herself. She cries over the loss of her best friend, her closest confidant, her daughter’s father.

How am I supposed to do this without him? How is she supposed to grow into who she should be, without him? She’s gonna turn into me, God… Why couldn’t it have been me?

“Finn wouldn’t want you to think that way.”

Quinn looks up at Rachel, shocked (but not surprised) that the girl could read her mind, before it dawned on her that she’d spoken her thoughts out loud.

“Finn loved you, Quinn, and he loved the way you love Beth,” Rachel all but whispers, gripping both of Quinn’s hands tightly in her own.

“He was such a good dad. So much better than me. And he left me here. Rachel, he left me.” Quinn pulls her hands away, holding them to her chest and turning around. She almost expects Finn to be there, as a ghost, or whatever. But no, just a tree.

Rachel stares at her, a million thoughts no doubt flitting through her head. She’s choosing her words carefully, and speaks only when Quinn knows she has a full speech prepared. “When Beth was first born, he was so insecure, because he already knew that you were going to be a great parent. He still felt like a clueless teenager, but not you.”

Quinn scoffs, rolling her eyes as she wipes at her face, inspecting the ground.

“It’s true, Quinn. At least, for him it was. You had it all figured out. You took care of Beth like it was second nature. He knew that you could, if need be, take care of Beth on your own.”

Quinn sniffles and shakes her head, “He’s wrong. I can’t do this by myself.”

Rachel steps around Quinn, facing her, and gently tilts her chin up with a shaky hand, making her look directly in Rachel’s eyes.

“It’s a good thing you aren’t alone then. You have Santana, Brittany, Sam, Kurt, Burt and Carole. And you have me.”

Rachel is almost knocked over with the force of Quinn’s hug. Tears threaten to fall as she holds tightly and starts to hum, soothingly rubbing her hand on Quinn’s back in circles as she buries her head in Rachel’s neck.

When they eventually head back to the house, Quinn goes directly up to the room where Beth is playing, Rachel following silently behind. She opens the door to see Beth and Sam on the floor, action figures scattered between them. The look on Beth’s face brings tears to Quinn’s eyes - not tears of sadness, but tears of joy. Beth is smiling, the brightest smile she’s seen since that stupid phonecall last Sunday. Quinn sniffles, making her presence known to the two other occupants of the room.

“Mommy! Look! Spideyman!” Beth giggles, running towards Quinn. Quinn scoops her up in her arms and holds her tight, planting a kiss right on her little cheek and ignoring the little girl’s bemoaning.

Sam smiles up at her, and Rachel laughs softly at her side, and she knows that she can do this. She doesn’t have Finn anymore, but she isn’t alone. And with Beth in her arms, Quinn knows she never will be.