A/N: Okay, I'm going to make this quick: I'm really sorry to everyone, especially readers of Senioritis. I really didn't mean to be gone for so long, but various circumstances kinda forced me to take the summer off from this fandom…and now that school has started and I'm even busier, I decided to come back. Yeah, I'm insane, but I figured there was always going to be a reason to put it off, and I really wanted to get back. So updates and suchlike will be coming verrrrrry slowly at first, but they'll come. Scout's honor.
Anyway, I've had this one chapter sitting on my hard drive for way too long, so even though I don't have any of the other chapters written yet, I wanted to get it out there. Enjoy. )
I wrote this chapter before seeing Quinn's Alpaca, so I made up my own version of Quinn's parents. Also, little details about when a thing or two happened may be a little off if you're nitpicky, but they're not big and it's just to make the story work better. This story was inspired by Kisses, a great fic by KateToast that I recommend you all read.
Bill wasn't really her father. Not her biological father, anyway.
Stephen was. But Quinn didn't remember him. Stephen left when Quinn was only eleven months old, when Quinn's mother was six months pregnant with their second child. She lost that child. Quinn never got her younger sibling.
Quinn's mother didn't like to talk about Stephen, but she did like to preach about the dangers of alcohol. In Quinn's precocious toddler-mind, she understood that her daddy had made her mommy unhappy. She didn't want him to come back, not like most children of divorced parents. She didn't want her mother to have to talk about him.
When Quinn was four, her mother met Bill. Bill was a scientist. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, which, as he explained to Quinn, was a fancy way of saying he did research. Bill and Quinn's mother met at the grocery store. One of the first things Quinn's mother found out about Bill was that he didn't drink. They went on the first of many dates that same night.
For her fifth birthday, Bill bought Quinn her first chemistry set. Quinn took one wide-eyed look at the plastic beakers and test tubes and differently-colored powders and liquids, then turned to her mother and begged her to please, please, marry this man.
Three months later, she did, and Quinn was the flower girl. Bill and Quinn's mother had decided against a conventional honeymoon in order to stay home and take care of their daughter—their daughter now—because there was no one else near enough to do so. Quinn's mother assured her she could start calling Bill Daddy, and Quinn assured her mother she already had.
Bill fell into the role of a father and husband so easily there was next to no adjustment period; rather, in a few short weeks after the wedding Quinn could barely remember a time when he had not lived with them. Sometimes she even forgot that he wasn't her biological father, especially since Bill had legally adopted Quinn the day he married her mother. This was Quinn's real family, her real father, regardless of blood ties.
Bill started bringing Quinn into work with him whenever he could after seeing how much she coveted her Little Einstein Chemistry Set. He taught her the ropes of his job and showed her a real life version of her chemistry set and talked to her about all the things they didn't teach in her kindergarten class. She took it all in with wide-eyed curiosity. At times Bill couldn't help but feel ridiculous for trying to teach a five-year-old a Ph.D-level job, but at the end of the day she'd repeat everything he'd said back to him and he knew she understood. Bill wasn't immune to that smug, self-satisfied feeling of being admired for what you did, even if it was just by his barely-school-age daughter. You didn't get a lot of that awed admiration in the postdoctoral associative research field. And after seeing how well she absorbed things, Bill had no reservations in proudly declaring her a child prodigy.
"That's my girl," he'd say, tugging on her braids affectionately when, for instance, she memorized the periodic table of the elements at the age of six. He thought she should skip a grade, maybe two or three, but Quinn's mother wanted her daughter to have a normal life, or one as normal as possible for her "little genius."
"Let her childhood be about bubblegum and jump rope and scraped knees and silly string, Bill, not fusion and fission and whatever else it is you're teaching her," she would say, shaking her head to indicate her skepticism over the whole thing. Quinn's mother was an intelligent person, but not very scientific.
But Quinn didn't care about bubblegum and jump rope and scraped knees and silly string, and even her mother couldn't help but be impressed the first time Quinn successfully tested every liquid in their house for acidity and basicity.
Bill bought books of chemistry and biology and physics and earth and space science for Quinn while other fathers were buying Dr. Seuss. He'd sit in his armchair for hours with Quinn in his lap, slowly turning the pages of Great Women Scientists of the 20th Century, pointing out the pictures and teaching her the long, hard words she didn't understand. And when she'd fall asleep in his lap, he'd scoop her up and carry her gently up to bed.
As she grew, so did her knowledge, and her interest in all things scientific and educational. There was a period of time, around when she was seven, when her mother and Bill would get used to coming home and finding the toaster dismantled, the TV set unplugged, or the generator turned off because Quinn wanted to "see how it worked". Quinn's mother would roll her eyes and ask her to please clean it up as soon as possible, but Bill would get down on his hands and knees and feed her the correct names for all the parts she had identified.
When she was eight, it was Bill who had first realized she might need glasses. Gradually he had noticed that she'd started squinting when reading, and sometimes ran into things, rarely at first but progressively more often as time went on. Bill pointed out his suspicion at dinner one night, watching carefully as Quinn flushed at the suggestion she might have imperfect vision.
"I told you not to read so much in the dark," Quinn's mother had said sternly. "Bill, can you take her into the optometrist? I have to work tomorrow."
"I don't need glasses," Quinn had insisted.
"Really? Then how many fingers am I holding up?" her mother asked, displaying a peace sign. Quinn had looked up across the long dining table, squinted, grumbled, and hastily taken a bite of cornbread to avoid answering.
It was Bill who tucked her in that night, he who noticed her unhappiness and sat down on the end of her bed to listen, to hear out her worries and fears about getting glasses. It was he who talked to her in soothing tones and convinced her it would be all right, that getting glasses would be an adventure, that she'd have a good time picking out the right frames and more importantly finally being able to see clearly. It was he who made her actually feel excited, once he had introduced to her the concept of refraction and divergent and convergent lenses. He knew you could get Quinn to do virtually anything if you made it a learning process.
The next day the optometrist said he had never seen a third-grader with such an extensive knowledge of corrective lenses. When she was eleven, the orthodontist said the same thing about her knowledge of malocclusions.
Bill bought Quinn an alpaca for her tenth birthday. Quinn's mother had been all for getting her daughter a hamster, but Bill insisted an alpaca was the perfect animal for her: intelligent, observant, curious and a bit quirky. More than that, though, he confided to his wife, he wanted to give Quinn a friend, and a hamster could not very easily fill that role. Quinn's mother had glanced outside at the neighborhood kids playing soccer in the street, and then looked at Quinn, playing with electrical fuses at the kitchen table, and sighed, and agreed.
Quinn was in the seventh grade when Bill's prep school alma mater announced they would be accepting female students for the next school year. Bill and Quinn's mother had a long, hushed discussion in their bedroom, and as Quinn lay in bed that night listening to the deep rumble of Bill's voice and the soft up and down of her mother's, she wished she hadn't refrained from bugging her parents' room on moral grounds. They were still talking when she fell asleep, lulled into drowsiness by the soft bubbling of her ammonium chloride.
"PCA has a great science program," her mother told her earnestly at breakfast the next morning.
"My favorite teacher at PCA, Mr. Quartz, still works there," Bill added. "He teaches advanced biology. He's an amazing guy. You'd learn so much in his class."
"Think of all the friends you'd make!"
"Right on the Malibu beach, with a fantastic view of the ocean—it's sunny there 281 days a year, on average."
A mere two weeks of pep talks and pamphlets and "this is such a great opportunity"s later, Quinn was applied and finalized and down-payment-ed for. She was going to PCA for eighth grade year—her parents weren't even waiting till she started high school. She was going to be shipped off to California for three-fourths of the year to be one of the few first girls at a former all-boys boarding school, to live amongst perfect strangers.
"You excited?" Bill had asked, slipping into her room and handing her an envelope containing her course schedule for the upcoming school year. "This just came today."
Quinn had taken one look at the paper and burst into tears.
Completely bewildered, Bill held her as she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, soaking his dress shirt with tears. When the flow of tears had lessened and she was sniffling into his chest, he gently stroked her hair and asked, "What's this all about?"
Quinn drew one shaky breath and asked the question that had been haunting her for two weeks: "Don't you want me?"
"Quinn!" Bill had held her at arms length and looked into her bespectacled brown eyes searchingly, shocked at her words. "Is that really what you think? That we're trying to get rid of you?"
Quinn shrugged and blew her nose loudly.
"Don't ever think that," Bill said quite roughly. "Your mother and I love you more than anything else in the world, you know that? We want you to go to PCA because it's an amazing opportunity, and we believe in you, and we think you can do great things there. We want to open doors for you, sweetheart, and give you choices in life, but sometimes that requires going a bit farther than this rainy city. We'll miss you like crazy, but this is what's best for you. Don't you ever, ever doubt that we love you."
Then Bill had held her again as she cried, but for an entirely different reason, this time.
Quinn came back from PCA the first year full of stories about new friends, exciting adventures, and her latest breakthroughs. She came back happier than her parents had ever seen her, and as year after year at PCA passed they knew they had made the right decision for their daughter. Bill doubted she even remembered the reservations she had had before leaving. But no matter how much fun she had at school, she was always eager to come home for Christmas and summer vacations, eager to get her giant hug from Bill at the airport and her teary hug from her mother.
Quinn was four when Bill came into her life. She was five when he became a regular fixture. She was six when he had her reading books on biochemistry, seven when he had her reprogramming the computer, eight when he took her to get her first pair of glasses. She was ten when Bill gave her Otis. She was thirteen when he proudly waved goodbye to her as she jetted off for California. She was fifteen when they went on a summer rafting trip and nearly floated off a waterfall, then tipped the raft over from laughing too hard.
She was eighteen when Bill died.
What started as a small, unchecked, Bunsen burner fire in the lab at the U of W turned into a raging inferno, trapping six lab workers in the building before the fire department arrived. The firefighters saved two; four died in the flames. Bill's body was the first to be identified.
Quinn was in Seattle when it happened, staying at home for her last summer before college. Her mother cried hysterically for a week. Quinn stood in the rain and let the sky cry for her.
It was the second loss of a father figure in her life, though in terms of pain this one far exceeded the first. Bill had done so much for her. He'd given her a father, a passion, a future. He'd given her and her mother happiness. He'd given her love. He'd given her her first friend.
Bill had been the first real man in her life. He had been the first man she'd loved, as a father and a friend. In him, she'd found a confidant and a mentor and a parent.
From Bill, Quinn had learned of love; deep, familial love—the first of many lessons she would never forget.
Please review! &hearts