Actions

Work Header

False Prophet

Chapter Text

Never one to be unprepared, Santana had done her research. As soon as she'd received the email requesting her appearance on a right wing, conservative talk show she looked into the network and, more specifically, the show's host.

Needless to say, she was glad she'd done so.

Quinn Fabray had been hosting the show for less than a year but had apparently made her career disparaging and dehumanizing marginalized communities. Santana didn't have to look hard to know that Quinn was incredibly smart. She was a Yale alumna and had a deep knowledge of journalism judging from her extensive curriculum vitae. She was a young, southern Baptist, white woman who hated "other" and reveled in her privilege without a care in the world. She was offensive and it seemed like not a damn thing she managed to say on her show was founded in truth, but she knew how to argue her point. And there was nothing more dangerous than someone who was confident, even when they were wrong.

Santana knew it was going to be a difficult interview. That said, she was confident in her own intelligence and oratorical ability. The imposter syndrome that she'd struggled so hard to overcome in college was nowhere to be seen. She knew her accolades: Youngest to ever be elected to her state's House of Representatives, Phi Delta Phi in law school, National Debate Tournament champion during her Junior year in college—really, the list went on and on (and she'd be remiss to not include all of the soccer tournaments won during her childhood, because her father often joked that those were what he was most proud of).

Furthermore, she knew her field inside and out. She'd been making a name for herself in criminal law when, fed up with the state of her community and the mistreatment of marginalized groups on the state and federal level, she ran for local office. But it wasn't just her tenacity that had helped her win the hearts of her constituents in District 31. It was her story of devastating loss; of a tragedy that had left her family in pieces. That event was what drove her to dive headfirst into the political arena and she hadn't looked back ever since.

Whenever faced with something daunting, Santana reminded herself that she'd already overcome the darkest moments of her life. Nothing could intimidate her now, not even Quinn Fabray and what was likely to be a trap of an interview. Plus, after careful review of prior interviews with more liberal guests, Santana had familiarized herself Quinn's plan of attack. Her modus operandi was simple: ease into the topic, say something completely left-field and confounding right before commercial break, and not give her guest an appropriate amount of time to respond before moving onto the next topic. Rarely did she use personal attacks, but the discussions did get heated.

Santana had prepared for this night and this interview. It was why, when Quinn opened her show by praising her career she was caught off guard. It was strange hearing the blonde congratulate her for being a female trailblazer in her southern state. When the talk show host highlighted the fact that she'd served on the city council during her time in law school and when she first started working in criminal law (where she was a part of the County Criminal Justice Advisory Committee and the Crime Cabinet), she found herself at a loss of words. She merely offered a smile and a quick "thank you" all the while wondering if she'd actually prepared enough for the interview. However, Quinn didn't allow her to fumble on camera. Her hazel eyes hardened just a little, and that's where the praises ended.

And Santana, she managed to keep her cool while Quinn transitioned from generous talk show host to cruel, calculated right-wing pundit. The politician couldn't believe just how completely racist, xenophobic, and bigoted Quinn managed to be. Well, she could believe it because she'd done her research. In fact, it was one of the many reasons she'd agreed to appear on the show in the first place. She wanted to challenge and correct the blonde on some of her misinformation regarding undocumented immigrants. That said, she'd still felt out of sorts when the cameras were finally off.

That feeling sunk deeper as she removed her mic and she wondered if she'd been too quick to assume she'd have the upper hand in this. She felt like she'd held her own, but there had been moments she'd been absolutely frustrated.

What she was sure of, ultimately, was that it was done and she was anxious to flee from the set, get to her hotel room, and call up a friend to vent to about the irritating interview. At least, those were her immediate plans when Quinn approached her.

The blonde's expression was difficult to read—it was as if she was conveying an openness that was inherently false. Santana had learned very quickly that this sort of expression, regardless of the face wearing it, was only ever formed when someone desired something from another.

"Representative Lopez, thank you so much for appearing on the show," Quinn offered a small smile while her expression grew uncomfortable before it became unreadable again.

Santana could only think that this woman was the type who was constantly putting on an act. In fact, Quinn seemed too put together to be real. Long blond hair, curled just right and make up accenting her hazel eyes more than anything else. There was not a wrinkle on her bright red dress despite having been seated for the past hour.

"Thank you for having me," Santana responded half-heartedly, trying to keep herself from rolling her eyes.

"Now that the cameras are off, how about we have an off the record convo? We could talk over drinks. I happen to know that the hotel the network set you up in has an excellent bar."

And then, Santana was surprised. And confused. Mostly confused. Why on earth was Quinn Fabray asking her to drinks? Had she just imagined the past hour where they spent the majority of the time arguing and disagreeing about everything? No, she hadn't imagined it and she could merely wonder if it were at all possible for anyone to want to spend any voluntary time in the blonde's presence. She tried to take a moment to settle her thoughts, tucking her hair behind her ear before responding.

"Actually Ms. Fabray, I'm a bit tired and I have an early flight," she began to decline but Quinn was not having it.

"Did I scare you that much?" Quinn countered and Santana bristled at the assumption. It was too late when she realized she'd failed at hiding her offense because Quinn's lips split into a grin. "News outlets would love to hear that Representative Lopez rudely declined friendly drinks following an interview."

"That's… That doesn't even make sense. How was my response rude?"

"You refuse to call me Quinn," the blonde countered with a non sequitur. Santana didn't let the failure to answer her question appropriately distract her.

"Ok, Quinn," Santana emphasized the name, "I apologize, but I will not be able to have drinks with you tonight."

Quinn leveled her with a look. She looked genuinely disappointed.

"One drink, Representative Lopez," she tried again and Santana wanted to throw her hands up in disbelief. Why wouldn't this woman take no for an answer?

"Why? Why are you so keen on this drink?"

Quinn seemed to pause for a moment before glancing around the set and leaning just a bit closer to Santana. Her voice dropped in volume and while she was not quite whispering, she clearly did not want what she was going to say to be heard by anyone but Santana.

"You seem like an intelligent woman and I'd like to have an honest conversation with you about the things we just discussed—no cameras, no dramatics. Just…" and she seemed to trail off, but then leaned back again, keeping Santana's gaze, clearly without intent of finishing her sentence.

Perhaps, Santana thought, she wasn't the only imposter in the room. So, against her better judgement she agreed and left to wait for Quinn in the lobby of the building. Santana was surprised by Quinn's brazen behavior, but she figured she could endure another half hour or so with the woman and then simply excuse herself to her room to sleep before her flight the following morning.

What she hadn't planned for was actually enjoying the first half hour at the hotel bar. Outside the studio, Quinn Fabray was every bit infuriating, but most certainly an enigma. She'd clearly been trained in debate, but there was also a socially acquired way in which she shared her opinions. Her intelligence, quick wit, and dry humor had Santana entranced. She honestly couldn't remember the last time she'd enjoyed talking with a stranger in this way. Santana was drawn to Quinn's energy, and perhaps due to the copious amount of alcohol she'd ingested over the nearly two hours the two had spent talking about anything and everything, she forgot herself and invited the blonde up to her room. Quinn looked surprised, and perhaps a little scandalized.

Santana immediately sobered up, preparing to play off the offer as a joke about needing to go to sleep and not wanting the conversation to end, but then Quinn's expression softens and she agrees without argument.

When Santana woke the following morning, Quinn Fabray, right wing news anchor and talk show host was still fast asleep in her hotel bed, without a single garment of clothing on her body. The brunette quietly gathered her things, zipped her garment bag and suitcase shut as quietly as possible, and silently slipped out of the room. She hardly believed what happened. She contemplated leaving a note with her personal cell number or email address on it, but she figured that might do more harm than good and left to catch her flight back home.

Chapter Text

Weeks passed without incident. Santana was back in the groove of work and hadn't worried about her indiscretion with Quinn Fabray at all.

Of course, she cringed every time someone mentioned whatever inflammatory thing the blonde had said on her show that week and she might've felt just a bit of guilt anytime someone congratulated her on her "epic takedown" of xenophobia on cable television. But, those moments were few and far between after the first week or so following her return from New York. Honestly, she thought the blonde's views were vile and felt kind of disgusted with herself for even being sexually attracted to her for a drunk moment, but she couldn't say she regretted it.

In fact, it was something she'd been using to humanize the woman she regarded as a walking dumpster fire. Of course, Quinn being gay or bi or momentarily attracted to a woman (a Latina at that) didn't absolver her of any of the hateful bullshit that seemed to pour from her mouth at all hours, but it did create a common thread to which Santana clung. Finally, there was a shared experience there that could not be ignored; a little part of Santana hoped that Quinn clung to it as well and maybe pulled herself out of the trench of hatred she'd bunkered down on.

So, Quinn was merely a fleeting thought on the rare day that she came up in conversation, and Santana was ok with that.

Currently, she was having dinner with the friend in her life least likely to bring up Quinn Fabray in conversation, merely from the nature that it would veer the topic of the conversation away from herself.

Rachel Berry, an old friend of hers from college was in town for a week to perform in a musical at the performing arts center downtown. Rachel hadn't been Santana's first pick for friendship during undergrad, but they grew somewhat close following graduation and she had no complaints (aside from the one rattling through her skull with each word the other brunette prattled off). She was going on and on about how strange it was to be back in town as a celebrity—which, Santana would argue, was a stretch.

She was about to express this opinion when her phone chimed to alert her of a new message. She didn't recognize the number displayed on her lock screen, which made her grow somewhat apprehensive as she unlocked her phone.

The message merely read, "We need to talk".

Santana ignored it: A, because she was tired and B, because it was creepy as fuck.

Rachel's sentence trailed off as she noticed Santana's expression.

"Work again?" she asked, a little disappointed.

"No, no. Wrong number, I'm guessing," Santana dismissed the text, turning back to Rachel. "It is getting late though. Are you ready to turn in for the night?"

"Absolutely, but we should try to plan to meet again before I'm whisked away to another city waiting on my vocal anointing!"

Santana laughed at Rachel's histrionics, but agreed and drove her back to the hotel she was staying at with the rest of the cast and crew.

When Santana returned home she relished briefly in the silence of her quiet house and her wooded neighborhood. As she showered and prepared for bed, she reminisced about her first year in college, when she'd been roommates with Rachel and had been driven crazy by the mere fact that the girl just never shut up. She had lost count of how many times she'd contemplated smothering the brunette while she slept.

That said, with all of the obnoxious vocal exercises and incessant yammering, it was really nice to see Rachel again. She hadn't been the most successful in maintaining friendships after college. But Rachel was living proof that she wasn't a completely asocial shut in who existed to drive everyone away. Or perhaps it was a testament to Rachel's ability to befriend and remain loyal to people, even when they were emotionally volatile.

Finally, Santana pulled back the soft comforter atop her bed and slipped in, sighing in relief as she allowed her muscles to relax and let the feel of the cool sheets against her skin slow her mind. However, with her thoughts now off her best friend, she felt curiosity bubbling up at the mysterious text message she'd received earlier in the night.

She blindly reached for the phone that was now charging on her nightstand. She navigated to her messages and clicked on the one from the unknown number. She stared at the words on the screen, somewhat comforted by the fact that the text bubble was a standard grey—this way, she knew the number was associated with an apple ID if it did end up to be something suspicious.

With a heavy sigh, she bit the bullet and sent a response.

"Who is this?" she'd written and sent. The read receipt timestamp appeared almost instantly.

She was startled when the phone began to ring her in hands—an incoming call from the mystery number. She didn't hesitant to answer, preparing to lay into whoever was doing a fantastic job at fraying her nerves.

But when she answered, the husky sound of her name falling sloppily from Quinn Fabray's lips met her ears and her fatigue and nervousness were suddenly gone.

"Quinn?" Santana breathed out, completely surprised. She sat up in bed, reaching over to turn on the lamp on her side table.

There were a few seconds of labored breathing and some scuffling sounds, but then she heard Quinn's voice loud and clear.

"You can't tell anyone," the blonde spoke, a slight slur marring her words. "You can't tell about what… about what we did. I can't lose my job. I've worked too hard to… You can't."

Santana's surprise withered immediately, and in its place indignation took root.

What kind of person did Quinn think she was? She was beyond offended because she would never out anyone.

"Ms. Fabray, I'm guessing you're drunk right now," Santana began, "And—"

"Ha, super drunk," Quinn interrupted loudly before laughing, and then coughing. Santana cringed at the sound, worried that the coughing would transition into vomiting, but it never happened. Quinn just lapsed into another short laugh, but then grew quiet.

"Look," Santana started again, trying her hardest to clamp down on her annoyance, but failing miserably as an indignant sharpness clung to her tone. "I would never talk to anyone about what happened between us. I would never out anyone. And, if I wanted to ruin that career that you built by walking all over those without the ability to protect themselves, I would've done so already. Weeks ago."

Admittedly, Santana knew she was being harsh. Quinn was drunk, and while that didn't absolve her of the implications of what this phone call meant, it did mean that perhaps their intimacy weeks prior had negatively affected her if she had to resort to the bottle. That said… Santana was mad, and she wanted to unleash the irritation that had been building over the past month and a half. But, she knew she had to be the better person.

"You know what," Santana finally said, deflating as Quinn remained uncharacteristically quiet, "even though you absolutely deserve the public ridicule and humiliation by the very people you're spent your entire life getting into the good graces of by being horrendously racist and homophobic I… I wouldn't do that to you. I couldn't do that to you."

After a few moments of silence, Quinn finally spoke.

"If I were a racist homophobe, would I have slept with you?"

Her voice was quiet, but there was a challenge in those words and Santana was appalled that it seemed like she was trying to pick a fight despite the fact that she'd made a desperate drunk phone call to sweep it all under the rug.

"Even misogynistic men still fuck the women they abuse and belittle," Santana responded coolly. "Interacting with non-white vag doesn't make you any less racist or homophobic. But it does make you a hypocrite, I'm sure."

"You're a hypocrite too, Santana."

Her response came without hesitation, so fast Santana wondered if Quinn was actually drunk. The words caused the brunette to pause, because, yeah.

"I never agreed to a conversation in which we determine what sleeping with the devil incarnate means for me."

"Harsh."

"Honestly, do you truly believe the bullshit that you spew on your show?" she had to ask.

"What do you think?"

"So you're a fraud?"

Quinn didn't answer. She chuckled wryly and Santana heard the clink of a glass drift through the phone's speaker. Santana felt the last of her irritation dissipate and she wasn't sure why.

She leaned back against the headboard of her bed.

Perhaps she felt bad for the reality that Quinn most certainly lived in the closet—one fortified by glass shards and barbed wire. One that would put the "chokey" from Matilda to shame. But Quinn made that closet that formidable for herself. She shouldn't be feeling sympathy for the blonde. If Quinn didn't believe in the things she was saying on her show, she was worse than Santana had originally thought.

"Please don't call me again," Santana said quietly. "I won't tell anyone about what happened between us. I'll sign a contract if you don't believe me. Goodnight."

Santana hung up and released a breath she didn't know she'd been holding.

What the actual fuck?

Chapter Text

Quinn was restless.

Fox News wanted to renew her contract. Five years. $200,000 per year (which didn't include the donations that came flowing in every time she stoked the fire of racist white America).

When she first started, she never knew it would turn into this. She never knew she'd be the face of white supremacy in this country. She had a YouTube channel—she was just a blogger. YouTube sent her a monthly check, but it was hardly anything.

Her journalism career had been going nowhere.

But then her father made her give a speech at some ridiculous country club event. It was either that, or being cut off. He'd made it very clear that he was tired of paying for a "useless, unemployed waste of space". He was going to take it all. Her apartment. Her car. Her allowance.

So why not allow him to just take her dignity instead? Plus, this was so much better than having to flirt with the sons of the men her father was in business with. She'd taken some acting classes in college. She'd been trained to put on a mask since childhood; to be someone she was not. She could do this. Easy.

But then that speech—that awful speech where she blamed Mexican immigrants for her unemployment—it blew up online. Went straight viral.

Suddenly, her subscribers on YouTube tripled. Suddenly, news outlets were contacting her for a story. She couldn't believe it. Mostly because that speech had been pure bullshit. She was unemployed because she just wasn't driven enough. She'd gotten comfortable in her lackluster life of low effort and daddy paying for almost everything.

Beautiful blonde Yale graduate unemployed? Yeah right. She just didn't want to try. Not anymore. She'd tried once and had absolutely tanked it. She blew her internship at MSNBC. It was the anxiety. She was medicated now, but that failure tainted her forever. She couldn't even get a recommendation letter from them.

Honestly, she'd never seen a Mexican immigrant in the anchor chair on any major news network other than Univision. Her country club speech was pure bullshit, but Amerikkka ate it the fuck up, and the money started rolling in and she thought, "I could do this." So she did.

Really, it exhilarated her. She'd forgotten what it felt like—succeeding at a task. She hadn't been this driven since she was a high school student, gunning for the rare and coveted spot in Yale's incoming freshman class. The endorphins, the adrenaline, the pure, untempered excitement.

She could do this.

She let the feeling of succeeding at something again overshadow the little voice in the back of her head telling her that she wasn't actually celebrating with people she wanted to celebrate with. Her best friend since high school, Mercedes Jones, refused to speak to her. Her father's country club friends (those old nasty men) had hands that lingered far too long on her arms, back and hips. Their sons, much bolder, let their palms ghost against the curve of her ass. But she sucked it up, downed more liquor, and ignored it all. She suppressed that little hint of disgust for this renewed feeling of finally doing something with her life.

After that, it didn't take her long to find herself in the Fox News production office. Just a few more internet rants saying some completely outlandish and racist things and they called her up saying they had a job for her. She didn't hesitate. It was a one-year contract to act as a correspondent for one of their big name news shows. She'd appear for 5 minutes during the hour long block to share her opinion of whatever was trending on the web. The salary was a solid $50,000 for the year, and she was still getting her YouTube checks and donations from angry, faceless internet trolls with deep pockets.

Her segment was so popular, that they followed up with another one-year contract for her own show. $125,000 for the year; she'd air an hour long segment once a week. She signed immediately.

Over the year, she'd had a wide variety of guests.

From congressmen who helped pen anti-LGBT laws into existence, to cops who (practically always) came out on top following their shooting of unarmed black American citizens, to shop owners who chased gay couples out of their stores, to megachurch billionaire pastors, and pro-life protesters who camp out in front of Planned Parenthood to harass people (who were likely going in for routine breast exams and STI testing). She had fostered and amplified the voices of people who reflected the worst of Americans.

But she had only one person to thank for the generous contract that was currently sitting on her desk: Santana Lopez, the beautiful, intelligent state representative from North Carolina. It proved to the network that she could transform her show from sensational news to actual journalism with intelligent debate while still promoting the ideals and opinions of the network. Quinn had always been capable of that (she was a Yale alumna, after all), but that wasn't what brought the crazies and their angry white dollars to her donation site.

Her producer had pulled her aside immediately after the show and told her, "Quinn, that was incredible. You had Lopez right up against the ropes. It was fucking hot."

How hot it was, well, that was irrelevant, but she smiled politely as she learned to do at age 4 and he kept talking.

"We need you to get her back on the show. Next month maybe? She's angry as fuck now, but go talk to her and figure it out. I need to talk to Graham. That was by far your best show yet. We need more of that here."

He was gone before she could ask him what the hell he was talking about, but she turned and saw a visibly vexed Santana unclipping her mic and gathering her things and Quinn knew she needed to swoop. Her window of opportunity was closing.

The problem here was that Quinn had experienced a long since forgotten rush, much different from the rush of success she'd been soaking in over the past few months. When Santana's brown eyes went dark with anger, and her lips tightened in restraint, Quinn felt desire rush between her legs. She'd egged the brunette on, mainly for her own sexual gratification, until finally the young NC Representative unleashed an onslaught of well-founded facts and logical deductions to blow Quinn's argument to pieces.

It had been a while since the blonde had felt so aroused. And she was so flustered, sitting under the heat of the lights of the studio with Santana's smoldering eyes locked onto her, the anger beneath them hardly hidden. Quin smirked, glad to have gotten a rise out o the brunette, and instead of addressing any of Santana's comments, Quinn looked directly into the camera and questioned Santana's emotion. A classic derailing technique she'd learned from the disgusting, hellish depths of Reddit where neo-Nazi trolls secretly colluded and fostered their strength in numbers. Santana's beautifully manicured hands had twitched and the brunette had huffed in annoyance, but did not respond to Quinn's comment because honestly it wasn't worth responding to. However, their viewers were too stupid to know that. It would look like a win to the average Fox News viewer. That was all she needed. Quinn threw it to commercials and Santana forced a smile for the camera before it fell off her lips and a slight scowl replaced it.

The brunette never managed to find her smile again for the rest of the interview—her face a stoic mask, her frustration growing tighter and tighter beneath it. And now, Quinn had to apologize and see if she could somehow convince Santana to come back on her show. It was a task she knew couldn't be accomplished in the obvious 30 seconds she had left before the brunette stormed out of the studio. So, she asked her to drinks. Coerced her, really. She gave her no choice.

Quinn turned up the charm at the hotel bar. She knew how to work people—she lied for a living, right? But with Santana, she realized, she didn't need to lie. She could just be herself. And Santana was obviously confused by Quinn's behavior and witty banter.

Then, much to Quinn's surprise, and obviously to Santana's if her face was any indication after the words left her lips, Santana asked her up to her room for more drinks.

Quinn knew Santana was a lesbian. She had filed that information away, for "just in case" use if she ran out of internet troll tactics to use on her show to deflect her inevitable debate/discussion defeat by the seasoned lawyer. She never had to use it, though. She didn't want to really—and she was glad that she didn't because she knew that if she'd made her attacks personal, Santana would have never agreed to drinks and she would have never gotten the soft verbal confirmation of another on air discussion as their night was winding down.

Up in Santana's room, it was Quinn who made the first move. She beat herself up mentally over it for the days to follow. But something about how the alcohol had made her body loose and warm, and how Santana's gaze had softened as she looked at her… She couldn't control herself. It had been years since she'd felt an attraction quite like the one she felt for Santana. Years since someone had looked at her like that—years since someone good had looked at her like that. Someone, who, deep down wasn't a boiling pot of tar and hatred. And, if their banter over drinks was any indication, the sex was going to be an equally fulfilling give and take.

It was everything Quinn expected and more. A hot, erotic exchange of sexual energy. Santana's eyes were dark and guarded at first. But by the time her second orgasm was rippling through her, Quinn felt like she'd seen deep into her depths and was harvesting something beautiful from within. It was angry at first. Rough, but not violent. Clearly the night's frustrations were being pounded into Quinn's skin as Santana fucked her. But the brunette grew soft, and where firm fingers had previously pistoned, soft lips and tongue followed, coaxing climax after climax out of the blonde.

The following morning, Quinn woke to an empty bed and an empty hotel room. She would've believed she'd imagined it all if her body hadn't ached in such a pleasant way and the delicious smell of Santana Lopez hadn't clung to every stitch in the sheets.

As days passed, with nary a word from the brunette, Quinn felt her restlessness bloom into anxiety and then full-blown panic. The day her new contract was brought to her office, she began spiraling out of control. She went on a bender. What was originally a night out for celebratory drinks with coworkers and colleagues devolved into a sloppy one-night stand with a somewhat attractive cameraman from the station. She awoke feeling disgusted with herself. A feeling that had been growing in her chest for over a year now. But she needed this job; she was nothing without it. She had no success. She had no friends. Her family had always been a mess.

She realized she needed to protect herself and this—her career—was the only thing she had to call her own.

She sent a desperate text message to Santana. And when the brunette finally responded, Quinn was already halfway into a bottle of Jack Daniels. She called, a drunken mistake, but Santana sounded sincere on the phone. Sincerely angry as well. But it was enough. She could breathe. She'd sent the non-disclosure agreement to Santana and could finally get past that night of hot, erotic non-discretion.

With a sigh, Quinn Fabray gathered her contract materials and headed up to the head office to complete the signing. Her agent had altered a few things here and there—mostly regard to her internet presence. Overall, the contract was more than she could've asked for. This was what she wanted, after all. This was what she'd been working toward.

The secretary sent her ahead into the conference room and she stood outside the door, taking in deep breaths. She pushed forward a little, knowing that inside was her produced and the head of the station. They were waiting for her. She was a little early, but she didn't want to be late.

This was it. The beginning of the next 5 years of her life. She'd be in it, for real. She'd be performing for the American people. Could she do this? Could she pretend for those entitled racist fucks?

Her producer's voice carried through the crack in the door.

"I went straight home afterward and pulled the segment up on my tablet, man," he said releasing a heavy breath. "There's this one part where Quinn just shuts Lopez up, right before she throws it to commercial. And Lopez has this angry look on her face for half a second. Those plump little lips of hers open up, likely to try to respond, but then she realizes she won't get a chance and just… she looks so defeated."

Quinn wanted to be shocked at how pleased he sounded, but she wasn't.

"Oh yeah, I know which part you're talking about. Right after she went on that goddamn self-righteous rant. Glad we caught that frustration on camera," she heard Graham, the head of the station agree.

"Same man. Because I paused the segment right there, and just jacked off on her frustrated little face."

Quinn's stomach felt like it dropped out, because what the hell? This was her producer… sharing this weird sexual shit with her station's head honcho. She took half a step back from the door, hand still holding it slightly open.

"Covered that dyke's pretty little face in cum. Smeared my dick all over her open, frustrated mouth. Can't say I've ever cum so hard in my life," he continued.

"I tell ya, these lesbos are getting hotter by the second," graham replied. "It's a damn shame."

Quinn listened to the men share a laugh and she felt the disgust in her chest widen, spreading to the most distal parts of her body. She took a deep breath and pushed all the way through the door, smiling politely and greeting to the two men as if she hadn't heard them talking.

"Quinn, welcome! Let's get to it," her producer smiled, his voice jovial and not revealing any of the filth of his previous conversation. He pulled a seat out for her, resting his hands briefly on her shoulders to give them a squeeze. Quinn fought back the urge to shrug his hands away, suppressing the shiver her body wanted to produce at the feel of his hands on her body.

As he settled into the seat next to her, Graham congratulated her before reiterating the details of the very contract she'd read at least 15 times over.

Quinn receded into her head, wondering if she were really any different from the filthy men she was sitting at the table with. She realized that the very moment in her interview her producer jacked off to was the moment her own panties flooded with arousal on set. And she literally went home with Santana that night, and came all over her face—against her lips and tongue.

Was she pretending anymore? And if so, who was she pretending for?

Chapter Text

Santana was exhausted, but very focused on tossing her clothes into her suitcase, opting to organize them further once she'd filled the bag enough. She'd spent the day at her parents' house, as was the tradition for this day. Ever since JJ had died, they celebrated his birthday together by gathering for a meal, sharing tiramisu (his favorite dessert), and sharing stories about him.

This yearly celebration had been one of the many commemorative events the grief counselor had suggested to them years ago. It was intended to be a way for them to focus on his memory, as opposed to getting sucked into the despair of wondering what his life would've been like had he not died. Santana agreed that it was a better use of her energy—this day was always difficult, but it had grown to be bearable.

Today, however, was bitter sweet. The birthday celebration was also a joint farewell dinner. Her parents were going to Puerto Rico. They were officially retiring and heading back to the US Territory where they met and fell in love. Santana's father was Puerto Rican, but her mother was Dominican. She met him on vacation there and the rest was history. He moved to the mainland for medical school and they had Santana, and then (8 years later) her little brother, Jesus. They made a life in the southern state of North Carolina. They'd raised their kids there. But now, they wanted to go back to where it all started for them.

Santana knew that Carolina was a little painful for them too. JJ's death was… it was a struggle. Santana was confused as to how they came out of the whole ordeal together and not a fragmented mess of a family. The event had broken Santana—but nothing had hardened her more than the absolute lack of justice in the case. It made her blood boil that her brother's death had been ruled a suicide.

It was just physically impossible. Let alone completely against their Catholic upbringing, and not at all like JJ.

She's not sure how she'd turned that anger into something productive, but she'd managed it. JJ had always been her light in this world, and when he was taken away she'd been plunged into a darkness so deep she couldn't breathe. She couldn't breathe or live or function. But her parents helped, and with their guidance she turned this deep, angry hatred she had into something constructive. She'd work within the system to make things right—to change things. She'd make sure no one would have to lose their little bother, or their son, and never see justice for the life and love that they lost.

JJ might be dead, but she was living for him now.

Her phone's ringtone startled her, and she sleepily shifted through the clothes and sheets on her bed to find it. She answered without looking at the caller ID, knowing only one person would be calling her this late at night.

"Santana," the voice from the phone pierced through the quiet of the night. "Are you on your way to the airport? I'm absolutely ecstatic that you can make opening night."

"I'm still at home. I was a bit late leaving my parents' place," she explained.

She heard Rachel taking a breath, most likely readying herself to protest the broken timeline for Santana's departure that she'd planned.

"Don't worry, I' about to leave. I wouldn't miss your play for anything. That's why I wanted to fly in early instead of waiting to arrive just an hour or two before the curtains," Santana sighed, interrupting her friend before she could get started.

She heard Rachel make a sound in the back of her throat, and then, "Very well. I'm looking forward to your arrival. Call me if anything changes, ok?"

"Of course," Santana rolled her eyes. There was a beat of silence, and then Rachel was speaking again.

"How was the birthday party?"

A small smile found its way onto her lips. Rachel had met JJ multiple times before the unfortunate events leading to his death. She'd thought he was cute and had admitted to Santana that she felt a sisterly love for the young man, lamenting the fact that her fathers had stopped at adopting just her but understanding that she'd been quite the handful for them.

"It was good," Santana offered, not feeling like really sharing too much.

"I had a slice of tiramisu to celebrate here," Rachel said softly.

Santana hummed in response, her body feeling far heavier than it actually was.

"Anyway," Rachel started, "let me not keep you from making your plane in time. I can't wait to see you. Safe travels!"

"Thanks, Rach," she responded before hanging up. She rolled her eyes a little. Why Rachel wanted her to arrive at the airport 3 hours before her flight was beyond her. That woman was… she was something else.

Santana's flight was eventless, and she was soon landing at JFK with a little more pep in her step. She couldn't wait to get to her hotel and curl up in bed to rest for a few hours. She texted Rachel, letting her know she'd arrived safely and was headed to her hotel.

Rachel, of course, responded immediately.

Excellent. I'm sure you're exhausted, so get some rest. We have dinner reservations for Farmhaus at 5:00pm. Wear something nice

Before Santana could respond another text came through.

I don't really need to tell you to dress up because your outfits are always exquisite. I'll see you later!

Santana rolled her eyes, just a little annoyed with Rachel's desire to control everything and everyone around her. But she was thankful she could take a step back and kind of float through the weekend. She would sleep until 3pm, most likely, because she'd been unable to sleep on the short flight and she was really tired. When she woke up she'd get ready for dinner, following which she'd go see the opening night performance of Rachel's starring role in Wicked. After which they might go out for celebratory drinks with the rest of the cast and then turn in for the night.

And, as planned, she'd gotten a restful nap in without any interruptions from her phone. It was odd to not hear from Rachel, but the woman had her own pre-show rituals to attend to that would keep her distracted throughout the day. It wasn't until Santana was in a cab later that day, on her way to the restaurant when Rachel called.

In lieu of a greeting, Santana answered her phone with, "Chill. I'm already in a cab. I'm like five minutes away."

"Oh, yes, well that's good," her friend responded hesitantly.

Santana could tell something was up before the woman on the other end of the line continued.

"Well, you see, Brody, Dani, and I were waiting at the restaurant for you—"

"I'm not that late. I'm going to arrive at 5:07," Santana said, looking at the ETA listed at the bottom of the map on her rideshare app.

"Yes, it's all fine. But Brody and I actually have to head to the theater. Apparently the director has some opening night rituals he wants the cast to participate in."

"And you're only hearing about it now?" she sighed incredulously.

"Yes, sorry," Rachel responded. "But the reservation still stands. Dani is waiting for you at the restaurant. When you arrive, just ask to be shown to Rachel Berry's table."

"Excuse me, who is Dani?"

"A friend. I think you'll like her."

A moment passed and then Santana realized what was going on.

"Rachel! You did not set me up on a blind date!" she hissed angrily into her phone. The car's driver looked up at her in concern and she merely rolled her eyes in response. If he bothered to keep eavesdropping or even dared to open his mouth he wouldn't be getting that 5 Star rating she'd planned to give him.

"It was supposed to be a double date. But maybe this way you can get to known her on your own," Rachel suggested and Santana just exhaled a big breath. Rachel was meddling, again. The last time this happened, Rachel had set her up with a straight girl.

"I've told you to stay out of my love life."

"Your last relationship was six years ago, Santana. I know I said I'd stay out of it, but you've made such an amazing life for yourself and I think you should share it with someone. Plus, I've done a great job staying out of it. It's been years."

Santana pinched the bridge of her nose. The car was only a block away from her destination. If she acted quickly, she could tell the driver to take her somewhere else, maybe?

"Are you forgetting how you set me up with a straight chick mere months after Brittany and I broke up?"

"That was a mistake. But I figured you needed a rebound—you seemed so miserable. She seemed at least a little heteroflexible anyway."

"I was miserable because I was grieving my brother's murder."

Rachel went quiet.

"So, I was a little insensitive back then. I'm sorry. But it's been years, Santana. Don't you think it's about time for you to enjoy life instead of just living it? You're turning 27 next spring."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean? I turn 27 and it's time to close up shop?"

The car pulled up to the restaurant and Santana hopped out.

"Pretty sure the shop has been closed for quite a while now."

"I'll have you know I have sex whenever I want," Santana huffed indignantly.

"When was the last time?"

Quinn immediately came to mind and the brunette sighed. The non-disclosure agreement had been signed and mailed back to what Santana assumed was Quinn's personal PO Box, because it wasn't the news station's address.

"None of your business," she responded tightly.

"Look, meaningless sex is all good and dandy, but how about you just enjoy the date and see where it goes. You and Dani will be seated next to each other at the theater so you might as well enjoy her company."

"Fuck, Rachel. I just…"

"You what?"

Santana didn't respond as she watched the droves of pedestrians pass around her on the sidewalk. No one even spared her a look of annoyance, they all just went about their way.

Rachel sighed, clearly having grown tired of the conversation and Santana's stubbornness.

"I really have to go. We're pulling up to the theater now. Please be nice to my friend."

With that, Rachel hung up. Santana felt a scowl settle onto her face as she dragged herself into the restaurant. It was an upscale Italian place and the brunette had to wonder why Rachel had chosen this place for their double date turned ambush blind date. Was it because Rachel just liked fancy restaurants, or was Santana about to have dinner with some high maintenance kind of woman? She never did well with "high maintenance".

"Good afternoon, miss," a middle aged man with a thick salt-and-pepper mustache greeted her as she stepped in.

"Uh, yeah. Good afternoon," Santana said, turning her attention to him.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm looking for the Rachel Berry table. I'm a little late," Santana admitted, looking at her wristwatch. It was exactly 5:07.

"Oh, yes, please come this way."

When Santana was shown to the table, she was surprised to see a short brunette with a grumpy expression scrolling through her phone seated at one of the two seats. The woman looked absolutely bored, but she looked up when she realized someone was standing near her. Her eyes widened as Santana settled into the seat across from her.

"Hey," Santana offered, "sorry I'm late."

"Oh, it's cool," the other woman responded, clearing her throat before setting her phone down.

Santana picked up the menu and looked through it briefly. Everything was a la carte; very short list. This place liked selected 3 or 4 dishes to serve each night from a larger repertoire.

"Should I order us a bottle of wine?" Santana asked.

"God, yes, this is so fucking awkward. Wine would help," the woman said. Santana's eyes snapped up from the menu and she saw the humor in the woman's eyes. A smile played don the stranger's lips.

"I'm Dani, by the way. And I already ordered food because I thought you weren't going to show."

"Santana," she offered her own name, and then, "Solid plan. Did you want to split or should I get my own meal?"

"Honestly, I'm probably too nervous to eat. I didn't know this was supposed to be a date until like 15 minutes ago. I'm not dressed for a date. I'm dressed for 'going to see your annoying neighbor's musical' not 'date with an incredibly hot woman'."

Santana smiled at Dani's openness.

"If it makes you feel any better, I didn't know this was a date until about 5 minutes ago so…," Santana said with a shrug. "Plus, I think your outfit is pretty cute."

Dani was wearing a short black dress that showed off ample cleavage. If this wasn't the best of her wardrobe, then Santana wasn't against sticking around to see what else the brunette had to offer.

"Honestly," Santana mimicked Dani's earlier phrasing, "you look stunning."

A blush settled on Dani's cheeks as she offered Santana a genuine smile. Santana waved the waiter over and ordered a bottle of red before turning back to Dani.

"What are we having for dinner?" Santana asked casually, leaning back in her seat.

"The most basic of all food: chicken alfredo."

"Sounds good to me," she nodded in response. "So how long have you known Rachel?"

"Long enough," Dani said, rolling her eyes and Santana could only laugh. "She moved into my apartment building last year and I've run into her a couple of times in the building. One night she caught me in the elevator with this girl I'd been seeing. We were headed up to my place to… you know. But Rachel wouldn't shut the fuck up and the girl got spooked and she said she'd changed her mind."

Santana could only laugh because, wow, a woman literally ran away from Rachel's blabbering. Santana wanted details. Did this woman desperately jam the number for the upcoming floor to escape as quickly as possible? Or did she wait until the elevator doors opened without her prompting, to perhaps let on another tenant, or it arrived at the floor for Dani or Rachel's apartment? God, what if she hit the emergency stop button and proceeded to force the doors open between floors and slither out of the elevator like someone escaping a harrowing experience? Listening to Rachel talk without taking a single breath could sometimes be described that way.

"And then Rachel kept going on and on about how she supports gay people and how she has two gay dads and how her best friend was a lesbian," Dani rolled her eyes. "I was so over it though. And I was sort of mad because that girl was hot and I was so ready to just enjoy the night with her. I guess my face gave away how angry I was and then Rachel gave me this big speech about how sorry she was for ruining my night and how she'd make it up to me."

"Oh God, is this blind date her way of making it up to you?" Santana groaned in annoyance, but still with a playful smile on her lips.

"If it is, that girl sure does know how to apologize because you are just…" Dani's sentence ran off. "Would it be cliché to tell you how beautiful you are?"

"I mean, you can if you want to," Santana just shrugged, a small smile pulling on her lips.

The waiter came by with the wine and opened the bottle, pouring two glasses for them.

"Would you like to order, miss?"

"My lovely date here already ordered for us," Santana said dismissively. The waiter nodded then hurried off.

Santana picked up her wine glass and lifted it a little.

"A toast to an enjoyable evening?"

"I can drink to that," Dani smirked. Santana found herself smiling as they clinked their glasses together.

After a few sips of wine Dani set her glass down, nodding in approval.

"So, I hate to do this, but we're in New York and shit like, "I accidentally went on a date with a celebrity' happens all the time," Dani started. Santana's right eyebrow arched in question but Dani just smiled. "You just look really familiar. I swear I've seen you on TV or something."

Santana laughed a little, shaking her head.

"I'm not a celebrity, or anything like that. I'm a lawyer."

"That's all?"

"Yeah," Santana shrugged as the waiter came by with their meal and two fresh plates. He offered to grind fresh black pepper on top, but Santana shook her head and deferred to Dani.

"No thanks, dude. Pepper's not my thing," Dani said and Santana kept back a frown. Her mother always told her to never trust people who didn't like pepper.

Dani spooned some alfredo onto her plate and then handed Santana the serving utensils.

"What do you do?" Santana asked. Maybe she was unknowingly on a date with a celebrity. She could honestly do without that kind of publicity.

"I write corny love songs for my record label."

"You're a singer?"

"Singer, musician, all of it really. But, currently, I'm a ghostwriter."

"That's pretty cool," Santana said, swirling some of the pasta onto her fork. "You write anything you think I've listened to?"

"Oh, most definitely. But as far as my contract goes, I'm not allowed to say."

"Well that fucking sucks," Santana mumbled before putting the pasta in her mouth.

"Eh, it's not so bad. I get to make art and still live a relatively low-key, normal life," Dani explained. "I get to meet tons of musicians. Plus I get invited to album launch parties but I never get ambushed on the street. Anyway, I've had my name listed on some pretty big albums in the past year or so, so I get credit sometimes."

Santana's phone rings, but she silences it and lets it go to voicemail, fairly engaged in her conversation.

"So, how do you know Rachel?" Dani asks, genuinely curious.

"I guess I'm her 'lesbian best friend' as you so eloquently put it," Santana smirked. "We've been friends since college. But I used the term 'friends' lightly until I was in law school."

"Well, shit," Dani said, surprised. "I didn't know you two were close."

"Don't worry," Santana laughed at Dani's embarrassed blush. "Rachel is really fucking annoying. But she means well. I'm glad she set this date up. I don't really get out much. I honestly can't remember the last time I shared a meal with a beautiful woman."

"You're such a flirt," Dani rolled her eyes, but smiled nonetheless. "I guess I can't be too mad at Rachel either."

Santana's phone went off again. It was her office calling, but she sent it to voicemail straight away.

"You can get that if you want," Dani suggested, her brown eyes glancing briefly at the phone.

"It's just work. They knew I was going to be out of town this weekend so they'll just have to wait. We're not in session again until Monday, anyway."

"Out of town? You mean you're not from New York?"

"Oh, heavens no," Santana exclaimed, almost laughing. "This city is way too… well, it's a lot of things. I prefer the quiet life. A little less fast paced. Fewer rats."

"Ok, you got me on the rats. Everything else about New York is amazing, though."

Santana just smirked at the typical New Yorker pride.

"Ok, so if you're not from around here, where are you from?"

"I'm from North Carolina."

"North Carolina? Like, the south?" Dani asked, lowering her voice at the end as if she were saying something illegal.

"Why did you say it like that?" Santana couldn't help but laugh now.

"You just… you don't look like a country girl."

"I'm not a country girl," Santana leaned forward, "but I do love my beautiful state."

"Cute," Dani finally decided on and Santana just rolled her eyes.

This time, it was Santana's text tone that went off.

"Are you sure you don't want to get that?" Dani asked again.

"I'm really sorry about this," Santana said, as she picked up her phone, annoyed at how it was interrupting an otherwise enjoyable dinner. Dani just shrugged and helped herself to more pasta. Santana unlocked her phone and saw a text from one of her colleagues. It was clearly a group chat, which Santana knew would lead to annoyance if she didn't silence it immediately.

"Well, fuck," Santana said, reading the message.

"Is that a good fuck or a bad fuck?" Dani asked, curious about Santana's reaction.

"A little of both," Santana sighed. "But it's not my problem. I told them I'd be going out of town this weekend. I'll worry about it on Monday."

"Ah, so it's work?"

"Yeah," Santana just shrugged. "The republicans are scrambling to get ahead of this whole gerrymandering thing but now they're… almost making me bore you with details about work."

Dani just shrugged and Santana frowned, realizing that she was being a pretty boring date.

"Do you want dessert? There's an hour and a half before the show starts. Maybe we can get something sweet elsewhere?" she suggested.

"Is 'something sweet elsewhere' a euphemism or were you literally suggesting an ice cream parlor somewhere in the city?" Dani asked, tilting her head curiously.

At this Santana laughed because she realized that it could be construed that way. Dani grinned at her and Santana realized she should probably make it clear that she was literally talking about dessert. However, she didn't get the chance to because someone interrupted their conversation by standing really close to their table.

Santana looked up to see a young woman with blonde hair and hazel eyes staring down at her. Something about that combination caused Santana to flinch, but she realized pretty quickly that this was someone unfamiliar standing in front of her.

"Um, a friend of yours?" Santana asked, looking over at Dani. Dani's eyebrows wrinkled as she shook her head. Santana looked back at the blonde, her irritation growing at the interruption. She'd lined up a killer response to the dessert debacle and now she'd never get to use it.

"Hi, Representative Lopez, it was such a surprise to see you here that I just had to come over," the blonde woman said and Santana frowned, not knowing who the hell she was. She hoped to God this wasn't the daughter of one of her colleagues or someone important. Santana was really good with faces, though, and she was absolutely sure she'd never seen this one in her life.

The blonde woman powered on, despite Santana's silence.

"I'm Kitty Wilde. 3L at Columbia Law," she said, offering her hand. "I'm a huge fan of yours. You're truly a trailblazer and feminist icon. It's such an honor."

"Nice to meet you," Santana said, taking Kitty's hand to shake it. "I didn't know I had fans."

Kitty laughed, her eyes narrowing slightly.

"You are currently the youngest member of the NC House of Representatives. And after you epic verbal smack down of Quinn Fabray on her ghastly news show a month or so ago, I can assure you that you have fans."

"Oh shit, that was you?" Dani pipped up. "I knew you looked familiar.

Kitty glanced over at Dani, her lips twisting a bit in disgust before her gaze settled again on Santana. Santana had to fight to keep a polite smile on her face after seeing that look on Kitty's. What the hell kind of name was Kitty anyway? What was this? X-Men?

"Maybe we can exchange contact info? Perhaps you have a business card? I'd really love to get a chance to talk to you about your path to politics."

"I don't have business cards on me right now, but my office contact information is on the NC General Assembly website."

Santana hated to be dismissive but something about this scenario was rubbing her the wrong way. Plus this was super unfair to Dani.

Kitty looked like she was about to respond, but Santana beat her to it.

"Really, it's been a pleasure chatting with you, Kitty. I'll keep an eye out for your email. Unfortunately, you're interrupting right now and we'll have to continue this conversation some other time."

The young blonde looked put off, but then a smirk settled on her lips.

"Interrupting? Like, a date?"

Santana wanted to scream. Not only had she not been prepared for this date from the get-go, but now she was being scrutinized by some kid she didn't even know?! She felt her eyes narrow in annoyance and barely felt it when Dani reached across the table to grab her hand.

"Hey, kid? Scram," Dani said sweetly with a smile.

Kitty merely frowned at her then walked off.

"What the actual fuck?" Santana breathed as the waiter came over. Finally.

"Would you ladies like to order dessert?" Santana pulled her hand away from Dani's and rummaged through her purse.

"No thanks," Santana huffed. "Here's my card. We're ready to go."

He looked a little put off but complied nonetheless, taking the brunette's credit card with him.

Santana crossed her arms, diving deep into her brain to consider the conversation that just happened with the annoying law student. How could she possibly think it was ok to just interrupt someone's dinner and try to fucking network? And on what planet could that even be considered making a good impression? If anything, Santana would remember that one Kitty Pride or Wilde (or whatever the fuck her name was) had ruined a perfectly good dinner. A dinner where Santana was actually enjoying herself, despite being blindsided from the start. Dani was cool—but nothing about tonight would have her coming back. In fact, Santana knew that if the scenario had been flipped she would've been put off by everything. People loved to hear that she was a lawyer but as soon as they heard she was a politician, things generally went to shit.

"You're mad."

Dani's voice startled her out of her thoughts. She loosened her defensive posture a little and let her wary eyes settle on the cute brunette seated in front of her.

"I'm sorry," Santana apologized. "That's never happened to me before."

Dani just shrugged before leaning back in her seat.

"It's a blessing and a curse."

Santana was confused, and her expression must've conveyed that because Dani merely continued talking.

"I just mean, yeah, bitch was obnoxious. But, you know, she helped me get to know you a bit better, Representative Lopez."

Santana blushed, running her palms against her thighs.

"Those aren't details I usually whip out during the first date," Santana admitted.

"Which date do you usually whip those out on?"

"I don't know. I don't usually get a second date."

"You don't get a second date? No need to lie to me, Santana."

"No, really," she laughed a little in response. "I'm always so busy. We'll reschedule and reschedule and reschedule until, finally, she gives up. That's why I don't bother with dating."

"That's… that's kind of sad."

Santana just shrugged.

The waiter returned with Santana's card and the receipts.

"Thank you," the brunette offered quietly as she calculated the tip in her head. She signed the receipt and then looked up at Dani.

"So we've got about an hour left. I heard there's a Shake Shack nearby. What to split a milkshake?"

"I feel like we'll be in line forever, but let's give it a go."

"If we run out of time, I owe you dessert. We've got our own milkshake haven in Carolina called CookOut. Think of any flavor or combination and we've got it."

"That's pretty intense," she laughed. "Any flavor?"

"Ok, any conventional dessert flavor. Keep your nasty 'chicken ramen noodle cup' milkshake flavor to yourself."

"Damn, do I just smell like ramen or something? I swear, I usually eat healthier when I'm not working on songs."

Santana laughed and stood up, waiting for Dani to follow her. Once outside she offered her arm to her and then pulled out her phone to try to locate the Shake Shack.

"Wow, nope, put that thing away, Ms. Tourist," Dani said, tugging Santana a little to get her walking. "I'll take lead for the rest of the night."

"I could get behind that. Or beneath that."

Dani paused, fixing Santana with a curious look.

"Are you flirting with me?"

"It was a joke. I'm always on top."

Dani laughed and Santana held back a grin.

The shorter brunette glanced around and then finally looked back at Santana. She nodded in the direction they were originally headed.

"You're in luck," she said with a smile. "I moved to the city when I was 16 and this Broadway area was where I first landed. I can get us to Shake Shack and then to the theater without buskers hassling us for some coins."

"Sounds like a good deal. I'll save my coins to throw at Berry while she's up on stage."

"Oh my God," Dani chuckled, clearly imagining the scene.

A few moments of silence passed as they walked with their arms linked. Santana was content with this arrangement. Content enough to not be too hard on Rachel later when they got a chance to speak. It had been a blind date all along. Rachel's plan had almost gone undetected, except that Santana was certain there were no vegan items on the menu besides salad and Rachel was never one to eat salad for dinner.

Over their milkshake, Dani shared a little about how she ended up in New York at age 16. Her parents had kicked her out for being gay. Santana was floored. It was the very thing she'd feared when she was younger. Except, Dani had been a fearless teenager instead of a fearful one. She spent her teen years singing on the street and playing guitar. She got a job at a diner, where she promised to take Santana one day. She got a lucky break when a Sony Music executive heard her performing at the diner. It was truly a relief.

"My one regret was not finishing high school. I got my GED but I hated that I didn't get to go to prom, or have a graduation. I wanted all of those silly high school experiences—the good and the bad."

Santana nodded, thinking back on her own time in high school.

"Had my parents kicked me out when they found out," Santana mumbled, trying to imagine it," I'm not sure I would've come out on top the way you have."

"Wait, I thought you said you were always on top?" Dani teased.

Santana rolled her eyes and laughed a little. "You're incredible, you know that?"

Dani grinned and Santana just smiled fondly at her.

"Alright, so, we should get to the theater because I really don't want to hear Rachel complaining for the next decade about how I was late to her show," Dani said, hopping out of her seat. "I think I just might have to move to a new building to avoid that.


 

Santana sat outside with a cup of coffee as she took in the view from Rachel's balcony. After the show they'd retired to Rachel's apartment for drinks and "healthy vegan snacks". Santana figured she should take it this weekend and opted for a cup of coffee. Plus, she didn't want to eat any of the finger foods Rachel had prepared.

She took a moment to actually respond to the text messages she'd been receiving that night. The previous year, the Supreme Court found NC's congressional districts to be racially and economically unjust—severe gerrymandering had been uncovered, though any Dem working in the state could've told you that. Law makers had been waiting on the ruling of when the districts needed to be redrawn and whether or not there would be a mid-term special election to rectify the fact that government officials had been elected due to unfairly skewed constituent groups.

The good thing was, the districts had to be redrawn before the next election. The bad thing was, the republicans would be redrawing them (which was odd, because they had been the ones to fuck them up in the first place) and there would not be special elections this year. It kind of made Santana's blood boil that republicans kept getting away with all of the heinous shit they consistently did to disenfranchise people of color and people of low socioeconomic status. They held majorities in the NC House and Senate, so there wasn't much that could be done in that case. It was one of the more sobering points of politics that Santana just didn't like. She system had been rigged to keep certain people in power and ideals in action. She'd argue that the system has been built to function like that from the start and it was a hopeless scramble to try to work within a corrupt system to enact change. Yes, she was able to propose house bills and get non-partisan backing on most of them—she was a highly effective law maker. But if the stars weren't aligned just right, bills she helped write never made it past the state senate.

The sliding glass door to the balcony opened up behind her and she turned to see Rachel slipping out into the warm summer night.

"Santana, thank you so much for coming this weekend," Rachel smiled as she settled on the bench next to her friend. She leaned her head against Santana's gently. "And thank you for the flowers. I was delighted to see the arrangement when we returned from the theater. At first I was surprised that your hands were empty at the theater, since it's customary to shower the star in flowers and gifts following her opening night performance, but you never let me down. Such a lovely note on the arrangement too."

"I'm glad you didn't choke on stage, because I ordered those flowers this morning and wrote the note several hours before the show. Imagine how fucked up it would've been if you'd tanked and came home to a massive flower arrangement and a note that started with, 'Phenomenal show, Rach!' That would've been awkward as hell."

Rachel merely rolled her eye but silently admired Santana's foresight and preparedness. She'd always thought that was one of the reasons they got along so well—they were both planners, through and through. She leaned away from Santana and turned to look at her.

"So, how was dinner?" she asked, steering the conversation toward the events before the show.

"Good. Weird, but good."

"'Weird'? Oh God, what did you do?"

"Hey, I didn't do anything, Treasure Trail," Santana snapped, growing grumpy. "Some weird law school kid recognized me from the Fox News interview and kind of put a damper on the mood."

"So there was a mood, before the law school kid?"

"Rach, I know what you're doing. It's not going to happen. I don't do distance."

"Maybe distance is what you need? Since you're so busy anyway? And Dani is very chill. She goes with the flow. I swear, nothing stresses that girl out."

"I know this sounds like a good fit to you, but have you considered that I feel like shit when I can't be there 100% for a partner? I don't like to half-ass things. You know this."

"Dani won't mind," Rachel insisted, looking far more upset than the situation merited.

"Dani is a grown woman and will likely say that she does mind. Just let it go. I'm not going to do that to her or anyone else, ok?"

"So you like her?"

"What the hell?! Are you not listening to me?"

"Look, Dani lives just a few floors down. She looks like she's a little tired. Ask to walk her home, she won't object. Just talk to her, ok?"

"Did you plan this night for me, right down to me taking a girl back to her place and getting laid?"

"I might've planned the dinner, and I might've insisted we have drinks here at my place for that exact possibility, but neither of you have had anything to drink. Plus, I don't think Dani engages in sexual intercourse on the first date."

Santana just sighed and stood up. This was too weird. But, back in undergrad, Rachel had taken quite the hands-on approach to playing matchmaker for Santana. And Santana had experienced quite the epic love because of it. Love that she'd managed to set on fire and ruin because she was in a bad spot—but it had been incredible. Five years of absolute bliss with one Brittany Susan Pierce. They had not split amicable. That had been Santana's fault.

"I'll ask her if she wants to sneak away for a bit," Santana acquiesced as Rachel smiled brightly, glad that her plan wasn't completely in ruin yet.

The two friends reenter the apartment. Some of the cast and crew from the show were milling around in the living room. Brody was chatting with some boring looking guy in the kitchen. Dani was nowhere to be seen.

"Hey Brody, congrats on the show tonight," Santana said as Rachel fell into her leading man's arms.

"Enough of that," Rachel tutted. "He doesn't need praise."

Santana merely rolled her eyes for what felt like the 100th time that day.

"Honey, where did Dani go?" Rachel asked him sweetly.

"She said she was tired and that she was going to go to sleep. Apparently she was up all night trying to make some deadlines for work. I don't think she's gotten a decent amount of sleep all week. It was really kind of her to come see our show."

"Did she just leave?"

"Yeah," Brody said, smiling down fondly at his girlfriend.

"She's probably still waiting for the elevator if you wanted to check," Rachel suggested, turning her hopeful gaze to Santana.

"I don't chase after women," Santana grumbled.

What the fuck kind if girl didn't say goodnight to her date for the evening? The brunette figured she'd probably fucked up sometime during their time together. Perhaps she was a little rude to the wait staff at the restaurant—but Santana always went on the defensive when she felt cornered. Or maybe she drank way too much of the milkshake they shared before the show. Maybe she should've tried to hold her hand during the musical. Fuck.

"No. No no no, Santana. I see that look in your eye. You're overthinking it. Just go talk to her," Rachel looked annoyed.

Santana threw her hands up in defense, because she knew this could evolve into an hour long lecture.

"Ok, damn. I'm going."

Santana made a quick exit from the apartment.

She hurried down the hall and caught the elevator just as the doors were closing. Her heels clicked noisily as she stumbled in.

Dani stood there looking amused.

"Can I walk you back to your place?" Santana asked, ignoring the smirk on Dani's lips.

"You are aware that I only live 5 floors down, right?" Dani smiled.

"It's a yes or no question," Santana hissed, a little embarrassed by her clumsiness and still put off by the fact that Dani had planned to leave without saying goodbye. Dani's smile faded and she sighed.

"Santana, I don't sleep with someone on the first date," Dani said gently. "I don't do one night stands. And I am way too tired to be a good lay right now anyway."

"I'm not suggesting that," Santana breathed, steadying her voice. "I figured we had a good evening together. I just wanted to say goodnight, properly. Maybe exchange numbers. We could link up the next time I'm in town. Or if you ever found yourself in Carolina, we could get one of those magical CookOut milkshakes."

Dani was quiet as she considered the words offered to her.

"Rachel already gave me your cell number. She was really excited that we hit it off," Dani said as the elevator doors opened on her floor.

"So we did hit if off?" Santana asked, embarrassed that she sounded so unsure. "I mean, I thought we did but then you tried to sneak off without saying goodbye."

"I'm sorry," Dani just laughed and Santana felt unease coiling in the pit of her stomach. "It's just that I really like you, and I was beginning to worry that it was fate that we ended up back in the apartment building together after the show. I was worried I wouldn't be able to say no to you. I panicked."

"So you want me to come in?" Santana's voice was low and soft—just a hint of suggestive.

"I do… but you shouldn't. Because you're leaving tomorrow, right?"

Santana nodded. "I'm leaving tomorrow. In the afternoon."

Dani just laughed again.

"Santana Lopez, you are something else, you know that?" Dani asked, her brown eyes glowing with something that Santana couldn't exactly identify.

Santana just smirked because she'd heard that many times before.

"I should probably let you get some sleep," Santana finally relented. "I had a lovely time tonight. This was the first date I've been on in years; I can't imagine having a better experience."

Dani smiled at Santana, surprise lifting her eyebrows.

"Keep in touch?"

"Of course," Dani responded, stepping forward and pulling Santana into a hug.

A fucking hug?

Damn, was there nothing desirable about her anymore? How did she manage to tank this evening?

Dani pulled away and unlocked her door, stepping in and waving goodbye to Santana before pushing it shut. Santana sighed deeply, standing there for a moment before taking a deep breath to smother the disappointment in her chest.

Rejection sucked, but it was for the better she supposed. Had she tried to date Dani, it would've deteriorated into a disaster anyway. Santana was just way too busy. She didn't have the energy to date a woman in NYC when her life was in Carolina.

Regardless, she knew she was way too put off to continue the celebration with Rachel. She slunk back to the apartment like a wounded dog and gathered her purse before slipping away undetected. Brody and Rachel were too engrossed in a make-out session to notice anyone else.

The cab ride was uneventful and Santana planned to spend her night soaking in the hotel bathtub; maybe responding to the countless emails she knew were waiting for her.

When she got back she threw her things down on the bed and went into the bathroom to run the water as hot as she could get it. With the drain closed and the tub slowly filling, she headed back into the room and striped down to nothing before laying out some underwear and a robe.

Her phone chimed with the alert of new text messages.

One was from an unknown number and the other was from a number she'd saved as "Do Not Answer".

She read the first one and gathered it was from Dani: I should've kissed you goodnight.

Yeah, should've could've would've. That ship had sailed. Santana Lopez waited for nobody. No matter how cute. The brunette rolled her eyes, feeling anger mount in her chest.

It was the rejection, right? Or maybe she was angry with herself for not being more assertive, for not going for what she wanted, for not being sexy enough for Dani to bend her rules.

Santana liked to think that she was worth it all. But, recently, she hadn't been feeling that way at all.

Right now, she had nothing nice to say to Dani. She'd wait until the morning to respond, if she could get past her wounded pride.

The text from Do Not Answer was shocking to say the least. Like the first time she'd gotten a text from her, it kind of creeped her out. Journalists were supposed to be in the know, but this made her want to draw the curtains closed a bit tighter: I'm sorry about Kitty.

Santana returned to the bathroom and poured in the entire tiny container of complementary hotel shower gel, adding a bit of the shower gel she'd brought from home as well. The water grew bubbly and she eventually turned the faucet off. She hung her towel on the curtain rod and sunk down into the hot water.

Santana grabbed her phone off the toilet seat cover and dialed the contact she knew she shouldn't even have saved. The call connected after the 3rd ring. Santana put it on speaker, set it back on the toilet seat cover, and then sank further into the water.

"Are you stalking me?"

Straight to the point.

"No," came the succinct response from Do Not Answer.

"How do you know I talked to a girl named Kitty today?"

"I was there."

Santana drew in a deep breath through her nose, the steam from the bath soothing her, despite the anger that just wouldn't seep from her bones. It made her ache in the worst kind of way.

"Excuse me?"

"I took Kitty out to dinner. We were celebrating my new contract and she saw you. I told her it looked like you were on a date, and that she should leave you alone but she insisted. You're one of her idols."

"Were you on a date too?" Santana dared to ask. Quinn's laughter was light and short.

"No, Kitty's my cousin. Plus, she's definitely not my type."

"And you wouldn't be caught dead on a date with a woman," Santana snarked, shifting in the water as she shut her eyes to block out the light.

"You got me there," Quinn admitted with another laugh. Santana wondered what had the blonde in such good spirits. She seemed lighter than she had been on the phone the last time they spoke. Maybe she felt safe—unthreatened by Santana. Maybe she was drunk.

A beat passed and Santana wondered if Quinn had hung up.

"How was your date?"

What a strange question. Was Quinn genuinely interested? How was this conversation appropriate given their tumultuous… relationship? Friendship? Neither of those words seemed right. They certainly weren't on good terms.

"I thought it went well, but I guess not," Santana mumbled.

"What do you mean?"

"I walked her home and she didn't invite me in. Didn't even kiss me."

"Damn, that's cold."

"Honestly," Santana agreed gruffly. "I'm a damn good kisser, too."

"I know."

Oh.

Santana paused, wondering if she should respond to that. She was about to say something, like goodbye or goodnight, but then she heard it; a question. So quiet she wasn't sure if she'd imagined it.

"Can I come over?"

"Why?" Santana swallowed thickly.

"You deserve a kiss goodnight."

Santana's pulse skyrocketed. Suddenly, the tub was too hot. She fumbled to open the drain and the water rushed out.

"Is this a booty call?"

"You called me, Santana."

This was true but…

Santana just breathed deeply, and then she flinched as the tub made a loud sucking sound as the water got low enough to expose the drain to the air.

"Are you drunk?" Santana opted to ask. Perhaps Quinn seeing her on a date with another woman had made her a little jealous? Or maybe it was nostalgia for an unforgettable night?

"I'm not drunk," Quinn chuckled again. "I just… I'm having a moment of clarity."

What did that mean?

When Santana didn't respond, Quinn continued.

"I sat down and really thought about my life and where it was going. And I considered how little I really do to make myself happy. How little I do to feel fulfilled. How little I enjoy myself doing the things that I do. I signed my soul away this week, and I should be happy, because I'll be making a lot more money. But I… I just want…"

Quinn didn't finish her sentence and Santana just sighed. What was even going on?

Finally, she heard Quinn take a breath.

"I'm sorry," the blonde offered. "That was totally out of line."

"Don't go soft on me now, Fabray," Santana said, hoping that she wouldn't regret this in the morning. "I need to rinse off, but I'll text you my hotel and room number. Don't keep me waiting."

Santana hung up then, wondering what she was getting herself into. She gingerly typed out her hotel and room number, then set the phone back down on the toilet seat cover after sending the message. Quickly, she lathered some of the body wash she brought from her home onto her scrubber and cleansed herself thoroughly. She rinsed and dried off before putting some lotion on and unpinning her hair. She swapped out the comfortable underwear she'd selected earlier for something a bit more exciting from her bag and then wrapped up in the hotel robe.

Chapter Text

Quinn swallowed thickly as she lifted her hand to knock quietly on the door. It was creeping past 2AM and the streets had been particularly dark but no less vacant, but Santana told her not to keep her waiting. Quinn was nothing if not obedient. Russell had taught her to at least be obedient.

A minute passed and the blonde felt uncomfortable standing there in the hall. She reached up to knock again but then the door slowly opened to reveal Santana standing there in her bath robe looking highly amused. The brunette looked Quinn up and down, her grin growing as she stepped aside to let Quinn in.

The anxiety that had been mounting in Quinn's chest subsided as she stepped into the dimly lit safety of the hotel room. With that discomfort clearing, she was achingly aware of the anticipation that had settled in her bones the moment Santana had promised to send her to the location of their rendezvous.

"Gees, Fabray, I was kidding with the stalker comment earlier. What's the deal with the creepy ass trench coat?" Santana teased as she reached forward to gently remove Quinn's sunglasses.

The gesture was somewhat intimate as Santana gazed up into Quinn's hazel eyes. Quinn noted that Santana seemed much smaller in that moment—she wasn't wearing heels. Her bare feet were pressed into the carpet of the room. She looked small and soft and relaxed, which was stirring something other than arousal in her chest. A fondness, perhaps? Affection?

"Safety precaution," Quinn murmured as she took off her baseball cap and tossed it to the ground, no breaking eye contact. Her blonde hair fell around her shoulders and Santana hummed in delight as she reached with her free hand to arrange the blonde tresses splayed across Quinn's shoulders.

The outfit really had been for her safety, though. Quinn couldn't be spotted walking into a hotel late at night. It wasn't good publicity. People would get to talking. Rumors would fly. The truth would be revealed. She'd even begrudgingly left her phone at home so she couldn't be traced. She reasoned that she'd rather have no way to call for help if something were to happen than to have her GPS give up the fact that she was making a late-night call to a hotel.

She'd even gone as far as to take cash to pay for her cabs. The cabbie, on his part, didn't seem to bat an eye at the strange blonde woman wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night.

"You got here quickly. Live nearby?" Santana asked as she began tucking some of the hair behind Quinn's ear.

Quinn, startled by how familiar Santana was being with her, snatched the sunglasses away from her and stepped back from the soft fingers that had just brushed against her earlobe.

"Sit," she ordered as she shoved her sunglasses into one of the many pockets of her trench coat. Another non-disclosure agreement was folded neatly in there, along with a pen. She hadn't forgotten.

She pulled out the paper and pen and handed it to Santana, whose robe had slipped open just enough to reveal the plump, caramel smoothness of the side of her breast. Quinn felt saliva pool in her mouth at the sight.

"Do I have to sign one every time?" Santana grumbled as she looked the agreement over, reading the contract intently as she'd trained to do in law school and at the firm she'd worked at.

"How else would I know that you won't go blabbing your fat mouth, Lopez?" Quinn asked as she began the process of untying and unbuttoning her long trench coat. When she was done she shrugged off the coat, folded it neatly, and draped it on the chair near the window.

"I literally don't want to out you because I'm not an asshole. Plus, I'd never hear the end of it from practically everyone I know for fucking you. The shame alone is enough to make me take this secret to my grave."

The snark was sharp, even though her eyes were still trained to the contract.

"You feel shame when you have sex with women?"

"Nah, you must be thinking of yourself, closet case. The only thing I feel when I have sex with women is pleasure. Having sex with you, however, comes with a special feeling of disgust. I have an aunt who calls you The White Devil. You know how many other white devils are out there? Apparently you've won the title," Santana smirked as she leaned over to use the desk and sign the paper then carefully folded it up the way it had been when handed to her.

Quinn realized that their shame wasn't the same, but there was shame nonetheless. She knew how to control shame—she knew how best to manipulate it. She was quite certain this wouldn't blow up in her face.

"Holy Jesus of Nazareth," Santana breathed as she straightened up and turned with her eyes finally coming to rest on Quinn's body. And, as if the muscles in her legs went weak at the very sight of her, Santana sat slowly on the bed behind her. The blonde had clearly dressed up for the night.

She was wearing a navy, strapless dress that hugged her body just right. On her feet were striking nude heels that did wonders to lift her ass and round her calves in the most alluring of ways.

"Lie down, Santana," Quinn demanded and the brunette didn't hesitate. Her hands were nervously playing with the paper she'd folded up, but she soon felt it being tugged from her fingers and watched as Quinn sauntered back to her trench coat, slipping the paper and pen back into one of the pockets. Santana couldn't drag her eyes away from the blonde.

Quinn wasted no time to return to the bed and climb atop Santana, running her hands over the soft fabric of her bath robe. When Quinn's hands ran over her breasts, Santana felt her breath hitch. This was what she wanted. And she wanted it now.

She easily flipped Quinn over, lying atop her, her lips taking purchase of the smooth white skin of her neck. Quinn moaned, her hands working to untie Santana's robe, revealing her beautiful brown skin. Santana nipped at her neck, and her jaw, clearly moving toward her lips. She pressed a kiss to her cheek and Quinn had to remind herself that regardless of how intimate tonight might feel, free of the haze of alcohol, this didn't mean anything.

Her lips grazed Quinn's, and with just the slightest of touches Quinn realized she craved Santana more than anyone else she'd ever met. She reached forward, gripping tightly at the nape of Santana's neck, pulling her down toward her eager mouth but the brunette resisted.

"Fuck, Santana, don't do this to me," Quinn whined. She actually whined.

When Santana didn't move or say anything, she forced her eyes open to find herself under the sweltering, dark gaze of Santana Lopez.

"You said I deserve a goodnight kiss," Santana said, repeating her words back to her.

"Yeah, but here you are being a dumbass, preventing me from giving it to you."

"No, Quinn. You said I deserve a goodnight kiss. You could've said you wanted to give me one. Or that you were going to give me one. Hell, you could've said that I needed one. But you chose the word deserve. Why?"

"Are you really questioning my word choice right now while I'm lying beneath you, as wet and ready as I've ever been?"

Santana's right arm, which was currently holding up her upper body, tightened as her body trembled with desire.

"Fuck, you are so hot," Santana breathed, dropping her head to Quinn's shoulder as she tried to steady herself.

"I know, so why are we talking right now?"

Santana leaned back again, supporting her weight with both of her arms this time.

"It's what you do best, right Quinn? You talk. And you're deliberate when you speak. You didn't make a mistake earlier on the phone with me. Yeah, you wanted to fuck, but what you said was… it wasn't an accident."

Quinn sighed, allowing her hands to drop away from the warm soft body she just wanted pressed as tightly as possible against her own.

"You are the most morally and ethically just person I've ever had the pleasure of knowing," Quinn admitted. "You deserve the world. And I'm sorry you're not being rewarded for being a decent human being at every turn. You've been dealt a bad hand. You somehow went on a date with some bimbo who can't distinguish diamonds from coal. So, shut up and let me kiss you. Let me give you what you deserve, Santana, just for tonight."

Santana had an unreadable expression on her face because Quinn was being strangely sweet; the blonde realized this as well, feeling at odd with herself. She wondered when along the years she'd lost that desire to be kind to others. She couldn't remember the last time someone had looked at her the way Santana was looking at her in that moment. Her brown eyes searched Quinn's swiftly, jumping back and forth between her own with a look that made her feel so very much unlike herself. She wasn't sure if that were a good thing or no, and she didn't want to let the brunette see that uncertainty so she forced herself into action.

When Quinn reached up and wrapped her warm, delicate hand around the back of Santana's neck, threading her fingertips into dark, luscious black hair, Santana didn't fight the pull she felt. She let their lips press together, and allowed Quinn to lead her into a night filled with rewards she never would've demanded for herself.

Hours later, in the quiet moments after sunrise, Santana was spent. Quinn held her in her arms, letting her fingertips gently rub into the soft flesh of her bedmate.

"Did you ever think to not sign the contract?" Santana asked after listening to Quinn explain her compulsion to sign away the next 5 years of her life to Fox News. "Did you ever think you could turn your life around? You could still float on your own, you know."

"It's too late for that, Santana," Quinn said tiredly. "I plunged head first into a flushing toilet. I have to see what's in the drain, now."

The truth was, she had thought about it. She'd thought about saying no. About walking away from this person she'd turned herself into. Racism had been very profitable—it always has been for those perpetuating it. But at what cost? She had no friends, she could barely stand looking at herself in the mirror. But what did walking away look like? It looked like losing her job, losing her family, and having nothing—it looked like poverty because the conservatives would surely shun her and the liberals would never pity her after everything she's said and done. She couldn't see any other way forward. She'd locked herself in. There was no way out.

"Five years of disparaging refugees and racial minorities. Five years of hating on universal healthcare and gay people. Five years of promoting absolute garbage and inciting violence. How do you sleep at night?"

"I've found that half a bottle of Jack can put me out," Quinn offered her clearly angry lover, without irony.

"Honestly Quinn, how do you fucking sleep at night?" Santana repeated, wanting an honest answer.

"I don't." Quinn had nothing else to say. She was just being honest. Sleeping pills and alcohol were her saviors on late, sleepless nights.

"Am I supposed to feel sorry for you?" Santana asked, her frustration growing by the second, perhaps in response to the honesty in Quinn's voice.

"I didn't ask you to."

If possible, Santana grew even more agitated, clearly not pleased with that response. Her eyes narrowed and her body grew warm with anger.

"You do realize how irresponsible you're being by spewing hate and not realizing your words, regardless of whether or not you believe them, spurs hateful bigoted people into action. Your words mean something even when you don't intend for them to mean anything at all. You are literally profiting, financially, at the expense of the health, safety, and wellbeing of marginalized groups in this country."

Santana was wrong, though. Quinn knew exactly what she was doing. She did realize her words had power. And she knew that she'd used that power for evil, and that she was responsible for emboldening hundreds of thousands of bigots. It made her sick to her stomach, but she felt like she had no other option.

"I'm just trying to survive," Quinn mumbled, shifting beneath the blankets. While she'd grown up with what seemed like a constant verbal barrage of insults from her parents, she had her limit and Santana was certainly creeping toward it. She was growing uncomfortable.

Santana was floored at how sincere Quinn sounded with her response. She wondered how making a few hundred grand was merely survival. She wondered what kind of twisted, deranged, WASPy life Quinn Fabray lived up until this point.

"I'm literally going to barf," Santana groaned, sitting up. It was suddenly clear that she was disgusted with herself. How did she get here? How did she find herself in bed with Quinn Fabray, the nation's most hateful, selfish person?

Quinn's hazel eyes were trained to Santana's bare back. Her smooth caramel skin rippled over her shoulder blades and back muscles. Santana was exquisite, and the blonde just wanted to focus on that, berating herself for ruining a good night by engaging in casual conversation about her life.

"How did I fucking get here?" Santana continued. "How did I fucking get here with you? You are so absolutely vile, and you can't even see it."

The brunette turned on the edge of the bed to look at her—or rather, glare at her. Quinn's eyes danced down to Santana's bare breasts. Breasts she'd had her hungry mouth all over, all night.

But, God, even with all of Santana's beauty and kindness there was a self-righteousness that made Quinn's blood boil.

"Oh don't pretend that you didn't know who I was before I cam over here. You practically begged me to come fuck you," Quinn scoffed, having had enough. She sat up in an attempt to gain equal footing in this argument.

"You took advantage of me," Santana accused. "I was feeling low and desperate, and you fucking pounced."

"Oh my God," Quinn groaned in annoyance. "Typical liberal victimization bullshit."

Santana's mouth fell open, completely scandalized.

"You libs fucking love it when you get to play the victim. Everyone is out to get you, right? Everyone is out to fuck you over. Well, that's not how it went down, Santana. We weren't drunk. You're a grown woman making grown woman decisions about when and where and with whom you'll have your orgasms. Maybe you pretend to be disgusted after you moan my name in pleasure, but you did feel pleasure and you did moan my name. My name, Santana.

"So no, fuck you and fuck you for playing the victim. You aren't the victim here. You loved fucking me. You loved every minute," Quinn hissed, anger vibrating from her very core.

Quinn didn't even have time to flinch as Santana moved toward her.

The brunette surged forward, her lips painfully connecting with Quinn's. The blonde was pretty damn sure her lip had split open, but she didn't care because she'd spent too much time laying her soul bare to Santana.

Santana's tongue pressed forcefully into her mouth and she allowed it, savoring the heady taste of her own cunt lingering on the brunette's lips. Santana might've been angry and aggressive, but Quinn was in control. She was finally in control.

Her hand swept down along Santana's lithe body and she groaned as Quinn's hand dipped between her legs which fell wider apart the moment the blonde brushed against her clit. Her breathing stuttered and her kisses grew sloppy as Quinn pressed two fingers through silky soft heat and into an all-encompassing tightness that threatened to drown her.

"I fucking… hate you," Santana whimpered, her body winding tighter and tighter under Quinn's ministrations.

"Even misogynistic men still fuck the women they abuse and belittle," Quinn breathed heavily against Santana's ear before pulling the lobe gently with her teeth. "Even Santana Lopez can still fuck the woman she claims to hate."

"Ah, Quinn," Santana moaned, her body trembling. She was fighting to keep it together.

"Just come already, you self-righteous fuck," Quinn demanded, her wrist growing tight and her arm growing tired. Quinn curled her fingers, desperate to see the brunette writhing in pleasure. Santana came undone atop her, moaning in pleasure as her walls clenched against Quinn's fingers rhythmically. She rutted against the blonde's body, riding the waves of her orgasm until they were merely ripples of a moment gone too soon.

Nothing but heavy breathing was shared between the two women as Santana grew soft and heavy against Quinn's body, but she wedged an arm between Quinn's back and the mattress, drawing her body tight against her own.

The blonde was confused as to why Santana was holding her—so tightly at that.

"What are you doing?" Quinn finally asked, her voice thick and heavy, still so affected by hearing and feeling Santana fall apart in her arms. She wiped her sticky fingers against the bedsheets, shifting a little against the brunette.

"I like to cuddle."

"Are you serious?"

Santana hummed her response, pressing her lips gently against Quinn's neck. The blonde had to fight to hold in her laughter because what the hell?

It felt intimate. The moment felt surreal. Quinn almost wanted to pretend that this was how she could fall asleep every night. Wrapped securely in Santana's surprisingly strong arms.

Santana mumbled something into her skin and Quinn rolled her eyes.

"Repeat that, this time without your mouth smushed against my neck," the blonder requested. Santana pulled back a little, loosening her grip on the blonde and shifting most of her weight off of her. She pressed a surprisingly gentle kiss to Quinn's mouth.

"I don't hate you," Santana breathed, that strange look from before growing in her dark brown eyes. "I think I just hate myself."

If Quinn hadn't been confused before, she was confused now.

Instead of making a joke about having literally fucked Santana's brains out, because she was speaking nonsense, she decided to keep it serious. Something about the moment felt heavy to her.

"What is there to hate?" Quinn asked, her thumb rubbing gently against Santana's ribcage.

From what she gathered, Santana was an all-around good person. It was why the democrats in her district rallied so hard behind her when she ran for office. She was fiercely loyal to her family friends, constituents, city, and state. She believed in justice and she believed in the greater good. She constantly put others first and was incredibly intelligent, driven, focused, and successful. To top it off, she was too beautiful for words. Simply breathtaking, and sexy too. There was nothing about Santana to hate. Not in Quinn's eyes. Hell, even her occasionally irritating self-righteousness was arousing to Quinn.

"I've been treating you like shit. I've been blaming you for whatever this is. But you're right—I made the decision. I could've backed out at any time, I could've stopped, but I didn't want to. Quinn… I'm really attracted to you. It's not just the sex. Though, 'hate fucking' you has definitely made the top three of my 'Most Erotic Encounters' list. You're really smart, and talking with you is really stimulating… I think you could be fun too, if you weren't so afraid of losing this life that is killing you from the inside out."

"I made the top 3?" Quinn opted to focus on that part of that confession that wouldn't require continuing down the line of painful discussion.

Santana chuckled lightly in response, understanding that their serious discussion was being rerouted back to more comfortable grounds for the blonde.

"Yeah, right up there with the night I spent with my ex after I proposed to her and the first time I made love to a woman."

"Those other two erotic encounters sound really romantic… I never knew you were engaged."

Santana just shrugged.

"It was before marriage equality was the law of the land; and it was doubly illegal back home at the time because of Amendment 1. It was merely symbolic, but I did want to marry her… She eventually left me."

Quinn frowned, wondering what happened. Why would anyone leave Santana?

"I'm sorry," the blonde said softly, knowing that she couldn't relate to the feeling of someone ending an engagement. She'd never grown close enough to anyone, romantically, to even entertain the idea of marriage.

"It doesn't matter now. I just think you should know that you deserve a kiss goodnight too. We all do, I guess. Even Fox News puppets."

"Even The White Devil?"

"Yeah," Santana laughed and Quinn just smirked. A silence settled between them, but Quinn was quick to disrupt that.

"What is this like for you, Santana?"

Santana lifted an eyebrow in question and the blonde elaborated.

"Sex with me—the Fox News puppet who spews hate on live television. You know, fucking your oppressor. Does it make you feel superior?"

"What? No," she responds immediately. "No, I … I've never thought about it in that way. This isn't about revenge or reparations, or anything like that."

"Then what is it about?"

Quinn's eyes widened once she realized what she asked, but Santana just looked at her and there was no judgement in her eyes; only understanding.

"I don't think this is about anything. I think under all of that hate speech is a woman who isn't half bad. We can subvert the power dynamic when in bed and it doesn't feel like social commentary. It just feels like two people connecting and enjoying the moment."

"I really can't tell if you're being serious about that power dynamic comment. What are you trying to imply?"

"I'm not—"

A hurried, loud knocking at the door startled Santana.

"Santana!" a muffled voice came through the door. "Santana I know you're in there!"

"Fuck," the brunette groaned, running a hand through her sex-tangled hair.

"Who is that? Please tell me that's not an angry girlfriend or something," Quinn whispered fiercely while fear mounted in her chest.

"It's not, she's just a friend. But she won't go away until I answer the door."

"What?!" Quinn asked, confused and panicked. Why wouldn't Santana just ignore the woman pounding on the door and pretend that she's not in?

"Just, stay under the covers. My best friend is very persistent and she might barge in and I don't want her to see you, ok?"

"This is fucking ridiculous," she said, gearing up to argue for other options.

"Do you want someone to find out about us or not?"

Quinn felt the air sucked out of her lungs at that statement. Mostly it was the fear of being found out—caught in the act—but there's also a her feeling startled by the fact that Santana referred to them as "us" as if there was actually something going on between them. Was there?

She blindly watched as Santana pulled her robe back on and tied it securely shut. Quinn was safely under the blankets when the door was cracked open.

"Rach, what are you doing here? It's early," Santana asked casually.

"Well, I was looking for you and you weren't answering your phone. I was worried. I ran into Dani this morning and she said that she might've done something to upset you last night. She said she tried to apologize but that you hadn't responded to her text message. Which made the fact that you hadn't answered your phone when I called all the more concerning."

"I'm fine," Santana gruffed. "And you didn't just 'run into Dani'. Knowing you, when you woke up this morning you went knocking on her door like a nosey bitch, hoping to catch me over there. What did I tell you about minding your own business?"

"Wow, someone is grumpy this morning."

"I'm not grumpy, I just don't like being micromanaged. Dani and I didn't work out, ok? Leave it alone."

A beat passed and finally Rachel realized something odd was going on.

"Why are you standing in the doorway like that? You're not going to invite me in?"

"There is a completely naked woman in my bed right now. We had sex for hours and we haven't even fallen asleep yet. So no, I'm not going to invite you in."

"You're letting her sleep here? With you?" the skepticism was so heavy that even Quinn could recognize it.

"I like to cuddle," Santana offered.

"Are you sure that's safe? Santana, can you even afford an overnight guest?"

"What the—? Puta, she's not a prostitute. I didn't pay for her," Santana sighed in frustration.

"Hey, you were the one who said you had sex whenever, wherever you wanted."

"Shut it, Shakira. I was just trying to get you off my back. I don't pay for sex, Rachel. That's absurd. I'm too hot for that. And I'm pretty sure if I tried that shit I'd be forced to resign from my current position. I don't have time for a scandal."

"You're an unmarried, lesbian lawmaker. A scandal is bound to happen," Rachel said dismissively.

Quinn hears shuffling sounds and then a soft yelp.

"What the hell, Santana? Did you just pinch me?!"

"You're trying to come into my hotel room. I literally just told you I had someone over. You're lucky I didn't slam the door on your hand."

"I thought you were just lying to keep me out of your room," Rachel huffed, clearly irritated with her friend.

"Why would I lie about having a woman in my bed? Rach, take a deep breath. This room smells like sex and nothing else. Please, just give us some privacy, ok?"

"Oh… now that you mention it. Oh wow, yup, that is strong."

"Oh, thank God," Santana groaned in relief.

"I just… are you sure you want to cuddle and let her sleep over? Do you even know this woman?"

"This isn't the first time we've slept together. Last time I woke up with all my money and nothing stolen. I think I'll be alright. I'm a big girl," Santana responded gently.

"Wait, this isn't a one-night stand?"

"Rach, please, not now," Santana grumbled.

"Ok, ok, fine. But I think, as your friend, I have a right to know when you're seeing someone. This whole Dani fiasco could've been avoided had I known you were seeing someone regularly."

"It's casual. She lives here in the city. Don't fret."

"Ok, but—"

"Adios, Rach. Gracias por tu preocupación."

The door slamming alerted Quinn that Santana had successfully sent away her very persistent visitor.

A moment of silence passed and then Quinn felt the bed dip under the weight of the brunette. She poked her head out of the covers and saw the apologetic look on Santana's face.

"I'm sorry about her. She's always meddling," Santana said with a blush darkening her cheeks.

"I think it's nice you have someone who cares so much about you."

"Not the response I was expecting," Santana mumbled, furrowing her eyebrows in confusion.

Quinn could only laugh.

"Alright, let's get some rest," the brunette murmured as her eyes swiftly closed. She scooted under the blankets, but managed to keep quite the distance between herself and her guest. The blonde was a little disappointed by the lack of contact, having expected Santana to hold her tightly again. Silence permeated the space for a few minutes and then Santana rolled onto her back turning her head to gaze at the blonde's poorly masked disappointment.

"Do you have somewhere you have to be? Church or something?"

"Don't push it, Lopez," Quinn grumbled, rolling her eyes.

"Alright, chill. Sorry. I'm always down for cuddling. Come here."

Quinn eagerly climbed into Santana's arms where she fell asleep almost immediately. She was tired. Exhausted really—but for the best reasons.

Quinn woke hours later to an empty bed. She sighed, realizing that she wasn't entirely fond of this lonely waking arrangement.

Sitting, she saw a note on the side table. In Santana's beautiful, neat script was written:

"For THE White Devil,

Check-out was supposed to be at noon but I called the front desk and extended my stay until the evening, so feel free to use the room as you please. I had to leave because Rachel would've raised hell if I didn't say goodbye to her before my flight home. It's undetermined when I'll be returning to New York. Best of luck with the Foxhounds of Hell. You have my # if you really need an ear. Or if you feel like you deserve a kiss goodnight.

X"

It was… sweet? What was Santana suggesting with that last line? That she'd fly to NYC for a booty call? Or maybe it was less of a sexual thing and more of an emotional thing? Quinn wasn't sure what was going on with them. She hadn't really considered that until Santana had mentioned the word "us" so casually that same morning. She knew she could just ask. But she was terrified of the answer.

The clock on the desk revealed that it was almost 4pm. Quinn was famished. She got dressed and went to the bathroom to wash her face. It was then she realized that she had, indeed, split her lip the previous night. In the moment it had felt kind of good. Currently, her lip was sore and dry and she looked like someone had punched her in the mouth. Her make-up artist at the studio was going to have a field day with her. She'd at least try to cover up the hickies before going in; hopefully they'd fade before she needed to get behind the camera.

With her sunglasses and hat back on, and with her trench coat buttoned all the way up, Quinn left the hotel.

When the cab pulled up at her place she was surprised to find her father sitting in the lobby with a newspaper opened in his hands. She'd recognize his broad form and sandy blonde hair anywhere.

"Dad? What are you doing here?"

"What do you mean, 'what am I doing here'?" He asked, looking disgruntled. "I called you this morning about the boating trip with my colleague and his son. I left you a message. You were to be ready at 4."

He glanced at his wristwatch, ruffling the newspaper in his hands.

"Where are you coming from, dressed like that?" he asked as his brown eyes narrowed dangerously at his daughter's suspicious looking attire.

"I was meeting with a possible guest for my show," Quinn said smoothly. It wasn't technically a lie. Her producer and executives did want Santana back on the show.

"Dressed like that?"

"I didn't want to be seen in public with her," Quinn responded. Again, the truth. Unfortunately. She almost scoffed at how strange it was that she literally didn't want to be seen in public with the most decent person she knew.

Her father's frown didn't waiver, darkening his already severe features, so Quinn offered a little more.

"She's gay… I didn't want her looking at my body and getting ideas. I can't be seen in publich with people like that."

Two truths and a lie—he'd never guess correctly.

At this, Russell's expression softened.

"Ah, well. That was smart of you. If you hurry, I'm sure Joe won't mind waiting an extra half hour for us to get to the dock."

Quinn nodded and her father joined her up in her apartment, settling down on her couch as she frantically dashed into her bedroom. She pulled out a suitable sundress for a boat ride and then jumped into the shower, scrubbing away any last remnants of Santana.

She put the dress on and then cringed at the hickies on display. She put on an ample amount of concealer, did her make-up and then was out in her living room in record time.

In the cab over to the docks Quinn scrolled through her phone, checking missed messages and her social media accounts while snacking on a granola bar.

"Honey, what happened to your lip?" Russell asked.

Quinn wanted to roll her eyes. He only ever paid this much attention to her when he was planning to pimp her off to some man he was hoping to get into the good graces of. It was disgusting.

"I got into a fight," Quinn replied lazily.

"With the dyke you want on your show?"

Quinn flinched at the slur.

"I swear, those brutes act like men sometimes. Real ugly too," Russell continued, not noticing his daughter's discomfort. "Make sure that heals up before you segment."

"Of course," Quinn responded quietly. She was too tired to correct him. Santana was nothing but feminine. And she was beautiful too, not that it mattered.

"Did you bring your sunscreen lotion?"

What the hell was his problem today? Extra chatty.

Quinn stopped herself from rolling her eyes and instead dug into her bag to pull the bottle out. She passed it to him and he thanked her, smearing the lotion on his arms and legs, quite unevenly.

"Have you spoken to your mother?" he asked.

Ah, there it goes. She should've known the man was curious about her mother. They were divorced, several years estranged at this point. On occasion, Russell asked Quinn about her. She often wondered what spurred these brief inquests. Had he missed the woman he'd driven away? Or was he worried she was out and about enjoying life to the point of making him look bad?

Quinn didn't talk to her mother much—she had never forgiven her for the missteps taken during her teen years. She hadn't forgiven either of her parents, really, but at least her father had money and provided for her financially. Her mother, well… Quinn hadn't expected that she would've survived through the first year of the split given the severity of her alcoholism. But her maternal aunt had finally swooped in and it seemed as if her mother had finally gotten her feet beneath her. She often reached out to Quinn. The most of it was during that second year after the divorce, when the Alcoholics Anonymous program had been putting emphasis on making amends.

Quinn hadn't taken too kindly to any of it. She screened her calls from her mother, and answered only a few every couple of months. She didn't feel bad about it. She was still trying to figure out which of her parents was the most toxic. It did make her sad, however, knowing that she'd never had a good relationship with her mother given the baggage she carried due to their history.

"No, not recently," Quinn admitted.

"Ok."

The rest of the ride was quiet. Russell handed the bottle of lotion back to Quinn after he rubbed some lotion on his face and neck. He didn't say another word to her. Quinn wondered if he also felt sad when he thought of his ex-wife. She wondered if he felt guilty—home life hadn't been good and Quinn had a feeling the drinking had initially begun as a coping mechanism.

At the dock, as they walked up to his friend's impressive 2 story yacht, Russell gained a little more pep in his step. He was chatty and jovial with his friend Joe. Joe's son was sitting quietly on the yacht, waiting to be introduced.

"Joe, you've met my daughter, Quinn," Russell grinned, helping the woman onto the boat. Quinn didn't know why he'd done that. There were hand rails. He was being extra protective of her right now; or rather, he was pretending to be. Which was weird, because Quinn knew she was merely here for him to show her off and dangle her in front of some strange man she'd never met.

"Lovely seeing you again, Quinn," Joe smiled politely. He had kind blue eyes and dirty blonde, graying hair. "We've got drinks and snacks. Some fishing equipment too! Sam's gone 'round the back to bring us some drinks."

Ah, yes, Quinn remembered Joe now. They'd met briefly before—not at the country club. Was it a company picnic? She remembered him being dressed casually, as he is now.

Sam rounded the corner and Quinn's heart stuttered in her chest. Boy. Was. FINE.

He handed his dad and Mr. Fabray each a beer and then turned to Quinn.

"Um, hey. I'm Sam. I brought you a beer, but we've got other drinks if you want something else," he said, holding the bottle out toward her. Quinn's eyes traced up his strong arm right to his face. The tank top looked good on his clearly well-built frame.

Those lips. God, pillowy lips were Quinn's weakness.

"Beer's fine," Quinn smirked as she reached out and took the bottle from him. "I'm Quinn."

"I know," Sam said quickly. And then his cheeks dusted pink. "I mean, my dad wouldn't shut up about you all day yesterday… Which is really creepy. He… No, they want us to hook up. Erm, date. They want us to date. Which, I'd totally date you because you're beautiful. But I don't just date beautiful girls. I mean, the girls I date are beautiful, but they're funny too. And smart. I love smart girls... I'm rambling."

Wow. Talk about stuttering mess.

"Alright, easy boy," Joe laughed, overhearing Sam's epic failure of an introduction. "Let's get out on the water so you can toss yourself overboard after that embarrassment of a hello."

"A swim sounds nice," Sam muttered, his entire face red in embarrassment.

Joe laughed again, Russell joining in as they headed inside.

"I don't know how fast my dad will take this once we get farther from the docks so it might be better if we go inside until we've found a spot to set anchor. I was a lifeguard for a while and could totally help if you fell off but I don't want to risk it."

Quinn nodded, following Sam into the boat. The stairs to the top were right near the cockpit but the two didn't stop to talk to their parents before heading up. They each took a seat and Sam gave Quinn a pretty goofy looking smile.

"So," Quinn said, fiddling with the beer in her hand. It hadn't been opened and no one had given her a bottle opener. She was convinced it was not a twist top. "Are you still a lifeguard?"

"No," Sam said, shaking his head. "Well, sort of. On land. I'm a cop."

"A cop?"

"Yeah," Sam nodded and Quinn nodded too. Not bad. "NYPD."

Quinn didn't respond and then Sam suddenly realized her drink remained unopened.

"Oh, sorry, let me get that for you," Sam said, gesturing to the bottle. Quinn handed it to him and he proceeded to put the cap between his teeth. Quinn felt her eyes widening because she'd seen far too many fratty boys shatter their perfect teeth in undergrad but Sam started laughing and she relaxed.

"Just kidding," he said, swiping his hand over the top of the bottle in one swift movement. The cap was off.

"Wait, what?" Quinn asked, surprised by how quickly he'd opened it. "How did you do that? Was it a twist top this whole time?"

"No," Sam shrugged before passing the beer back to Quinn. "Back when I was a flirty kid, I told girls that I was a magician."

"Seriously?"

"Hey, I knew some card tricks to back it up!"

"Ok, but you didn't answer my question."

Sam just stared at her blankly.

"The bottle! How did you open it so quickly?"

"Ohhh," he chuckled. "My college class ring is just thin enough on this side to slip under the cap. I used it as a lever and pop—comes right off."

"Oh, well, it was smooth as hell," Quinn admitted with a light laugh.

"Would you have liked the magician explanation better?"

"No, I like to get to the truth of things."

"Interesting. The truth is good. I'm down for the truth."

What a fucking nerd! But he was cute.

"So, what do you do?" he asked and Quinn was surprised because surely his father had mentioned it.

"I'm a journalist."

"Oh, sweet, which paper do you write for? I always read the Times. Mostly for the comics."

"I work for a cable news network."

"TV news! Well, that's a relief. You're too damn cute to be sittin' behind a computer all day. You've got a good TV face."

"Thanks?"

"No no, seriously. I know these things. I was an actor for a bit. But then I switched to modeling because I was way too forgetful and memorizing lines just wasn't my thing."

"You modeled? And you were an actor?"

"A Jack of all trades. Though, most just call me Jack Sparrow," he said in a startlingly good impression of Johnny Depp.

Quinn grinned at Sam.

"That was pretty good," she admitted, taking a sip of the beer.

"I can do tons of impressions. It's one of my hobbies."

"Impressions?"

"Uh, yah," he deadpanned. "Anyway, I promise you that you'll probably get tired of me doing impressions. Tell me more about being a TV Newsperson. News lady? What's that like?"

"You've seriously never seen my show?"

"You have a show? Wow! Nope, I only ever watch sports and cartoons. Don't judge—cartoons tackle some real intense topics sometimes."

Well, this was certainly new. Usually when she was meeting people they had an inkling of who she was. Or rather, who her TV personality was. But Sam knew nothing. How refreshing. His green eyes weren't judgmental or knowing; they were curious and expectant.

"My show is kind of boring. It's on once a week. I get paid to annoy and irritate people."

"Like those pranksters on YouTube?"

Not really the comparison she would've went for—but those guys did literally antagonize people for profit. Perhaps Sam had a point.

"Yeah, but without the intended humor."

"Hmm, well, I gotta be honest. It doesn't really sound like something I'd ever bother watching. But I wouldn't be opposed to putting it on mute just to see you every night."

"The show's only on one night per week," Quinn reiterated.

"I wouldn't be opposed to putting it on mute just to see you once a week," Sam corrected without missing a beat. Quinn laughed. Ok, so he was kind of funny.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6: Secrets Be Damned

 

Santana was in her office, packing up her things.

 

It was nearing midnight and honestly, she just wanted to sleep. Work had been beyond boring. They’d convened at 6PM, much to her displeasure, and proceeded to discuss things that she really had no interest in. Annexations (a local bill regarding her county, which she had to read) and several public bills regarding the environment and agriculture.

 

Days like those cemented the fact that she didn’t want to run for reelection. She wanted to get back to criminal law and the justice system. She was tired of politics. She’d made enough friends in the legislature to have support if she ever wanted bills introduced and passed. She just couldn’t see herself living the rest of her life like this.

 

Having collected her personal items, she grabbed her phone out of her desk and frowned at the screen. She’d missed a few calls from Rachel and her parents, who’d followed up with text messages. There was a missed call from Quinn too.

 

Quinn calling was strange. Well, strange within the past month or so.

 

Following her last visit to New York, they’d kept in touch. For months they spoke on the phone once every week or two. They spoke about everything and anything. Mostly about their frustrations with work. They talked a bit about family. Sometimes they talked about their favorite TV shows. Every now and then Quinn shared details about short vacations she squeezed in—Santana even invited her to NC, but she never made the trip.

 

This past month, Quinn started on her nightly news show. She grew exponentially busier and so the phone conversations dwindled down. Santana didn’t take it personally—she knew how it was. Work maintained the utmost importance in her life as well. It came before all else.

 

Santana never realized how little of a social life she had until her parents had moved out of town. Spending time with them had been her only outlet for relaxation, but now that they were thousands of miles away, she found herself wanting of true human interactions.

 

She missed the impromptu family dinners and being able to spend holidays with them. This year was the first year she missed spending Thanksgiving with them. They wanted to fly back but Santana insisted she’d be alright alone and she’d see them for Christmas, which she did manage to do. Being in Puerto Rico in the winter was an excellent decision, but it had been a struggle to return to work in the gray cold of North Carolina.

 

Winter seemed to drag on for the brunette. Something about the weather really just sucked the energy out of her. And the haste to get bills passed slowed down because reelection wasn’t as eminent as it was near the end of summer.

 

Work was slow. Life was slow.

 

But Rachel was a constant source of excitement, even through the phone. And talking to Quinn had been fun as well. Santana had promised Rachel she’d try to be more social once the weather warmed up. She’d signed up for a Zumba class at the gym, and when April rolled around she’d joined a running group that met twice a week (though she only ever went once a week) to run in the Eno State Park.

 

Her social like hadn’t ever been the highlight of her time on this earth, so she didn’t really care that she wasn’t spending a lot of time with others. What was causing her the most grief was her disenchantment with work. She wanted to be excited about work again. She wanted to feel that rush in the courtroom again.

 

By the time Santana had walked out to her car, she realized that she’d failed to meal prep for the week because she hadn’t gone grocery shopping. Part of her wanted to put it off until the morning, before leaving for work, but she wasn’t sure she’d have the desire to get up early just to buy groceries. Having always been a night owl, staying up late was easier for her than getting up early. She convinced herself to stop at the grocery store on the way home. There was a 24-hour Whole Foods just a block into her exit from the freeway.

 

As she pushed her cart through the aisles, she plugged in her headset and called Quinn.

 

“You’re up late,” was how the blonde greeted her.

 

“You too,” Santana responded, not catching even the slightest hint of sleep in her voice.

 

“I’m working,” Quinn explained.

 

“I was too. Which is why I missed your call, by the way.”

 

“And now you’re home?”

 

“Grocery shopping,” Santana corrected as she mulled over which cereal to take home.

 

“How domestic,” she teased.

 

“I guess. If that’s what we’re calling it nowadays.”

 

“Did you listen to my voicemail?”

 

“What voicemail?”

 

“Oh, wait, I didn’t leave one. I figured this was best said in real-time.”

 

At this Santana paused, curious as to what Quinn had to say that couldn’t be left in a message.

 

“Why do I get the feeling this conversation is going to leave me angry?”

 

“That’s because you get mad whenever someone doesn’t agree with you,” Quinn responded. “Which is wild, because you’re a lawyer and a politician. All you do is engage with people who you disagree with.”

 

Santana was immediately annoyed with Quinn. “I don’t agree with that statement.”

 

The irony was not lost on Santana. But Quinn was quick to lead people into traps like that. It was what made her such an excellently infuriating TV news host.

 

“I’ll cut to the chase, because I can hear your blood boiling from here,” Quinn laughed. Santana just rolled her eyes, choosing both the Captain Crunch and the Honey Nut Cheerios, then pushing her cart towards the pasta aisle.

 

“I want you on my show,” Quinn continued.

 

“I know.”

 

“Ok, well, when will you be on?”

 

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Santana sighed.

 

“Oh come on. It’s an excellent idea. We can talk about a softball topic, and you can get a little publicity for reelection this fall.”

 

“Why do you assume I’ll be running?”

 

“Are you not running for reelection?”

 

Santana just sighed again.

 

“Ok, we can talk about that later,” Quinn responded with a hint of concern in her voice. “It’s late and what I want from you is just a verbal agreement to come on my show sometime next week.”

 

 

“Next week?!”

 

Santana cringed, realizing how loudly she’d yelled. She glanced around, but the store was practically empty; there were probably 4 shoppers total and none of those people were nearby. She grabbed three different boxes of pasta and tossed them into her cart before hastily pushing her cart out of the aisle.

 

“Yes, next week. I’ll even let you pitch the topic. I have guests lined up but I think you’d really add something to the conversation.”

 

“What it sounds like is that you want me to go on live television to be attacked by you andone other Fox crony.”

 

“Oh grow up. I’m actually giving some high profile liberals a little panel time this month.”

 

“Sounds like you have enough guests for your show, then,” Santana responded tightly, annoyed by Quinn’s implication of her behavior being child-like.

 

“Ok, you got me, I do,” Quinn responded amicably, either choosing to ignore the irritation in Santana’s voice, or not noticing it. “But my producer has been nagging me about getting you back on the show for months. Plus, it’d be nice to see you again. It’s been almost a year.”

 

“I can’t just drop everything and fly to New York, Q. I have a job, you know? I have to work.”

 

“I know. But please think about it.”

 

Santana just sighed, once again. She was now in the produce section, scrutinizing the peppers.

 

“Santana?” Quinn asked through the silence.

 

“Yeah, ok, I’ll check my calendar and look at where I can squeeze in a crazy exhausting, 1-day trip to New York.”

 

“Excellent! Thanks Santana. This means a lot.”

 

“I suppose I should let you know that I have an appearance fee.”

 

“Since when?”

 

“Since I showed up on your show the last time and have been getting obscene amounts of requests to give lectures at universities and be the keynote speaker at public events.”

 

“I’ve created a monster,” Quinn chuckled.

 

“I guess,” Santana said with a shrug. There was a pause in conversation and Santana wondered if Quinn could sense how uncomfortable she was with the idea of appearing on her show again.

 

“It’s alright. The network will cover it.”

 

“I don’t want your blood money,” Santana said with a cringe as her eyes fell on what she considered to be a green bell pepper good enough for her to take home.

 

“Glad to know you haven’t lost that characteristic liberal self-righteousness that I love so much,” was Quinn’s response.

 

“I’m not joking,” Santana deadpanned as she slipped the pepper into a plastic produce bag.

 

“Well, it’s better the money is going to you instead of the Loyal White Knights, right?”

 

Santana didn’t respond. She was far too tired to really banter with Quinn in that moment. Part of her lamented the fact that they were finally having a conversation after a little over a month of not interacting and she was distracted by grocery shopping and fatigue.

 

Quinn must’ve taken Santana’s silence as serious conflict, however, because she was already brainstorming solutions.

 

“Ok, here’s what we’ll do. I’ll pay your fee, and you can just donate the money to an organization of your choice. Like Southern Poverty Law Center or Lambda Legal.”

 

Santana couldn’t help but smirk at Quinn’s choices. In January the blonde had admitted that she made monthly, anonymous donations to those groups to clear her conscience.

 

“Honestly, I’m just floored that Fox News is going to pay me to destroy you on live television. Again. Will they pay for my flight and hotel too?”

 

“What makes you think you’ll destroy me?”

 

The brunette grabbed a packet of habaneros and pushed her cart toward the other side of the store. She needed to pick up milk, juice, eggs, and ice cream. Then, she could finally go home and get some sleep.

 

“Those who are morally corrupt will face defeat at the hands of the righteous. Leviticus, chapter 12, verse 7.”

 

“Are you threatening me with bible quotes, Representative Lopez?” came Quinn’s incredulous voice.

 

Santana could only laugh.

 

“No. And for the record, I just pulled that citation out of my ass. I don’t know the scripture well enough to quote it without reference,” she chuckled. “Well, I know enough to know that if you say something ominous and then insist it’s from Leviticus or Revelations, bible thumpers are apt to believe you.”

 

“I wasn’t going to check you. Could’ve fooled me.”

 

“That’s poor reporting. You’re exactly why fake news is a thing,” Santana teased.

 

“Fake news isn’t because journalists don’t check their sources!” Quinn’s chuckle bubbled through the earbuds. “Fake news is deliberate.”

 

“Ah, straight from the Faux News HBIC,” Santana said with a grin.

 

“That whole Faux News thing is completely unfunny when vocalized. That’s a joke best served via print.”

Santana could only roll her eyes.

 

“Anyway,” Quinn continued. “It’s late and if I’m not asleep within the next ten minutes, I’m going to have raccoon eyes tomorrow. I’ll see you next week!”

 

Santana bit her lip, wondering if she could bring up the elephant in the room: the fact that each time they’d seen each other in person, it ended in them tearing off each other’s clothes.

 

They’d danced around the topic really. Expertly avoided it. Santana didn’t mind—she really didn’t want to dredge it up when it seemed so irrelevant given the long distance nature of their new friendship. But now, with her tentative plans to be in New York next week, she wondered if it would be the responsible thing to force the conversation.

 

But Santana was also very tired, so, instead she decided the responsible thing would be to not have a conversation like that when she was so exhausted and standing in a public place.

 

“Alright, I’m going to say bye now because I’m pretty sure, to anyone who walks by, it looks like I’m making travel plans with eggs.”

 

Quinn laughed, her voice already growing heavy with sleep, “Ok. Goodnight, Santana.”

 

“Goodnight, Q.”

 

The line went dead and Santana sighed. She wondered, briefly, if she’d only ever get a call from Quinn when she wanted something from her.

 

With a shake of her head, she selected a carton of eggs, flipping it open to lazily look them over for breakage. She didn’t bother to check the bottoms, because they all rotated without problem when she turned them one by one.

 

Santana had picked up her milk and juice and was headed to was the checkout area when her text tone chimed. She unlocked her phone to find a text message from Quinn.

 

I checked the source. You referenced a bible verse that I’m pretty sure was about spiritual douching. Way to go lol. I’m revoking your Catholic card.

 

Santana couldn’t help the laugh that jumped abruptly from her throat. She was pretty sure her Catholic card had been taken once she stopped practicing in college and embraced her same sex attraction wholeheartedly.

 

Another chuckle seeped from her. She realized she was laughing in public and looked up, chancing a glance around the quiet grocery store. There was, this time, someone in the aisle with her.

 

“Santana?”

 

The brunette froze at the sound of the familiar voice. Her eyes took in the face of someone associated with a very painful past and, for half a second, she forgot how to breathe.

 

She hadn’t seen her since that horrible night of arguments and yelling and hateful words. She’d left with them all, Santana remembered.

 

It hadn’t hurt then, the loneliness.

 

Honestly, she didn’t have enough room for anymore hurt inside of her. Her grief over JJ’s death had been too deep. Everything had been numb. It wasn’t until days later, as she held the engagement ring in her hands, that she realized what she’d done. The food that Brittany had prepared had been left on the dining room table, and it was most certainly going bad. It wasn’t the smell, but the silence that had really gotten to her. She hadn’t spoken to anyone in days after her outburst. Her friends had all chosen Brittany.

 

Rachel was the only one who continued to talk to her, despite her lashing out and falling apart.

 

But when Santana thought back to her behavior before they left, she realized she probably would’ve done the same.

 

It was that thought that made her chest fill with sadness as she stared at her old friend from law school, standing there holding a container of yogurt in her hands. She realized, however, that she needed to say something.

 

“Tina,” Santana finally said after taking a deep breath. “Hey.”

 

“Hey,” Tina responded with a hesitant smile. Tina Cohen-Chang had been a bit of an enigma to Santana when they’d first met. She seemed quiet and reserved, but after they worked on a group project together she realized Tina was not only incredibly smart, but she was passionate and calculating. When she and Santana were friends, Tina had told her she wanted to go into Corporate/Business Law. It was the perfect fit.

 

“What are you doing here?”

 

The question wasn’t hostile or unwarranted. Tina, after graduating, moved to LA where she took the California bar exam. Mike and Brittany had moved out there to open a dance studio. A very successful dance studio.

 

“Vacation for me,” Tina said with a hesitant smile. “Mike and Britt are teaching summer classes for American Dance Festival. I took a few weeks off so I could spend some time with Mike while he’s out here.”

 

Santana felt faint.


Brittany was in town.

 

She could only nod in response, her throat growing tight with anxiety. An uncomfortable silence drifted between them and Tina’s smile fell slowly.

 

“Are you allowed to talk to me?” Santana couldn’t stop herself from asking. She was still very much bitter about being abandoned in her time of need. It was as if removing her from their lives was the easiest thing they’d done.

 

“I… um, I’m sorry I didn’t keep in touch,” Tina said instead, not actually answering Santana’s question.

 

Santana didn’t want to have this conversation.

 

“It’s… it’s ok.”

 

Tina looked surprised and Santana just shrugged, finally gathering her wits. Then Tina looked relieved, but Santana felt anything but. She just wanted this interaction to be over. She wanted to be home in bed, asleep. She wanted to pretend that seeing her old friend from law school wasn’t burning her to the marrow.

 

“I need to get home,” Santana said coolly, despite her stomach flipping uncontrollably.

 

“Yeah,” Tina nodded. “Did you want to maybe meet up for drinks or something? Catch up?”

 

“Not really,” was what Santana wanted to say but instead she said, “If I can find the time.”

 

The brunette barely remembered the rest of their exchange. She drove home blindly, wondering if she’d done the right thing in giving Tina her contact information. Tina hadn’t hesitated in choosing Brittany’s side and completely abandoning Santana. And, yes, of course Santana shouldn’t have said those things to her ex-fiancé that night. But it certainly didn’t mean she needed to lose her friends. Especially not while she was still grieving the loss of her brother. Her mind was a haze of remembering better times. She didn’t escape her daze until she was putting the cereal away in the pantry.

 

Captain Crunch had been Brittany’s cereal of choice. Santana always thought it was way too sweet, but she bought it every now and then because eating it reminded her of a time when she was happy. Stressed as hell, because that’s just what law school was like but happy nonetheless.

 

For the first time in a long while, Santana broke down in tears.

 


 

 

The following week, Santana found herself in New York, rushing through dinner with Rachel to appear on Quinn’s nightly news show, The Fabray Factor. The topic for the night was voter fraud, but Santana knew she’d spend the full hour making sure she dished out points on voter suppression and dismantling the myth of voter fraud. She knew this well—this had been a recent battle in her home state.

 

Rachel would be accompanying her to the studio as, what she called, “moral support”.

 

In the cab, Santana made one last attempt to convince Rachel to go home.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to spend your evening doing something fun?”

 

“Being there for you is going to be fun! Plus, I feel like having a familiar face around will help you keep your cool while that vile woman goads you with her hate speech,” Rachel nodded decisively.

 

Santana bit back her knee jerk reaction to defend Quinn.

 

“I don’t need help keeping my cool, Rachel,” Santana huffed.

 

“So you say, but you were barely keeping it together last time. I could tell,” came Rachel’s response. “Plus, I worry your feelings about running into Tina might get converted into anger. Because anger is generally how you deal with feelings you don’t want to address.”

 

“Drag me, why don’t you?”

 

“No dragging you, just stating facts.”

 

“Rach, if this is how you intend to help me keep my cool then you’re doing a shit job.”

 

Rachel gave Santana a chiding look.

 

“You’re literally not even allowed to talk while we’re on air so I don’t know what you plan to do,” Santana continued.

 

“You can just look at me if you feel like you’re losing your cool,” Rachel said as if it were as easy as that.

 

“Fine,” Santana huffed, tired of the conversation. She knew Rachel’s plan was trash, but she knew this was Rachel’s way of being supportive given the events of the previous week.

 

Santana didn’t talk about feelings often. But when she called Rachel, sobbing in the middle of the night, the Broadway star knew that something serious had happened. Santana hadn’t broken down in that way since her brother’s death, so to hear the broken gasps coming through her phone’s speaker nearly sent Rachel into panic mode, worried that something had happened to Santana’s parents. When Santana was finally able to at least speak in short phrases she explained that she’d run into Tina at the grocery store, and that Brittany was in town.

 

Just with the utterance of Santana’s ex-fiancé’s name, Rachel knew exactly what she was dealing with.

 

Rachel hadn’t been present when that whole “dinner fiasco” went down years ago. She’d already been two years established in New York and her friendship with Santana, while close, was most certainly a long distance arrangement. She didn’t know what exactly happened at that dinner—no one would tell her. All parties involved were far too hurt, and Rachel was convinced some were even ashamed. What was clear was that Santana had let her grief over her brother’s death manifest in the most angry and violent of ways. She’d said some truly terrible things to her fiancé, in front of their friends.

 

It took two days for Rachel to even find out that something had happened. She deeply regretted that she hadn’t been there for Santana when she really needed her. It was why she was so adamant about being present today and whenever she could be.

 

Part of her worried that Santana had never grieved the loss of her great love and her friends from her life. In comparison to losing her brother so finitely, broken relationships must’ve been easy to push away. But, clearly, it continued to hurt her into the present. It was quite obvious to Rachel that Santana had never healed. She didn’t date anymore. She didn’t bother with making new friends in law school, or after she graduated. Her relationships with her classmates and then her colleagues were achingly shallow. She didn’t bother with worrying about Brittany, Mike, or Tina’s whereabouts; she never asked about them nor did she bring them up in conversation.

 

Rachel wondered if she knew anything about their lives. About the flourishing dance company Mike and Brittany ran in LA. About the law firm Tina worked for. Rachel wondered if she knew that Brittany was engaged again.

 

God, Rachel knew it wasn’t much, but she just wanted to be there, physically, for Santana. Just once. And if Santana was going into battle with Quinn Fabray in New York, then she’d be there for it.

 

The two were silent as the cab arrived at the station. Walking into the building and showing their identification, they were ushered toward the Fabray Factor set.

 

“Santana! You’re here,” Quinn greeted as she spotted the brunette being led into her workspace.

 

“Hey,” Santana offered, not sure what the protocol was when publically greeting someone you’re friends with in secret. And, wow, Quinn looked gorgeous, as always.

 

“Thanks for agreeing to do the show,” Quinn said, offering Santana her hand to shake.

 

It was professional and formal. Santana followed her lead.

 

“Thank you for asking me to return,” she responded with a polite smile and a nod. “This is my friend, Rachel Berry.”

 

Rachel stepped forward, a pleasant smile on her face. Santana knew it was her stage smile—fake and bright enough to catch all of the light in the room. It was doubtful that anyone else would catch the insincerity of her grin.

 

“I didn’t know you’d be bringing a guest,” Quinn said with a smirk. “Welcome, Rachel. You look very familiar… did I see you in Wicked last fall?”

 

At this, Rachel’s expression became expectant. She didn’t give a rat’s ass about what Quinn Fabray thought of her show, but if the musical arts could penetrate into the nasty, dark depths of Quinn’s soul and foster happiness within even the foulest of human beings, she could live with that.

 

“Yes, I starred in Wicked in its most recent Broadway run.”

 

“It was wonderful. You were phenomenal,” Quinn offered. Santana bit back a smile at Quinn making a good first impression on her best friend while Rachel’s face took on a look of genuine surprise.

 

“Oh, well, thank you,” she blinked, with her brows furrowing. She didn’t think to have been caught off guard so quickly in the evening, yet it happened.

 

Quinn merely waved the thanks away.

 

“We’re getting started soon, but feel free to take a seat just over there,” Quinn pointed to some chairs just beyond the cameras. Rachel nodded and then turned to Santana, reaching for her hand.

 

“Good luck, Santana. Not that you need it,” she said softly as she squeezed her friend’s hand and then dropped it to go take her seat.

 

When Santana looked back she found Quinn looking at her with a raised eyebrow. Santana just rolled her eyes and Quinn smirked, assumptions clearly dancing on the tip of her tongue.

 

“What’s with the groupie? Feeling a little triggered by the memories of your last time here? Need some moral support?” Quinn teased. Someone nearby snickered, having overhead Quinn’s comments and Santana just shook her head.

 

“I’ve had a rough week. Let’s just get this over with.”

 

Quinn visibly faltered at Santana’s short response. It was obvious she was hoping for a little banter, but Santana wasn’t going to bite. Quinn had set the tone as professional, and she was going to stick with it. Santana ignored the disappointed frown on the blonde’s face as she gestured over to the set where two other guests sat ready.

 

Santana was directed to the seat just to Quinn’s left. Next to Santana was a republican congresswoman from Ohio, Sue Sylvester, who was infamous for her slanderous campaign ads. At the end of the desk was liberal YouTube star, Elliot Gilbert, the man behind the “Starchild” channel that covered everything from movie reviews to politics, occasionally through song. He had a little over two-hundred thousand subscribers on YouTube and even more on twitter.

 

She was convinced Quinn had chosen the most ridiculous people to be on this panel. This congresswoman was dressed in a fucking tracksuit and “Starchild” looked like a scene kid headed to a job interview at Staples. The brunette never bothered watching, because she didn’t want to become infuriated on a nightly basis, but Quinn had told her the new show had a more serious tone. From where Santana was sitting, it looked like a joke to her. Her instinct was to get mad about having her time wasted, but instead she took a deep breath and listened diligently as Quinn reiterated the format of the show.

 

Then, they were on air.

 

Santana spent the first three minutes of the show observing her fellow panelists.

 

It was something she remembered doing whenever she stepped into a courtroom after doing research on the counsel on the other side of her client’s case. It was one thing to know about their old casework and speculate on how they’d shape their arguments, but it was another thing to see it in action in the opening statements. Santana enjoyed reading people and she was very good at it.

 

The beginning of the segment was fairly tame, given the circumstances. Quinn had actually compiled an excellent list of questions for the show. Sue Sylvester prattled off hyperbole at every chance, and occasionally said some absurd things. Elliot was a surprise, however. Santana decided to take a step back because this Elliot Gilbert guy really knew his stuff. She dropped some factual information here and there, but Elliot did a fine job with responding to Quinn’s leading questions and inflammatory statements.

 

When they returned from their second commercial break, Sue seemed to really want to get a rise out of Santana.

 

“We’ve been talking about voter fraud all night, but we haven’t gotten to the marrow of it all. Voter fraud legislation isn’t really about stopping embarrassingly desperate liberals from voting multiple times at the ballot box” Sue said as she crossed her hands on the desk and leaned forward dramatically. “It’s about keeping illegal aliens from interfering with our great democratic process.”

 

“Representative Lopez, would you like to respond to that?” Quinn asked, having seen the eyeroll Santana just couldn’t keep to herself.

 

“Studies have shown that non-citizens are notvoting in elections. If they are voting, the numbers are negligible at less than 0.001% of votes cast. What this witch hunt is really about is demonizing undocumented immigrants and cloaking voter suppression in a veil of the non-issue of voter fraud. There are millions of US citizens who have been disenfranchised by legislation that targets black and brown people. If we consider—”

 

Santana is interrupted by Sue, “Millions?! Are you kidding me?”

 

“Yes, millions,” Santana reiterates.

 

“Must be your Mexican cousins you’re talking about. Who are here illegally.”

 

The glare that Santana leveled at Sue was murderous.

 

“First of all, I’m of Puerto Rican descent,” Santana responded sharply. “Second of all, I’m not talking about undocumented or even documented immigrants. I’m talking about US citizens, born and raised on this land. I’m talking about the gutting of the Voting Rights Act and the subsequent slew of legislation out to suppress US citizens. Citizens who can’t get valid voter ID in red states, or folks who were purged from voting rolls for no reason at all. I’m talking about the shortening of early voting days in states where democrats tend to utilize early voting more often than republicans. I’m talking about massive numbers of citizens who’ve lost their right to vote due to felony convictions.”

 

“Give me a break! Felons? You want criminals voting?” Sue practically barked.

 

“You have to look at the facts here. People of color face disproportionately harsher sentences despite committing the exact same crimes as their white counterparts in this country. When you funnel a particular group, a group that tends to vote a certain way, into the prison system, we’re skewing election results on the state and national level,” Santana explained, trying hard to keep her voice steady against the anger coiling in her chest.

 

“Rep. Lopez is right,” Elliot piped in. “The system is broken. There are plenty of innocent people in jail. And minorities are being disproportionately targeted by police.”

 

“Ah, of course, let’s blame the police for everything,” Sue threw her hands up in exasperation.

 

“As much as I love to discuss our boys in blue, let’s bring the discussion back to voter fraud,” Quinn reined it back in.

 

“I think it’s important to discuss the role law enforcement plays in upholding these systems that aim to perpetuate inequality in this country,” Elliot said, clearly aiming to tie the two conversations together. However, Sue wasn’t having it.

 

“How about we just let cops do their jobs and stop scrutinizing their every move,” Sue grumbled.

 

“How about we hold people accountable when they take an oath to protect and serve the public, not just white citizens,” Santana snapped. The brunette immediately knew she’d taken a tone she shouldn’t have, and she chanced a glance past the cameras to Rachel, who looked just as angry as she felt. Ha, so much for helping her keep calm. Santana was surprised Rachel wasn’t yelling in frustration.

 

“Yeah, honestly, I’m not at all interested in hearing your opinion about how cops should do their jobs,” Sue dismissed Santana and the brunette bristled, but clenched her jaw shut.

 

“Representative Sylvester, we here at Fox News welcome healthy debate,” Quinn mediated, “So if Representative Lopez has opinions that inform her legislative duty, then it’s only fair to allow—”

 

“Only fair to allow her to what? Share her hateful opinions? Ms. Lopez spent her time in law school openly campaigning against law enforcement because her delinquent brother committed a crime and then processed to blow his brains out when he realized he was going to rot in prison for the rest of his life.”

 

Santana felt that anger that had been coiling tightly and dangerously in her chest suddenly explode.

 

But instead of that explosion launching her into action, it numbed her completely. Santana was stunned. She couldn’t hear or see. There was a ringing in her ears and the set’s lights were suddenly blinding. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t breathe. She vaguely registered the voices around her and her vision began to blur further. She was completely oblivious to time and space. And when her visual fields finally cleared and her hearing returned to her, it was to her name being repeatedly called.

 

“Santana!”

 

She flinched, blinking away the haze.

 

The first thing she registered was Rachel’s concerned brown eyes just inches away from her face. She then realized her friend had her palms pressed against her cheeks. She pulled back, out of her grasp with a sharp, quick intake of air through her nose.

 

“Santana, are you ok?” Rachel asked her, her face one of concern. Santana nodded, but she wasn’t entirely sure. Glancing around, she realized they were on their final commercial break. Her hands were numb and she could barely feel the desk beneath them.

 

“I, uh…” she shook her head, trying to clear it.

 

“Oh, Santana,” Rachel’s pitying voice came. Her friend began digging through her purse and proceeded to press Kleenex into her hands. It was then that Santana realized that her vision had been obscured because her eyes had filled with tears.

 

Suddenly, she worried that she’d cried while the cameras were rolling. There would be nothing worse than that. She wasn’t sure she could recover from the awaiting PR nightmare: “NC Lawmaker bursts into tears on cable news show” and “emotional woman proves she can’t hold her own and certainly can’t hold office.”

 

“Somebody get Ms. Lopez a bottle of water, please!” a masculine voice went up somewhere beyond the bright lights.

 

Santana quickly dabbed at her eyes, cursing herself for her reaction. She hadn’t cried about JJ in years. She’d just been unprepared. It was just the surprise, right? Sue’s words had been jarring.

 

“I can’t believe you’re attacking me over this. You’re supposed to be on my side. Isn’t your boyfriend a cop?” she heard Sue yelling.

 

“The agreement was that there would be no personal attacks on air,” she registered Quinn’s angry voice from behind her. She didn’t dare turn and look. “This is a classy program, unlike the smear campaigning you rely on to win elections. You don’t get to sit here and act like a child, calling people names and bringing up irrelevant information. When we’re done tonight, you’ll apologize to Representative Lopez, or you won’t see a dime of your appearance fee.”

 

“Look here, Fabray. I don’t need some dumb slut from the gutters of the internet telling me how to conduct myself on television. My campaigns are successful because I’m not afraid of exposing the truth about my opponents,” Sue hissed.

 

A bottle of water was placed unceremoniously on the desk in front of Santana, causing the woman to start. The man who put it there was already power walking away from the set.

 

“You’re a joke, Fabray,” Sue continued. “This show is a joke. Your money is about as worthless to me as Monopoly money—chump change compared to what I get from my generous donors. So how about we get back to talking about voter fraud so I can distract myself from the fact that the biggest fraud in television is trying to threaten me with zero leverage.”

 

“We’re on in sixty seconds. Everyone back in their places!” Quinn’s producer yelled out to the set.

 

Rachel reluctantly went back to her seat, taking the dirty Kleenex from Santana’s hands. Santana hastily took a sip of the water and hid the bottle behind the desk, out of view as Quinn and Sue returned to their seats.

 

Quinn glanced at Santana, a weird emotion in her eyes. Her eyes darted around Santana’s face, but it looked like she didn’t find what she was looking for as her gaze connected with the politician’s.

 

“Are you ok?”

 

Santana just nodded and Quinn gave a single nod in response, preparing herself for the camera.

 

“We’re on in 5, 4, 3, 2,” and, on 1, the producer silently pointed at Quinn.

 

“Welcome back to The Fabray Factor,” she said with a reserved smile, turning to the camera positioned just in front of the desk. “I’m your host, Quinn Fabray, and if you’re just now tuning in, our topic for tonight is Voter Fraud. I want to ask each of our panelists tonight to share what they want to tell viewers regarding this topic for the upcoming mid-term elections. Elliot, let’s start with you.”

 

“I want to tell viewers, and voters everywhere, that they need to register to vote! And if they’re registered, I want them to make sure that they have proper documentation of that and updated identification. This crusade against “voter fraud” has really turned into a voter suppression extravaganza. Be mindful of the possible barriers to voting and try to be proactive this upcoming election season.”

 

“Thank you, Elliot,” Quinn said, turning her eyes to Santana. “Representative Lopez?”

 

Santana turned to one of the cameras and looked it head on.

 

“I can’t stress how important it is to get out and vote. Don’t squander away your right to vote, if you have it. Apathy kills democracy and apathy kills positive change. Just like Elliot said, be proactive in making sure you can vote when the time comes and don’t waste the opportunity.”

 

Santana was relieved her voice was steady, clear, and even. She didn’t waver.

 

“Representative Sylvester?” Quinn prompted.

 

“Report any suspicious activity you see during election time to the proper authorities. Voter fraud is real and we have to defend our rights as Americans.”

 

Quinn nodded and turned her attention to the cameras.

 

“Well, you heard it folks. Thank you all for tuning in tonight as we discussed voter fraud! Join me tomorrow as I welcome notorious “Pharma Bro” Martin Skreli to discuss healthcare and drug manufacturing.”

 

The cameras were cut and Sue immediately stood, storming off the set. Santana felt a hand on her arm.

 

“Hey, are you alright?”

 

It was Elliot.

 

“I’m fine, I was just surprised,” Santana insisted as she stood.

 

“That was a really fucked up thing for her to bring up,” he said, following Santana’s lead and pushing his chair back to stand up.

 

Santana merely shrugged, aching to get away from this conversation. Elliot seemed to sense this.

 

“It was great meeting you,” he smiled politely and backed off.

 

Santana glanced at Quinn and they made eye contact before Santana sighed.

 

“I should get going,” she said before taking a deep breath.

 

“I’m sorry about Sue,” Quinn said as Rachel settled quietly beside Santana.

 

Santana just rolled her eyes.

 

“She’s notorious for her personal attacks. Honestly, from what I’ve seen, she was tame tonight,” Santana dismissed, desperate to get out of the studio.

 

Quinn nodded, glancing at Rachel before back at Santana. It was obvious she wanted to say something that she knew she couldn’t say with present company.

 

“Really, I’m sorry she brought that up. She violated her contract for the appearance so, if it makes you feel any better, she’s not getting paid.”

 

“Honestly, I really don’t care. I’m tired. I want a drink. And then I want to sleep,” Santana said, turning toward Rachel whose face merely held a pout. She perked up when she realized Santana was vocalizing that she wanted to leave.

 

“I’ve got drinks back at my place,” Rachel said with a smile.

 

“Hell no, hobbit. None of that vegan beer crap. We’re going to a bar,” Santana huffed. She turned to Quinn, not sure what to say in this situation where they were keeping it professional. Part of her wanted to invite Quinn along and to see how she got alone with Rachel. Another part of her knew that would blow their cover. And yet another part of her wanted to shy away from social interaction altogether tonight.

 

“Thanks again for the invite,” she finally said and Quinn hardly hid her disappointment in what seemed to be the beginning of a farewell. She had a feeling Santana would go this route, but she desperately wanted to make sure Santana was ok. And, if she wasn’t, she wanted to make her feel better.

 

“And, earlier you asked if I was going to run for reelection,” Santana continued, watching the blonde’s disappointed hazel eyes regard her carefully. “The answer is definitely no, now that I’ve shed tears on live television.”


Santana was embarrassed by that, but also a little relieved. Not the best end to her political career, but an end nonetheless. She could argue attempting reelection would be foolish, and no one would question her or her actual motivations.

 

“I threw it to commercials immediately after Sue’s statement,” Quinn explained with her brows furrowing. “We’ve got a few seconds of delay too. So… you didn’t cry on camera. And I’ll make sure no one in the studio has footage of that. It won’t get leaked.”

 

Quinn cleared her throat uncomfortably. The fresh memory of Santana’s blank stare and tears made her simultaneously sad and furious, along with several other emotions. She was sad that her friend had suffered through something so traumatic, the mere thought of it made her shut down. Her heart had literally skipped a beat in concern when she saw Santana’s entire body grow slack at Sue’s words. The Santana she saw today was nothing like the Santana she’d grown to know—effortlessly smart, quick-witted, fearless, and strong… no, this Santana was wounded and Quinn was having a difficult time reconciling that person with the woman who inspired and enthralled her with everything she did. Of course it was unrealistic to assume someone could be strong all the time, but she never really had to consider the possibility of Santana’s limitations when exchanging verbal barbs and going head to head during their discussions.

 

She didn’t have a lot of time to perseverate on the idea of Santana not being able to handle everything life threw at her because she was furious as well. Furious at the person who had hurt Santana by even bringing up her losses. And, to top it off, she was frustrated with the fact that she couldn’t hold Santana and comfort her the way she was aching to.

 

“Oh,” Santana pursed her lips in thought. Quinn watched as Rachel placed a comforting hand on her friend’s arm while she processed the fact that her moment of weakness had not been televised. “Well, thank you.”

 

Quinn nodded with a soft smile and Santana nodded in response—meanwhile Rachel just stared, floored by how awkward this whole exchange seemed to be.

 

“Have a good night, Representative Lopez,” Quinn finally said, allowing a gentleness to seep quite obviously into her voice. Secrets be damned. She offered her hand to her friend to shake.

 

Santana took it softly and shook it. “You too.”

 

Chapter Text

It was quiet in the cab.

 

Rachel had merely given the cabbie the address and they were headed to a small pub near her condo. She sat back in her seat, silent. All she wanted to do was ask Santana questions about Tina (and therefore, Brittany) and how she was feeling after Sue’s disrespectful words just a half hour before. But she knew Santana would need a little quiet. She knew Santana would need a little time to process. The drinks would help mellow her out and make her more open to sharing.

 

It wasn’t until Santana was on her second glass of wine that she finally offered any words to Rachel.

 

“Alright, lay it on me,” she said after heaving a heavy sigh. The bar was quiet, but the ambient noise of the various conversations occurring throughout the space provided a cloak of privacy.

 

“I’m not going to… I just want to know if you’re alright,” Rachel said quickly, her hands wrapped around a bottle of hard cider that the bar insisted was vegan.

 

“I don’t know how I feel,” Santana admitted.

 

“About what?”

 

It was a good question. There were so many things that had happened within the past week or so that they hadn’t really discussed in length.

 

“About everything, Rach. About Tina… and Brittany. About that panel discussion. About…” Santana trailed off, sighing again. This time, lightly. She took a sip of wine, her eyes dropping to the table.

 

“That Sue Sylvester woman is despicable!” Rachel huffed. “She’s so crass. What a horrible thing to say.”

 

“Is it bad that I was less upset that she brought it up and more upset about the fact that I can’t publically talk about JJ’s case because of the settlement? I couldn’t even defend my brother. I hate how, even in death, they continue to drag him through the mud. It’s disgusting.”

 

Rachel frowned at Santana, nodding gently.

 

“It’s just so fucking rude,” Santana said before taking a few gulps to finish off her glass of wine. “They didn’t stop at killing him. They never stop at just killing us.”

 

Santana looked up again, her eyes catching her friend’s. A moment of silence passed between them and then Santana looked away.

 

“I don’t want to talk about that anymore.”

 

“That’s ok,” Rachel said, releasing a slow breath. She observed her friend’s profile. Even when Santana was remarkably sad, she was still so very beautiful.

 

“Can we talk about Tina?”

 

Santana rolled her eyes and turned to face Rachel again.

 

“What about Tina?”

 

“Are you going to meet up with her?”

 

“I don’t see why not.”

 

At this, Rachel’s eyebrows flew upward and her chest tightened in anger.

 

“What do you mean? Tina just… she just abandoned you. She was your friend first, yet she just dropped you like your friendship meant nothing. She shouldn’t have given you the cold shoulder,” Rachel chirped, upset. How could Santana forgive her so easily?

 

“That’s all true but, Rach, even Iwouldn’t have stuck around for myself back then. It’s a wonder you and I are still friends. You are truly a far better person than the majority of people I know because I was… I know I was hurting, but I treated them like shit. I was mean and… scary. Violent. It wasn’t fair to them. And Britt… she… I was awful that night.”

 

“You’re being unfair to yourself. You’d just lost your brother, and it was all so overwhelming. The case was high profile and you were just trying to protect yourself and your family. And people—complete strangers—were being so hostile to you…”

 

“How did we get back on this topic?”

 

“Santana, meeting her is going to dredge up all of those old feelings. I worry that you don’t realize it.”

 

“I realize it,” Santana offered a dry laugh. “I really do. I know meeting with Tina is going to be difficult. I know hearing about Brittany is going to destroy me.”

 

“You should know that she… she’s engaged. Again.”

 

“I know,” Santana breathed, her eyes straying from Rachel’s again and looking out across the bar. “After I called you that night, I looked them all up. Britt has the proposal video posted on her Instagram. They look happy.”

 

Rachel frowned, feeling her heart break for her friend. She brought the bottle of cider to her lips and took a sip. When she sat the bottle back down, she realized Santana was looking at her again.

 

“That’ll be you, you know,” Santana said with a sad smile. “You’ll come out on the other side of this whole Brody thing, and you’ll meet someone new, and you’ll be so happy.”

 

This time, sadness filled Rachel for another reason. She was reminded that just three months ago, she found out Brody had been cheating on her. They’d been engaged and had been living together. She thought they’d been happy, and was anxious to start planning the wedding. But the façade of happiness was shattered. Santana had reluctantly passed the news on to her. Apparently a friend of Santana’s had seen Brody out at some event in the city, as some woman’s date, when he’d lied and told her he was going to visit his parents in Georgia.

 

Rachel kicked him out immediately.

 

Wait, speaking of Santana’s friend…

 

“Whatever happened to your lady friend?”

 

“Which lady friend?”

 

“You know, the one you shacked up with the last time you were in town, months ago.”

 

Santana’s expression grew remorseful. She then just shrugged.

 

“I’m not sure we’re really friends. Things are a little weird between us now. She’s seeing someone anyway.”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

 

“It’s whatever,” she dismissed. “Hurry up with that drink, I’m tired.”

 

Rachel drained the last gulp of cider from the bottle, relieved that they were going to go home.

 

When they got back to her condo, Santana immediately jumped into the shower. Rachel brushed her teeth and washed her face, then climbed into bed.

 

Today had been quite the day. She still couldn’t get Sue’s words out of her mind.

 

JJ’s death had been a shock to her. Having known the Lopez family for six years at that point, it had really devastated her. When she’d first met JJ, he was just a kid—11 years old. He was a scrawny little boy who loved Nintendo games and hated reading. In the years to come, he grew into a young gentleman who was incredibly nerdy, and anxious to get the approval of everyone around him. His friends were a little questionable, but he was doing well in school so his family hadn’t been worried.

 

He practically worshipped the ground Santana walked on. And he loved visiting Santana at school. He bonded with Rachel because he was really into comedy musicals like Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon.

 

When Rachel heard he’d died, she’d been distraught. She hated that she was all the way in New York and couldn’t be there physically for the family that took her in as their own during her time in college. She attended JJ’s funeral, wondering how the Lopezes were managing their grief when she could barely keep it together. It was closed casket. JJ had been too damaged to view.

 

Months later, as the criminal lawsuit against the local police department (and more specifically the officers involved in the incident) was beginning hearings, Santana blew up at her friends and fiancée during a dinner. The months leading up to that day had been a media frenzy. Santana was steadfast in her beliefs that the police had killed her brother and covered it up. The police department and the police union were carefully bending JJ’s image into that of a troubled teen. They were leaking details about the case to the public, swaying public opinion. JJ had weed on him, they said. JJ had resisted arrest, they said. JJ had been carrying a firearm, they said.

 

Santana was furious. And she was devastated, because she knew the power of public opinion. She’d worried the criminal prosecution she was hoping for would never come to fruition. She’d been right to think that. The charges against the police officer who arrested JJ had been dismissed because there wasn’t enough probable cause. The officer involved, who’d been on paid leave, went back to work. Santana’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit the following week. But it had left them all feeling like JJ never got the justice he deserved.

 

They won the wrongful death lawsuit, of course. There had been no question. Police departments nationwide had made a habit of using taxpayer dollars to make million dollar settlements with people wronged by the police. Santana had once told Rachel the exact amount of money; it had been around 5.5 million dollars. Rachel often wondered what the Lopezes had done with that money, but she never brought it up because Santana had been vehement about not wanting money. She’d said, over and over, that no amount of money would put her at ease because someone had murdered her brother and made it look like a suicide. No amount of money could fix her broken family.

 

Rachel believed Santana.

 

She never stopped believing Santana. It just seemed completely improbable that someone handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser, after being searched, could have shot himself in the face. Where did the gun come from? No one in Santana’s family owned a gun. And what kind of poor job had the officers done with handcuffing JJ in the first place, for him to be able to get his arms in front of him to do the deed. And why shoot himself in the first place? It was a first time drug possession offense. His sister had friends in high places in the city, following her internship at a criminal law firm during the summer after her L1 year.

 

It just didn’t make sense. It never made sense to Rachel. And even if it did make sense, the gun should’ve been found during their search before they even put him in the cruiser. Part of her wondered if the gun had been in the back seat from the start. Part of her wondered why she even tried to entertain the idea that JJ had done this to himself.

 

It chilled Rachel to the bone that they’d never know what really happened in the back seat of that cop car. Pointing out each moment there was possible oversight during JJ’s arrest had been a convincing enough argument for the judge to rule in favor of the Lopez family.

 

When Santana exited the bathroom after her shower, Rachel remained quiet.

 

The lights were off, but she could hear Santana flitting around the room, most likely making sure her things were prepared for her early flight in the morning. Finally, Santana sat on the edge of the bed. She quickly scrolled through her phone for a few minute before setting it on the night stand and slipping beneath the sheets.

 

Rachel turned onto her side to tell Santana goodnight. It was strange to see her friend lying where she’d grown used to seeing Brody lying when he slept. That half of her bed had been empty for months now, however.

 

“I know today was less than ideal, but I’m really happy I got to see you,” Rachel broke the silence.

 

“Same here,” Santana said sleepily, offering Rachel a tired smile.

 

“I think maybe I should come see you sometime next month. Assuming I can secure a gig for the upcoming season, I could take a few days off before we start rehearsing and spend some time in my second home.”

 

“Durham is not your second home,” Santana said, rolling her eyes.

 

“It is! I spent four years of my life there. And my best friend lives there. She’s pretty cool when she’s not being grumpy.”

 

“I’d be less grumpy if you agreed to cuddle for a bit with the promise of never mentioning it to anyone, ever.”

 

Rachel giggled at the request.

 

“You are so needy,” she teased as she scooted closer to her friend who’d rolled to face away from her. She draped her arm across Santana’s body and held her close. It was times like these that she was reminded that her fearless, strong-willed, independent friend was such a small woman.

 

“God, I swear cuddling is my kryptonite,” Santana groaned dramatically, snuggling into the embrace. Rachel chuckled again, but merely closed her eyes because she was feeling exhausted as well.

 

She was almost asleep when Santana’s phone ringing disrupted that.

 

“Fuck, I’m sorry,” Santana mumbled, blindly reaching out to silence the phone.

 

Rachel just hummed in response and shut her eyes again. However, a few minutes later, the phone rang again and Santana pulled it toward her from the nightstand, squinting against the brightness of the screen in the dark bedroom. The name “Lucy” was displayed on the screen. Who the hell was Lucy?

 

Santana wiggled out of Rachel’s embrace and gave her an apologetic look.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said again. “I’m going to just…”

 

She gestured to the room door and Rachel just nodded.

 

Santana was gone for about twenty minutes before she returned. She slipped back under the sheets and laid on her back before releasing a huge sigh.

 

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled. Rachel’s eyes, well-adjusted to the dark at this point, took in the expression on Santana’s face. There was a hint of a frown on her lips.

 

“You know, back in college I would’ve killed to get an apology from you, but I’ve gotten approximately three in one night and I realize now that they’re kind of overrated.”

 

“Yeah, well, I’m… I don’t even know,” Santana responded, possibly stopping herself from apologizing again, mid-sentence.

 

“Who’s Lucy?” she tried, realizing Santana wasn’t attempting to get comfortable in bed.

 

“My… my ‘lady friend’,” she said, using the same terminology Rachel had used earlier in the night.

 

“Ah,” Rachel said, her eyes narrowing. “What was she doing, calling this late? Did she want to meet up with you?”

 

“Yeah, she did. But she’s seeing someone. I’d feel… I couldn’t hook up with her knowing she has a boyfriend.”

 

Pursing her lips, Rachel surveyed Santana’s forlorn expression. If she didn’t know any better, she’d argue that Santana was disappointed about this. From what Rachel knew, which wasn’t a lot, this lady friend was the closest Santana had gotten to a stable relationship following Brittany canceling their engagement.

 

“Do you wish it were you?”

 

“What?”

 

“Do you wish you were the one dating Lucy?”

 

Santana didn’t respond, merely staring through the dark at the ceiling. Finally, she turned her head toward Rachel.

 

“It’s complicated.”

 

“Help me understand, then.”

 

“She’s… She’s in the closet. And I don’t even know how to describe our relationship. I can’t really stand her, when I think about it. But we get along really well. I figured we were at least friends, but then I found out—not even from her—that she had a boyfriend. A boyfriend I’m pretty positive she likes. And it’s frustrating because Ilike her. And she likes me back. Or she did at one point.

 

“We have incredible chemistry once we power through our disagreements… but the last time we spoke it was so uncomfortable, so I’m not even sure about the chemistry anymore. And now she’s calling me up, inviting me over for a ‘kiss goodnight’ and I don’t even know what to think because it’s fucking grimy to be the Other Woman, but I want her, Rach.”

 

Rachel doesn’t know what possessed her (perhaps it was the thought of a goodnight kiss?) but she shifted forward and pressed her lips against Santana’s. Santana immediately adjusted to make herself more comfortable, her left hand ghosting against Rachel’s jaw and along the side of her neck. Her tongue traced softly along Rachel’s bottom lip. But then she pulled back a little, her lips brushing against her friend’s as she mumbled out the word, “Wait.”

 

Rachel pulled back, her cheeks hotter than she thought physically possible.

 

“We shouldn’t,” Santana said, laughing a little. “Shit, that was weird.”

 

Rachel pressed her hands to her face, groaning.

 

“I don’t know why I did that.”

 

“Don’t sweat it,” Santana said, gently. “That’s generally the reaction women have when I’m in bed with them. I’m kind of irresistible. I’m surprised it took you so long to get all up on this.”

 

Rachel laughed, glad that Santana released her ego to disperse the awkwardness that had settled in her throat.

 

“Hey, you kissed me back,” Rachel argued.

 

“I did. I think it was just reflex, though.”

 

Rachel slapped Santana’s arm playfully.

 

“All jokes aside, it wasn’t a terrible experience. I’m impressed, Berry.”

 

“I’m never going to live this down, am I?”

 

“I won’t tease you. I have this thing where I think good people deserve getting a goodnight kiss. You definitely deserve it.”

 

Rachel sighed and Santana’s grin fell.

 

“I know it’s hard, getting over an ex. Letting go of a fiancé. Giving up on a dream—a whole future you had planned out,” she said softly. “It’s hard, but eventually you just… reset. You’ll stop tormenting yourself with what-ifs. You’ll stop having those daydreams in which you run into each other on the street and you apologize to each other, then get back together after desperate admissions of never falling out of love.”

 

Rachel felt tears in her eyes as she listened to Santana speaking, but she willed them away as best she could.

 

“Eventually, it won’t hurt to go to the restaurant you went to on your first date; you’ll be able to eat there without bursting into tears. You can drive down a street and walk in a park without feeling like seeing a specific streetlight or a bench is going to mortally wound you because you remember waiting for a bus there, or sitting down after a walk, feeling real content just being with someone you love. The city you call your home won’t feel like a vault of memories turned torture devices.

 

“Eventually your bed won’t feel so fucking empty,” Santana said, rubbing her palm against the sheets.

 

A moment of silence passed between the two women, as if they were paying their respects to happiness and possibilities lost to them, and then Rachel had to ask, “How did you do it?”

 

“Do what?” Santana asked.

 

“Get over her? Get over the pain of losing her?”

 

“I… I’m not sure I really did,” she admitted with a dry laugh. “When she left me, I didn’t have the time or the energy to really process it all. I was preoccupied with JJ’s murder. It wasn’t until months later that I was pouring a bowl of cereal at my apartment and I saw the unopened box of Captain Crunch in the pantry and I just… I finally realized that she was gone. I cried like a baby.”

 

Rachel looked anguished.

 

“It’s funny, because I still buy that sugary cereal because remembering how she made me feel doesn’t hurt as much anymore. It’ll get better, Rach. Part of it is just waiting, but another part of it is working on it. You can’t keep living here in this space you two made your home. You have to get rid of the pictures. His toothbrush is still in the bathroom…”

 

“I know,” her voice broke and she sighed. Santana scooted closer, wrapping her arms around her friend.

 

“Also, I’m going to drop a shameless plug for therapy. Even just a few sessions could have you processing things in ways you hadn’t thought to.”

 

“Are you going to start going again?” Rachel dared to ask. To her knowledge, Santana hadn’t seen her therapist in quite a while.

 

“I… I probably should,” Santana admitted, her voice conveying that she clearly hadn’t thought of doing so until Rachel inquired.

 

“I’m just asking,” Rachel backpedaled, not wanting to make it seem like she expected Santana to need to jump back into therapy with the sudden reappearance of her ex and estranged friends, along with the details of her brother’s death being dredged up again.

 

“I know. Let’s get some sleep. My flight’s in a few hours.”

 

“Ok.”

 

“I promise it’ll get better,” Santana whispered before dropping a kiss to Rachel’s temple. “I promise.”

Chapter Text

Quinn was happy.

Things were going surprisingly well for her.

Her ratings were good and she was making more money than she ever imagined; the network executives had made it very clear that they were pleased with her performance. Generally, that occurred whenever she said something exceptionally outrageous that led to increased web traffic and a surge in viewers for her next show. It just didn't bother her anymore. She'd grown very capable of saying horrible things and talking her way out of it. Her latest inflammatory statement, "What did the KKK do?" resulted in some personally offensive memes, but she thought they were funny because she honestly agreed with them. Ever since she had mentally convinced herself that Quinn Fabray the right wing news anchor was a distinct entity from her real persona, it just didn't bother her anymore.

So, yeah, work was good. Excellent. Great, even.

And so was her social life.

She enjoyed dating Sam. He was probably the only person in her life who kind of just let her be, without expectation or criticism. That was mostly because he didn't get to know her as Quinn Fabray the right wing news anchor. He knew her on a more personal level. He'd only seen one of her segments—thankfully one that was fairly tame and devoid of scandal. Every now and then he asked about a meme of her that'd been made, but she'd vaguely explained what happened and then would agree that the meme was pretty damn funny and they'd laugh about it.

They always had fun together. And they were becoming a somewhat high profile couple in the city. For once, she was glad to have some positive publicity. It was tiring, being the villain all the time. She never felt like that with Sam.

That said… She missed being challenged. Challenged ideologically and challenged to be a better person.

She missed Santana.

Santana had practically disappeared following her last visit to New York.

Quinn could only wonder if she'd done something wrong.

From the very moment Santana arrived on set that night, she knew the politician had been in a strange mood. She'd refused to even trade lighthearted jabs before the show. Quinn let it go, however, because Santana had seemed to be very engaged during the discussion. She'd convinced herself that Santana was merely employing professionalism—which she was grateful for.

They'd never really talked about their relationship following their second night together, not even during their calls and texts. Being friends, in person, was a completely different animal. But Quinn just figured they'd maybe go out for drinks again, after the show, and hopefully really talk about it.

Then, Sue Sylvester went for Santana's jugular with a dirty knife.

Honestly, it had stunned Quinn for a moment. Had she even expected something like that to have happened she would've demanded that Sue apologized, on air, before throwing it to a commercial break. But the look in Santana's eyes… All Quinn could think about was protecting her friend.

Despite Santana being a fairly new person in Quinn's life, the blonde knew quite a lot about her and her life. She'd read up on her to prepare for their first encounter on live television. There were several articles about Jesus Lopez in the file she'd put together on Santana. They were all mostly about the case and the wrongful death lawsuit. She hoped, if they became close enough friends, that Santana would talk not only about her brother, but about her activism during her time in law school and how that horrible experience of losing a family member influenced her desire to become a politician. The truth was, it was one thing to read about something that happened in the news and it was another to get a first-hand account from someone involved. Quinn assumed it had been a horrible experience for Santana, but she got a glimpse into how much it had really damaged the woman when she saw her shut down following Sue's low blow.

After the show, Santana quite obviously wanted to get as far away from Quinn as possible. Or maybe it was the studio. She didn't know. However, her cold goodbye and radio silence was something that Quinn took personally.

That night as she laid in bed, alone, she called Santana. The brunette didn't answer and she hung up, annoyed. But she decided to call again, this time to leave a voice mail, requesting a call back. She was surprised Santana answered the second call.

Their conversation had been a little uncomfortable at the start, and when Quinn mentioned that, Santana told her she didn't know how to interact with her because she thought they were friends—or maybe something more. But returning to New York made her realize that their relationship wasn't like that at all. Quinn, of course, took offense to that. But Santana explained that she didn't know how to function, hiding their friendship. And that she didn't understand why Quinn hadn't told her she was dating someone.

"Friends talk about their love lives with each other," Santana pointed out.

Honestly, Quinn was surprised Santana even wanted to know.

She told Santana that love wasn't the word she'd use to describe her feelings for Sam.

"Why are you with him, then?" came her estranged friend's exhausted reply.

Because he was safe. And acceptable. And the sex wasn't awful.

Sam was easy to be with. Quinn needed that in her life, with everything else she was struggling with. She didn't tell Santana any of that, however.

Instead she'd said, "I'm not with him right now. Come over so I can give you a kiss goodnight."

She'd waited a full minute for Santana's reply. It felt like an hour. She was biting her lip so hard in anticipation. She'd made herself vulnerable—put herself out there. Santana's next words could either make or break whatever this was that was between them. She heard Santana take a breath, and then was subsequently disappointed.

"I… I can't. I have an early flight tomorrow morning. And despite me spending all week thinking about how incredible it was going to be to come back to New York so that we can have more mind-blowing sex, I can't be a homewrecker. I don't condone cheating, Q."

Quinn could only say, "Ok," and listen as Santana wished her a goodnight before hanging up the phone.

They hadn't spoken since.

She didn't have a reason why, really. Yeah, Santana hadn't called or texted her in almost two weeks, but it wasn't like she couldn't have just picked up the phone and reached out herself. Her ego had been bruised, however. Santana had rejected her. For a good reason, of course, but the hurt was still the same.

It wasn't a feeling she wanted to dwell on, so she refocused on her current task.

Quinn was in her office, organizing her materials for next week's shows. Once she was done with this, she could leave them in Graham's office and try to enjoy her weekend. She didn't have anything planned, and for once she was grateful. She wanted to focus on relaxing. She definitely needed to catch up on sleep. Maybe she and Sam could watch a movie.


Quinn was nervous but took a deep breath before lifting her hand to ring the doorbell.

She was waiting for a response for maybe about 30 seconds, but it felt like a whole hour in the quiet darkness. The heat was sweltering—far more humid than she'd been prepared for. It was almost as if the sun setting had no effect on the muggy climate.

The door opened up in front of her, revealing a surprised homeowner.

The woman narrowed her eyes, leveling the blonde with a searching look.

"Quinn?"

She merely nodded in response.

"What are you… what are you doing here?"

"Aren't you going to let me in?" Quinn asked, no sense of her nervousness in her calm and collected voice.

"I…" she trailed off, her eyes flitting down to the suitcase on the stoop. "What's going on?"

The blonde merely rolled her eyes and pressed past the tongue-tied politician. She glanced around the spacious lobby and nodded in approval. There was a light on in the distance, just beyond a short set of stairs. Otherwise, the rest of the room was shrouded in darkness.

Good God, this house was magnificent. At least, from what Quinn could see in the dimness of the living room to her left. When she'd pulled into the driveway, she practically gaped at the size. That and the sheer silence of the remote, countryside housing development. The darkness around the home had left her a little uncomfortable and had her practically dashing to the front door in desperation to get to the small halo of the porch light.

The sound of the door shutting quietly caused her to turn around. Santana stood there, one hand on Quinn's luggage.

"How are you here?"

She narrowed her eyes at the brunette, not just because it was dark, but because the question seemed off. Had she meant to ask "why" instead of "how"?

"What do you mean, 'how'?"

"I mean; how do you know where I live?"

"I know some people," Quinn said vaguely.

Santana just frowned. She stared at Quinn for a moment before sighing, leaving her suitcase at the door and walking toward the dimly-lit staircase. Santana descended the five steps, hooked a left and disappeared into the lit room.

Quinn waited a moment, unsure if she should follow. Yeah, she'd shown up unannounced, but she figured some hospitality would be at least the minimum requirement. Hell, she was in the middle of bum-fuck nowhere—it had been quite the trip from NYC. A proper greeting would've been good enough.

But, she swallowed her irritation because Santana seemed to be acting strange. She was standoffish, just as she'd been the last time they'd seen each other. Something was wrong.

Carefully, Quinn removed her heels, leaving them by the door, and walked farther into the house, following the path Santana had taken.

The lit room ended up being a kitchen and small dining area, overlooking another living room with a large flat screen TV set up next to a small bar. Some of the bar's cabinets had been left ajar.

Santana was sitting at the dining table. A half-eaten meal was on the plate in front of her. In her left hand was a glass of red wine.

The brunette looked up at Quinn and the blonde smiled hesitantly before taking a seat at the table. She couldn't identify what Santana had been eating… there seemed to be beans of some sort left on the plate.

"I'm confused," Santana muttered before taking a sip of her wine. "I, uh… I've had a lot to drink. So it could be that."

"How much is a lot?" Quinn asked, eyeing the spilled wine on the tabletop.

"Like an entire bottle," Santana admitted with a smirk.

Oh boy, there were those dimples.

Quinn reached forward, gently taking a hold of the glass in Santana's hand. She pulled it away from the brunette without trouble.

"Are you alright?" the blonde asked.

"I was," Santana nodded, her eyes on the glass. She looked annoyed. "You can't just show up and take my wine."

"I can't?" Quinn asked, bringing the glass to her lips. She took a sip and hummed in approval.

Santana just slumped back in her seat.

"Why are you here?"

"I needed a place to stay for the night."

"Why?"

"Do I need a reason to stay at a friend's house?"

"Is that what we are?"

Quinn didn't respond immediately. She merely took another sip of the wine, appraising Santana's deflated posture. The brunette was still dressed in her work clothes. She looked completely disheveled, however.

"Yes," Quinn responded succinctly.

Santana hummed in displeasure, a frown tugging at her lips.

"Ok."

"Ok?"

"Yeah," she shrugged before she reached forward and grabbed the half-full bottle of wine. She brought it to her lips, some dribbling down her chin and staining her white blouse. Santana set the bottle back onto the table and wiped sloppily at her chin. "I have a few guest rooms."

"A few?"

Santana nodded.

"You live in this house, alone?"

Santana nodded again.

Quinn nodded, contemplating the answer.

"And if I said I didn't want to stay in the guest room tonight?"

Santana's brown eyes were searing when they shot back to catch Quinn's gaze.

"I'd say I was drunk," Santana said, clearing her throat. "I trust you to not do anything untoward."

"So you don't want me to stay in your room?"

Santana laughed in response and Quinn arched an eyebrow at her.

"I'm having a hard time believing that you foo… sorry, flew," Santana corrected herself, "all the way to North Carolina just to sleep with me."

"Well, I'm glad you still have your wits about you, despite being plastered."

Santana gave her a questioning look.

"You're right. I didn't come here just to sleep with you." Quinn clarified. Though, she'd be liar if she said, despite that not being her reason for coming here, that she didn't want it to happen.

"Why are you here?" Santana asked.

"I just need a place to stay for the night."

The brunette looked annoyed, and then she looked angry.

"Cut the shit, Fabray."

"Drunk Santana is Angry Santana, good to know," the blonde said dismissively.

Santana rolled her eyes, but it was obvious the action threw her balance a little because her eyelids fluttered a little and she teetered to her left before she stabilized herself. Santana squeezed her eyes shut, muttering a soft curse under her breath.

"I'm on vacation. I'm meeting Sam in the Appalachian Mountains and—"

Santana's suddenly laughter cut her off. Quinn was startled because it wasn't a subtle laugh. It was raw and loud. The brunette was really laughing.

"What?"

Santana just laughed more, leaning back in her seat.

Ok, so drunk Santana was also annoying. Quinn had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. Instead, she waited patiently for the woman to cut her cackling and reel it back in.

"Appalachian!" she laughed loudly. "It's Appalachian. CHIN. What is this 'lay-shun' shit you're doing?"

"That's why you're laughing?" Quinn bristled. Her pronunciation wasn't something to laugh at.

"Leave it to you to make the mountains sound glitzy. What are you doing there? Biltmore? Hiking? You don't look like someone who likes hiking."

"And what do I look like I enjoy?"

"Anal," Santana deadpanned. But her grin split again and she was laughing obnoxiously.

Christ, if this was how Santana behaved when she was drunk, Quinn was glad they'd never planned their time together around alcohol. Yet, there was something familiar about Santana's drunken behavior and crude jokes. The thought unsettled her; she hadn't thought about her high school sweetheart in years.

With a sigh, Quinn stood from the table.

"Let me know when you're no longer a 16-year-old boy," the blonde said evenly.

"Wait, Q, just… wait," Santana shot out of her seat, bumping the table clumsily. "Shit."

Santana's hand flew to her aching thigh. Quinn watched carefully, as Santana scrambled to find her words.

"I… I swear I don't just sit around, getting drunk after work."

Quinn paused, looking at the disheveled brunette.

"God," Santana groaned, closing her eyes briefly. "I must look like… I don't even know."

She released a heavy breath and Quinn just sighed.

"Come on," the blonde said, gently taking Santana's hand. The contact made Quinn's heart race, but she ignored that and focused on the task at hand. She led them down the stairs to the living room with the bar and gently pushed Santana down to sit on the couch. She then went back into the kitchen and opened up a few cabinets to find a glass. She opened the fridge and found a pitcher of water.

It was only a few seconds later she was walking back to sit down next to Santana.

"Drink this," she offered the glass to the brunette who merely sighed and chugged the glass of water before handing it back to Quinn.

"Do you have work in the morning?" Quinn asked. It was Thursday night.

"God, no," Santana snapped. "Are you implying I'd get fucked up on a school night?"

"I'm not implying anything," Quinn said with a frown. Also, 'school night'? What even?

"Well, don't. You have no right to judge me."

"Santana," Quinn said softly. "I didn't come here to judge you."

"Then why did you come here?"

Quinn flinched, because there was no kindness in Santana's voice as she asked that question.

"Come on," Santana pushed. "Spit it out. Did you come here to fuck me?"

Something about the tone of Santana's voice made Quinn feel awful. Tears caught in her eyes, but she clenched her jaw and kept them at bay.

"I thought you didn't want that," she said with a sigh.

"What does it matter what I want," Santana groaned, leaning back into the couch. "What does it matter?"

"It matters a lot."

Santana didn't answer. Instead, she stared blankly across the room. Quinn looked across the living room as well. There was nothing but glass along the far wall. On the other side, perhaps there was a sunroom, or a deck protected by screens. It was dark, however, and all Quinn could see was the two of them, reflected in the glass.

"Santana, what's going on with you?" Quinn turned on the couch. Drawing her knee up in the process.

"I'm just…"

"Please," Quinn tried. "I don't like seeing you like this. You look miserable."

"I'm not miserable."

"You're sitting alone, at home, getting drunk," the blonde countered.

"I'm not alone," Santana said, her sad eyes finally making contact with Quinn's.

"Ok, you're right. I'm here," she acquiesced.

Santana nodded, not breaking eye contact.

"I… I realized that I…" Santana's eyes strayed away. "I'm not sure I should talk to you about this."

Quinn took in the instant furrowing of the brunette's eyebrows and sighed.

"Why not? We're friends, aren't we?"

"Yes but… you're a part of the problem."

Hearing this hurt Quinn, and surprised her. She never thought that she had anything to do with Santana's current state. Was she upset that Quinn hadn't called her after her night in NYC? Did she think the blonde was upset with her? Yeah, the rejection had bruised her pride, but she wasn't angry. She understood why Santana had done it.

Santana was a noble soul. She couldn't be easily swayed to abandon her morals. It was one of the many things Quinn admired about the woman.

"Tell me, and I'll fix it," Quinn said softly. Santana made eye contact again. She looked hesitant, but nodded nonetheless.

"My ex was in town. Is in town. She's leaving tomorrow," Santana sighed. "I didn't think she'd want to see me, but I ran into a mutual friend. Well, we weren't friends anymore, but I've forgiven her, so we're friends again."

Quinn nodded to encourage her to continue.

"Brittany asked to see me. So I went over to the place she was renting for the summer. And we talked. And it was so hard, you know? Because I loved her and she just left me. And she's engaged again and I had to pretend that I was ok without her, and that hearing about her loving someone else wasn't killing me."

Santana aggressively wiped away a tear that had slipped from her eye.

"I… I confessed that second to losing JJ, losing her was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. And she agreed—she said she regretted leaving me behind."

Her voice grew bitter as she continued, "She told me she missed me and that she never stopped loving me. And she asked me to stay the night with her."

At this, Quinn's eyebrows shot upward. Maybe all of this turmoil Santana was trying to drown in super expensive wine was due to the fact that those very morals Quinn had mentally praised her for never compromising had in fact been compromised.

"Did you?" Quinn asked gently.

Santana just shook her head. Relief flooded the blonde's chest and she didn't understand why.

"No," the brunette whispered. "I wanted to, but no."

The tears were falling freely now and Quinn felt her heart breaking. She couldn't imagine how difficult that had to have been for Santana.

Still, she didn't have a definitive answer for why Santana was getting drunk alone in her big empty house on a Thursday night. Was it just the stress of seeing her ex? The sadness of the reality of a lost opportunity? Quinn supposed it didn't matter. She just wanted to help Santana; it was killing her to see her this miserable.

"What can I do?" Quinn tried, placing her hand atop Santana's. The brunette pulled her hand away and frowned.

"Just, stop treating me like I'm not worth anything besides a good lay."

"I've never…"

Santana released a heavy breath. "I can't just… I can't be here to satisfy your sexual needs. I can't do that for Brittany. I can't do that for you. It's dehumanizing. I'm a person who has hopes and dreams. I have feelings. I can't be the mistress or the side chick or whatever."

"I'm sorry that I… I never meant for our relationship to be just sexual."

Santana just nodded. "Ok."

Well, Quinn felt thoroughly shitty. How did she let this happen? The one good friendship in her life and she ruined it by being greedy. She'd really fucked up.

"I'm sorry, Santana. Really, I'm sorry."

The brunette didn't respond.

"I should go. Get a hotel room or something," Quinn said with a frown.

"No, just… Just stay, alright? I'm not mad at you. I just… I don't know. I'm not mad, though."

"And if I say that I did come here hoping to have sex?" Why not just be brutally honest at this point?

Santana just chuckled, "I'm not sure if it's just ignorance or entitlement at this point to expect me to fuck you."

"I just want you to know what I want. And I respect that you don't want that."

"Oh, I want it," Santana corrected. "But, like I said, what I want doesn't matter. Especially not if I'll regret it in a few days."

"I just want you to be happy, Santana," Quinn said softly.

"I'll believe it when I see it," the brunette muttered.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Did she not think Quinn wanted to her happiness? Or perhaps she didn't believe she could be happy.

"I'm tired and drunk… though I'm feeling mostly nauseated at this point."

"Do you want to go to bed?"

"No, but I should," she sighed.

Quinn followed Santana up to the front door to grab her suitcase, then up a full flight of stairs to the top floor of the home. She opened up the first door to the right.

"This is the guest room," she said, flipping the lights on. She pointed to another door, "This is the bathroom."

"That's another guest room, and that's also a guest room but I mostly use it as an upstairs study. This is a linen closet," she pointed at the three remaining doors. "I'm across here."

Santana opened the door to her very spacious room with a massive king sized bed. The thought of the brunette's tiny body sleeping in the middle of that bed, alone, every night made Quinn kind of sad.

"If you have any trouble or whatever, just come in and wake me. But, honestly, I sleep pretty heavily once I have a few drinks in me so… good luck with that."

"Wait, Santana," Quinn stopped the brunette's retreat. Santana sighed impatiently and turned her tired eyes to the blonde.

"I'm kind of creeped out by all of these empty rooms? Can I sleep in here?"

The brunette gave her a pointed look.

"Seriously," Quinn groaned. "You live in the middle of the forest. It's pitch black on the other side of every single one of your windows."

"Fine," Santana agreed. "But I'm really going to sleep. No funny business."

"Nothing funny about living in the poster murder-house for a modern-day horror film."

"I've lived here for several years and I've never been murdered," Santana replied seriously.

"Right," the blonde said slowly not sure if Santana meant to make that her argument.

Santana retreated into the master bathroom so Quinn opened up her suitcase and changed into her sleepwear. The water was running for quite a while, and the blonde was beginning to worry that Santana had fallen asleep standing at the sink but eventually the water turned off and out came the brunette, dressed in a cute two-piece pajama set. She'd washed the smudged makeup off her face and looked a little less frazzled.

"There's a spare toothbrush on the counter," the brunette mumbled as she climbed into bed.

Quinn had her own toothbrush in her suitcase, but decided to use the one Santana had offered. She brushed her teeth and washed her face quickly before exiting into the bedroom.

Despite the overhead lights being on, Santana had already fallen asleep on the right side of the bed. Quinn flipped the switch for the lights, shrouding the room in darkness before she climbed into bed and made herself comfortable. The silence of the room and the house went from unsettling to fairly comfortable in a few minutes, and she quickly drifted off to sleep.


Santana woke fairly early. The faint light of the rising sun was filtering through the blinds of the balcony door. Groaning, she rolled over in bed to find the other side of it empty.

She sighed heavily, letting her eyes close briefly in a slow blink. She stared up at the ceiling, completely exhausted. She always felt like shit after a night of drinking. Part of her knew she deserved the splitting headache she was experiencing for even thinking of getting so drunk the previous night. It was folly on her part to think she could drink the same way she did back in college.

After releasing another sigh, she turned her head to read the clock on her desk. However, the numbers were blocked by a glass of water. Santana sat slowly, the throbbing in her head intensifying as she went from horizontal to upright. Next to the glass of water were two white pills.

Ok, so someone had left her some aspirin or something. And given that she's fairly certain she didn't hallucinate the woman's arrival, that someone was likely Quinn.

Santana swallowed both pills with a large gulp of water and set the glass back down.

Quinn's bag was still in the corner of the room, so she assumed that meant the blonde was still in the house somewhere.

Hating the idea of being a bad host, Santana stumbled her way into the bathroom to use the toilet then brush her teeth. Hopefully, her headache would subside enough so that she could keep her irritation at bay this fine morning as she spoke to her… friend.

It was the sound of the doorbell ringing that startled her out of the daze she'd fallen into in the bathroom. She quickly rinsed out her mouth and turned the faucet off before moving, albeit a little slowly toward her room door. She heard the doorbell ringing again and she pulled her bedroom door open.

The smell of bacon and coffee hit her nose and she faltered a moment. Apparently Quinn had made herself right at home, comfortable enough to use her kitchen.

It wasn't until she saw Quinn moving toward the door that she realized she'd frozen in her room's doorway. Quinn opened the door and Santana willed herself to move.

Still, slowly and carefully, as to not jostle her head much. It took her several seconds to move across the 2nd floor landing and descend the stairs. When she was close enough to her front door she was surprised by who she saw standing there.

"Britt?"

At this, Brittany's bright blue eyes rose to meet her and Quinn's head turned to look at Santana. Quinn was already dressed to go, looking far more put together than she was expecting for someone to look so early. Her usual elegance still shone through, even though she was wearing a somewhat casual sundress.

"Santana! Hi," Britany greeted brightly, lowering her voice when she saw the brunette flinch at the volume. "I was just talking to Lucy. She said you were asleep."

"I was," Santana said slowly, nodding a bit. Still, she was confused. Why was Brittany here? And why had Quinn given her the first name she doesn't go by?

Quinn stepped aside, her eyes regarding Santana briefly. She wondered if Quinn could feel her discomfort. Did Quinn realize this was the same woman she'd been talking about last night? Did that matter to her?

"I just finished making breakfast," Quinn said, her fingertips brushing Santana's hip as she stepped back. "Please join me when you finish up here."

She gave Santana's hip a squeeze and the brunette felt her skin flush.

"It was nice meeting you, Brittany," Quinn said softly, her voice drawing the blonde's blue eyes away from Santana's hip, where Quinn's hand had just been, and up to her face. Brittany smiled, nodding in response.

Finally, Quinn walked away and Santana watched for a moment before turning to Brittany.

Brittany had a strange expression on her face, but it faded away as she smiled again at Santana. The brunette felt her heart flutter at the sight. Brittany looked beautiful, as usual. She was wearing denim shorts and a flowing cobalt shirt that accentuated the color of her eyes.

"She looks really familiar," Brittany finally said with a thoughtful look on her face.

Santana just shrugged, knowing that Quinn would most definitely not want anyone to know she'd been here.

"She gets that a lot," Santana deflected. "I thought you were leaving today."

"I am," Brittany said, nodding. "I just wanted to say goodbye to you first."

"Oh… Are you leaving now?"

"No," Brittany shook her head. The rising sun caught her blonde hair just right and Santana's eye zeroed in on it—just now realizing that Brittany had her hair down. It was longer than she remembered. "I have a few hours before I have to go to the airport."

Santana nodded and Brittany gave her an expectant look.

"Did you want to come in?" Santana acquiesced, incapable of saying no to Brittany when she was looking at her like that.

"I'd love to," and her smile came back at full strength.

She led Brittany away from the front door and down the half flight of stairs, into the kitchen. Quinn was seated at her dining table reading a book; there was a steaming cup of coffee in front of her. The sight made Santana pause, her stomach churning—and not because of her hunger. Quinn looked right, sitting there in her kitchen, waiting for her to join her for a meal. Santana wondered, for a split second, if she'd ever get a chance to see Quinn like this again.

It was obvious the blonde had cleaned up a little. She'd cleared away the empty bottles and wiped up the spilled wine. Instead, the table was set for two and there were some plates in the center filled with scrambled eggs, bacon, French toast, and a bowl of mixed fruit waiting for her.

"Luce," Santana said, smirking when Quinn looked up at the nickname. "Can Brittany stay for breakfast?"

Quinn quirked an eyebrow up, wondering why Santana was asking for permission for someone to join them for breakfast in her own home. However, the blank stare she was receiving from Santana and the hopeful one she was receiving from Brittany spurred her into action.

"Sure, I made enough," Quinn nodded, setting her book down.

Santana gestured for Brittany to take a seat and Quinn hopped up, heading into the kitchen. Santana tailed her, and abruptly stopped her when she reached for the cabinet where she kept her plates.

"I've got it," Santana said in a low voice, her hand resting on Quinn's. "You're a guest."

Quinn just rolled her eyes and Santana gave her a knowing look. Finally, Quinn turned to head back to the table but Santana stopped her again, this time with a hand on her forearm.

"Thanks," Santana whispered after she leaned in close. "For making breakfast. And for putting up with me last night."

"Anytime," Quinn nodded with a smile, leaning forward and pressing a soft kiss to Santana's cheek before she turned away quickly and settled back at the table with Brittany.

Santana's face warmed considerably, and she chuckled at herself before gathering another plate and some cutlery for Brittany.

"Britt, do you want some juice?" she offered, turning to find blue eyes already staring at her. Brittany had never been a coffee drinker. Her preferred beverage was orange juice, and she somehow managed to be bubbly and alert at all hours of the day without caffeine. She had a feeling that hadn't changed over the years.

"Yes please," she said with a warm smile. Santana turned and grabbed a clean glass out of her dishwasher and did a quick loop around the island, over to the fridge to get out some orange juice. She made her way back to the table, setting down the plate and glass in front of Brittany before handing her the cutlery.

Brittany poured herself some OJ and Santana sat down across from Brittany.

"Damn, this looks and smells great," Santana admitted, smiling at Quinn.

"I know," she said with a smirk. "Let's say grace."

Quinn offered her hands, palms up, to both of the women at the table. Santana was startled, but took Quinn's hand and looked up to see Brittany offering her own across the table.

The brunette shifted in her seat and took Brittany's hand, feeling nervous suddenly. She was sure it was partially because she was participating in prayer of some type. Her relationship with religion had been a tumultuous one. She'd questioned her faith when her abuela disowned her in high school for liking girls—she'd given up on religion completely when JJ had died. The thought of praying to a God she was quite sure abandoned her made her feel uncomfortable. But she was quite certain her nervousness was also due to the fact that she was holding hands with two beautiful women—one she'd loved with all her heart and the other she was fighting with all her might not to fall for—two women who'd made it very clear that they wanted something from her that she wasn't sure she could give without hollowing herself out.

Quinn's prayer drew to an end with a softly spoken, "Amen," and that pulled Santana from her thoughts. The women released her hands and started to load their plates with food.

They silently began eating, but after a moment Brittany broke the silence.

"Wow, Lucy, this is all really good," she praised and Quinn smiled.

"Thanks," she offered quietly.

"It must be nice having someone around who can cook for you," Brittany offered to Santana and the brunette paused, not sure that she liked where this conversation could go. "I still don't know how to cook."

Santana glanced at Quinn who had a neutral expression on her face.

Brittany just carried on, "The last time I tried to cook for San, back when we lived together, I almost burned our apartment down."

Santana recalled the moment easily. Brittany was trying to make oatmeal, but the stove was on too high and the water practically evaporated in one minute and then the oats began to burn. The pot was so blackened they'd had to throw it out. The memory brought a smile to her face. Brittany had been so very disappointed in herself, but Santana suggested they just have some cereal together. She reassured the blonde that she loved her regardless of her cooking skills. And then they took a shower together—but very little time had been spent bathing.

She blushed at the thought and looked up, making eye contact with Brittany. There was mischief in her eyes and Santana was floored.

Was her ex still trying to get into her pants? Was this a last ditch effort? Had Quinn's presence done nothing to dissuade her?

"This is actually the first time I've cooked for Santana," Quinn admitted. "And I'd hardly really call it cooking. Breakfast is fairly easy to whip up."

Santana's eyes shifted quickly toward Quinn, not sure if the end of her comment was intended to wound Brittany, who'd just admitted to difficulties in the kitchen. Perhaps Quinn had sensed some sort of territorial vibe from Brittany because she brought up the fact that they used to live together. Perhaps she assumed Quinn didn't know their history—it would be a correct assumption. Quinn knew very little about their relationship beyond the fact that they'd been engaged for a little while.

Regardless, this kind of talk was making Santana uncomfortable. She didn't know how much Quinn wanted to reveal about the nature of their relationship—yet she wasn't being very forthcoming in making it clear that they were merely friends.

"Oh," Brittany said, taking the comment in stride. "How is it you know Santana, again? Are you her roommate?"

Quinn laughed a little, shaking her head.

"No, not at all," she responded once her laughter died down. "I'm a friend. Passing through."

"I see," Brittany said thoughtfully. "Do you pass through a lot?"

"Heavens no," Quinn said. "Santana usually visits me."

"How long are you in town?"

"I'm headed to Asheville later today. I just spent the night last night," Quinn offered before putting the last of the bacon on her plate.

Brittany seemed pleased with Quinn's answer and Santana was unsure as to why; her answers had been terribly vague and had revealed almost nothing. The tall blonde bit her lip in thought before she released it and took a bite of her French toast.

Santana felt herself relax once there was more food in Brittany's mouth. That meant she'd stop grilling Quinn. The relief was short-lived, however.

"So, Lucy, what do you do?" Brittany asked as Santana filled a mug with the remaining coffee that had been sitting in her French press.

"I'm an actress," Quinn responded easily, the lie rolling of her lips so surely that even Santana was convinced. To keep herself from saying anything, she took a long drink of her coffee.

"Oh!" Brittany looked excited. "That's why you look so familiar. I must've seen you on TV."

Quinn managed to look embarrassed, but then she gave Brittany a knowing look.

"I'm not a TV actress," Quinn corrected. "I work in the adult film industry."

At this, Santana spat out her coffee.

What?! Why was that the lie Quinn was trying to roll with?!

"OH!" Brittany said, laughter falling briefly from her lips as she completely ignored Santana's frantic attempts to dab the coffee off of her pajama top. "Well, I guess I could've seen you in a porno. That's pretty cool."

"I'm glad you think so," Quinn responded coolly.

"Of course! You get to have sex, and you get paid for it? Really cool job," Brittany nodded and Quinn glanced at Santana briefly with an incredulous look. Clearly the blonde thought she'd throw Brittany with her statement, but it was backfiring.

"I… yeah," Quinn said blandly. "I mean. It's tough though. It's hard to keep a relationship going outside the industry. Most people are a little turned off when I mention what I do. They don't like sharing."

"That's silly," Brittany responded. "The more love, the better."

Santana watched as Brittany drew her eyes away from Quinn and looked at her. There was hope shining through and Santana wasn't sure what was really going on.

"I agree," Quinn said. "But I respect people's choices when it comes to sex. Some people just have old school morals, like Santana."

Brittany looked at Quinn, then at Santana, then back at Quinn.

"You got me," Santana said sarcastically, rolling her eyes. "Totally old school."

Brittany looked thoughtful, but then hummed in agreement.

"Yeah, Santana's pretty old school," she finally settled on, choosing to agree with Quinn's statement.

"So, Brittany, I've told you about my job. Tell me about yours," Quinn requested.

The conversation following that question was fairly tame.

Brittany left about a half hour later. Her expression was soft and welcoming all at once, but she made no mention of wanting to hook up as she bid Santana farewell. Instead she requested that Santana keep in touch.

Santana shut the door, leaning heavily against it.

What a bizarre morning.

When she went back into the kitchen she found Quinn standing at the sink, washing up the dirty dishes. She stood directly behind Quinn, reaching forward to turn off the water. She then wrapped her arms around the blonde, pulling her tightly against the front of her body. Quinn relaxed in the embrace, craning her neck a little to glance backward at Santana.

The brunette pressed a kiss to her cheek and Quinn felt a little flustered.

"What was that for?" she asked, unsure of Santana's sudden affection.

"For you being so great last night, and this morning. For looking so good in my kitchen right now. And for a distraction for me—because I really want to kiss you right now."

"Then kiss me," Quinn suggested and Santana sighed, dropping her forehead onto Quinn's shoulder.

"I can't," came her muffled response.

"If I hadn't been here this morning, would you have kissed Brittany?"

"No," came Santana's immediate response. "Like you said, I'm old school."

"She's very pretty."

"So are you."

Quinn didn't reply. Instead, she reached forward and turned the water back on, intending to finish up the dishes. Santana continued to hold her, much to Quinn's delight.

"I want you," Santana whispered.

Quinn wasn't sure she'd heard her correctly, but she turned the water off again, allowing silence to surround them.

"What was that?" Quinn dared to ask.

"I want you," Santana said as she pressed her forehead against Quinn's back. "I want you to show me your porn star moves."

Quinn just laughed, reaching for a dish towel to dry her hands on.

"I'm serious," Santana breathed. "Stay the weekend."

Quinn went rigid at the request.

"I can't," the blonde said and she immediately felt Santana's hold on her slacken. "I can't stand Sam up. He's already at the cabin we rented."

"You can, if you want to," Santana said weakly.

Quinn turned around, looking at the brunette and forcing herself to look into her sad brown eyes.

"If I stay, and we have sex, you're going to grow to resent me because you'd be my mistress," Quinn said softly. "I don't want that to happen."

"God, just… choose me Quinn," Santana breathed, her expression one of determination. "Just choose me."

Santana watched Quinn carefully, looking for any sign that this would go favorably, despite her understanding of the situation.

"I'm sorry, Santana," Quinn frowned and the other woman just sighed, pulling away from her.

"You're angry," Quinn said, watching Santana take a few steps away from her.

"No. Yes," the brunette flip-flopped. "Not with you, Quinn. With myself."

Hazel eyes quietly regarded her.

"Do you think I'd have had a chance to win Britt back? Or was she just trying to have her cake and eat it too?"

"I don't know," Quinn said softly. "She could hardly keep her eyes off you when she was here."

"I noticed," Santana said with a wry smile. "But lust isn't enough."

Quinn's lips parted as if to ask a question, but then she pressed them closed.

Santana just sighed.

"When do you need to get on the road?" she asked Quinn, ignoring the hurt in her expression.

"In a few hours," Quinn answered honestly, a frown tugging at her lips.

"Well, don't feel obligated to hang around," Santana said. "I'm alright on my own. And there's a strapping young police officer waiting for a romantic weekend with you."

"Santana…"

"Really, don't feel obligated to stay any longer than you already have. This was a nice visit. Let's leave it at that."

Quinn nodded, excusing herself to grab her bag.

The blonde left the house soon after. Santana walked her to her rental car and waved as she drove away.

Once Quinn was gone, Santana went back into her house, standing in the foyer, wondering what she should do. She walked into the kitchen, staring at the table where she'd had breakfast with two women who seemed to want to just keep breaking her heart. Her eyes glanced down into the living room, staring at the bar where she kept her alcohol.

She shook her head, convincing herself that she was only just getting over a hangover and it would be foolish to start drinking so early anyway. Instead, she went upstairs and changed into someq athletic clothes. She laced up her running shoes and headed out the door. The heat was unbearable, but she found comfort in knowing that once she was done with her run she'd feel so completely sapped of her energy that it'd be easy to fall asleep and not have to think of the fact that it would be another lonely night in her big lonely house.

Chapter Text

"Ok, I'm going to just go ahead and say it: I want you back."

The woman sitting across from her didn't seem to react to this information. Her face remained expressionless, her dark brown eyes guarded.

Quinn shifted uncomfortably in her seat, anxious for any type of response. She'd been nervous since she'd arrived. That anxiety had been mounting since she'd been left to sit and wait—even then she wasn't sure she'd be allowed to see her.

This visit was unplanned and unannounced. Quinn figured if she'd given any type of heads up, she would've been turned away. Even so, when she arrived, she'd been told that there were no openings in her schedule and she'd have to wait without guaranteed visitation. Still, Quinn opted to wait. This was important. Otherwise, she wouldn't have flown all the way over here just to plead for forgiveness in person.

A kind young man had greeted her and asked her to wait in this empty, but well-furnished shared space. And Quinn waited. And waited. And waited. Hours.

Until, finally, the object of her attention was ushered onto the bus with a quick, "Holler if you need me."

She didn't holler, but she did look immediately annoyed.

"You've got two minutes," her estranged friend said tightly.

Quinn had spent perhaps a whole minute of the two offered to her, opening and shutting her mouth wordlessly, trying to figure out what she could say. She'd rehearsed a thousand times on the plane, yet, now—in the moment—her words were lost. It was just that, despite having gone over how she hoped this conversation—this apology—would go multiple times a year over several years, she knew that she'd lose the script immediately and she reverted to the straightforward answer. Being straightforward seemed to usually do her good. So, when the "I want you back," came tumbling out of her mouth and she received a simple eyebrow raise in response, she felt the tension in her shoulder intensify.

There was too much on the line for her to tank this.

She'd spent years of her life pretending that she didn't care about lost friends and burned bridges, because her career would more than make up for her lack of longstanding relationships. What did it matter that her best friend from high school couldn't stand her and that they hadn't talked in years? That they couldn't share in each other's success? That she couldn't call her immediately after something interesting or important happened in her life—just like she used to?

What did it matter that the one person on this planet that she knew would always have her back would be ashamed to even say she knew her?

Quinn abruptly stood from the couch, suddenly wondering what the hell she thought she was doing. There was nothing that could make up for all of the bullshit she's done.

"Where do you think you're going?"

Quinn froze, her mind brought back to attention and her eyes zeroing in on the now irritated expression on the face of the woman sitting in front of her.

"I just thought…"

"Quinn," the woman sighed, exasperated. "I gave you two minutes and then you didn't even say much of anything and now you're what? Running away? You came here to waste my time? Interrupted my rehearsals for this? What's your angle here?"

"No angle!" Quinn responded reflexively. "I'm just… I'm really blowing this. I just need to apologize to you."

"You flew here from New York to apologize to me?"

"Yes," Quinn said hesitantly. She then nodded resolutely, realizing this was her way back to her talking points. "I'm sorry, Mercedes. I'm sorry I was such a terrible friend to you and a terrible person in general. I miss you so much. I miss… I miss our friendship. I never imagined a life where we weren't sharing our successes and supporting each other through our failures. You were there for me during the hardest time of my life, and I foolishly threw your friendship away."

Mercedes was quiet for a minute and Quinn couldn't stand the intensity of her stare, so she opted to look at anything but. The lights on the tour bus were off, but the bright Los Angeles sun was filtering through the blinds beside her, washing the inside of the bus with bright, warm natural light. Mercedes was wearing a light purple t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and yoga pants. Both were visibly damp with sweat. It was clear that she'd been working hard at her show rehearsal.

Mercedes Jones, her best friend in high school, had been making a name for herself as a gospel artist ever since she'd graduated from college. However, just a little under a year ago, she'd released her first pop single, rebranding to reach a wider audience. Just like the fans of her gospel album, the greater public loved her powerful vocals and upbeat melodies. She was about to start the first leg of her North American tour. Quinn was so proud of her.

"Are you done?"

At this, Quinn's eyes snapped back up.

"Wait… what?"

"Oh, you thought that was enough? Quinn, there are three steps to an apology. You barely hit the first step. I can't… I don't know if I can forgive you, let alone trust you. And it would be a PR nightmare if the press got wind of any kind of friendship between us."

Mercedes stood to leave and Quinn's legs felt weak.

"Mercedes, please," Quinn's voice sounded small. "Can't you find it in your heart, as a Christian, to forgive me?"

"Girl, don't try to use my faith to manipulate me," Mercedes snapped, clearly irritated. The woman took a deep breath, and shut her eyes as she exhaled slowly. She looked at Quinn again, pity eclipsing her previously annoyed expression. She frowned and shook her head. "I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt, you know? I tried to defend you at first. But you just kept… you just… you kept saying awful things, and then doubling down when someone pointed out how awful they were. You and I are clearly different people now. We have very different beliefs and just represent different things. I appreciate the apology—at least, the little bit of it you've offered—but I think we're too different from each other to really get along."

Quinn wanted to say something, but she knew interrupting would do more harm than good.

"I really think we had a good friendship, growing up together. Some of the best moments of my life. But that's in the past and that's where it'll have to stay. I'll pray that you find some peace," Mercedes said gently, her voice softening as if to soften the blow of her rejection.

"Mercedes, just… give me a second. Please. And I'll do this the right way. I just need a second," Quinn said, unzipping her purse and digging around for her phone.

Mercedes just watched, confused, as Quinn unlocked her phone and quickly dialed a number.

The call connected on the third ring.

"Hel—"

"Hi!" Quinn interrupted, quickly. "I'll explain later but I need you to answer a question as quickly as possible. Say yes if you agree."

"What's this about?" Santana asked, clearly confused and a little annoyed at how abrupt Quinn was being with her. It was rude, even for her.

"I'll explain it all later. Please, this is time sensitive."

"Ok, ok. Jesus. What's the question?"

"What are the steps of an apology?"

"Seriously? Don't you have google?"

"Time sensitive!"

"Ok, damn. Crazy. Three steps, alright? Acknowledging what you did, apologizing for it, and then offering changes in behavior and thought to prevent it from happening again."

"Thank you. Bye," Quinn hung up quickly, mentally repeating the steps.

"Ok, what in the world?" Mercedes crossed her arms, bewildered by what she just witnessed.

"Are you going to let me apologize to you? Properly this time?"

Despite how absolutely ridiculous this whole exchange had been since she'd stepped foot onto her tour bus, Mercedes was curious as to what Quinn could possibly do next. She sat, slowly, and Quinn looked immensely relieved. She sat down quickly as well and began to fidget with the zipper on her purse.

"I don't even know where to start," Quinn admitted. "I mean… there's so much. The inflammatory statements about immigrants stealing jobs and wasting our country's resources… and then the whole 'black women are welfare queens' thing… The Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter support… saying that Black Lives Matter was the new KKK… saying that slavery wasn't so bad and… minimizing the issue of gun violence in our country…Jesus, I really have been saying some phenomenally stupid and hateful shit."

Quinn had to pause. She was feeling remorse sneak up on her again. The same remorse that she'd nearly lost herself to years prior. The remorse that made her turn to drinking.

"I even went after Beyoncé. Who does that?" Quinn said incredulously. She saw a hint of a smile on Mercedes' lips for a brief moment, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared.

"I can't possibly state every single terrible thing I've done and said over the years. I just want you know that I'm sorry for it all. I'm especially sorry that, years ago, when you called me to talk me down from this horrid path I'd put myself on, I responded with anger and I was completely disrespectful. You didn't deserve that. I should've listened to you. I'm sorry that I didn't.

"Mercedes, I said it before, and I'll say it again. You were my best friend growing up. You were my sister in Christ, and you were also just my sister in every other way. I regret forsaking our friendship. I regret forcing you to give up on me," her voice broke and she took a deep breath.

Mercedes merely watched on quietly, a small frown tugging at her lips.

Quinn found herself blinking back tears.

"I wish I could say that I'm apologizing for reasons that aren't selfish, but that would be a lie. I need you back because without you there's no point. Without your friendship, nothing matters. I'm just a shitty person saying shitting things I don't really believe, but benefiting from it all the same. And without your friendship, I don't think I can do what I need to do next in life. I don't think I can give it up without you—without your support.

"So," Quinn sucked in a big, watery breath. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for riling the racist masses. I'm sorry for empowering the alt-right. I'm sorry for not caring because it wasn't affecting me negatively. I'm sorry I've made a living this way. I'm sorry I pushed you away and hurt you. I'm sorry for the things I've said that have dehumanized you and other people who look like you. I'm sorry I haven't been an ally to black people and other people of color. I'm sorry; from the bottom of my clearly rotten heart, I'm sorry. I know I've hurt you, and I don't want to do that anymore. And I will make changes to undo the harm I've done. I can't promise those changes will be swift, but they will be made. I will no longer badmouth the Black Lives Matter movement; I will no longer vilify immigrants. I won't pretend that black women are the only ones on government welfare. And, I will never ever, ever, talk shit about Queen Bey again."

With the second mention of Beyoncé, Mercedes couldn't hold back her gentle laugh. Still, Quinn remained tense.

"Honestly, I think you're crazy coming up on my tour bus with all of this," Mercedes said, gesturing around at Quinn's face. "But… do you really not believe the things you say? The people you support?"

"I don't. I say what I know will get me the most money. Even if it goes against everything I believe. And I don't support those people. I didn't vote for him. And I've never given my money to any of those hate groups or conservative campaigns. I take most of the donations that come through, and give them back to liberal organizations that support marginalized communities. Last week I gave $20,000 to a group combating climate change."

"Ah, so the earth isn't flat and climate change is real?"

Quinn finally felt herself relaxing just enough to roll her eyes.

"I never said the earth was flat."

"I'm just messing with you," Mercedes shook her head, smiling a little. But, her smile faltered and her brown eyes, now curious more than anything else, focused on the blonde. "How do I know you're telling the truth?"

"You can't know," Quinn admitted. "I've done such a good job crafting this persona that… well, at times it doesn't feel like acting. And that makes me sick to my stomach. If it weren't for the self-loathing, I wouldn't know what was fake or not. You'll just have to take my word."

"Mhm, so… you have to see why I'm hesitating here."

"I know, I know," Quinn leaned back, emotionally drained. "But even if you can't trust me now, and if you're still angry with me—rightfully so—over time you'll see that I'm telling the truth. And when my life finally implodes, publically, I hope you can find it in your heart to reach out to me. Because I won't have a lot of people in my corner and… I um… I'd really appreciate your support. Even if you just send a message to say you're praying for me, I'd mean a lot."

"I've been praying for you for years, Quinn," Mercedes said after a moment.

Quinn felt tears in her eyes again, and this time she couldn't stop them from falling.

She was always in awe of how big Mercedes' heart was. How quick she was to love others, even when they had done nothing that warranted it.

A rapid knocking on the side of the tour bus had Mercedes jumping to her feet.

"Break time is over," the popstar said, a curious tone to her voice. "I… Hmm."

Quinn waited patiently, but her nerves were still heightened. She kept her gaze on her friend's face, taking in the stern expression and the look of contemplation that had twisted her lips.

"Look, I'll tell my assistant to give you my contact information. We can start slow, ok? Don't call me every day; I won't answer. And none of that white guilt nonsense where you call to apologize every time you say something messed up. It probably won't be me you owe an apology to. And I'm not going to wait forever to see you change your tune."

Quinn fought hard to hold back the grin desperate to shine on her face. Instead she gave a small smile and a nod.

"Thank you Mercedes. This is… this means the world to me."

"Yeah yeah, ok," Mercedes said dismissively, jumping a little when the knocking occurred on the side of the bus again, this time sounding far more urgent than before. "We'll be in touch!"

"Wait!"

Mercedes paused, turning to look at her from the steps that led down and out of the bus.

"I'm just… I'm really proud of you. Of what you've accomplished here. You're amazing. You've always been amazing."

Mercedes just smiled that bright, adorable smile of hers.

"Thanks girl!"

And with that, Mercedes Jones took her leave from her tour bus, off to what Quinn assumed would be more grueling rehearsals.

Quinn couldn't find it in herself to move. Her heart felt so full. She quickly unlocked the phone she still held tightly in her hand and navigated to the recent calls. Her finger hovered over Santana's name.

In that instance, her excitement waned. Just underneath Santana's name in black, was Sam's in red. She closed the phone app and opened up her messages. She texted Sam to let him know that things went well and that she was driving back to her hotel. She'd call him once she got there.

On the drive back with the rental, she stopped through at an In-N-Out, thankful to have not seemed to register as a familiar face to the kid working the drive-thru. She settled at the table in her hotel room and ate while scrolling through her emails. Her thoughts were unfocused. She wasn't paying attention to her food or the messages in her inbox.

Finally, she was done with her meal and pushed her laptop away, reaching for her phone.

Her call connected on the first ring.

"Hey babe!" Sam greeted cheerfully.

"Hey," Quinn smiled at his enthusiasm. The man was a ray of sunshine, truly.

"So, you said it went well?"

"Yes, it did," Quinn found herself smiling wider, and then a small chuckle fell from her lips. "She definitely made me work for it… and I'll keep working for it. But, she was my best friend and she's more than worth it."

"That's great new, babe," Sam responded, and Quinn could practically feel his smile through the tone of his voice. "I can't believe you know Mercedes Jones. That's just incredible. I've been a fan of hers for years."

Quinn just shook her head, incredulous. "Years? Really?"

"Yeah!" he said. "My old partner, Artie, is really into gospel music. Insisted we listen to it while on the beat."

Artie? Wait, was this the same Artie he played video games with when he had time off? Dungeons and Dragons Artie?

"Wait, your gaming buddy, Artie?"

"Yeah, that's him. I only know one Artie," he said with a breathy laugh.

"He was a cop?" Quinn felt her skin tingling, because she'd met Artie once and he used a wheelchair to get around.

"Yeah, he was."

Quinn sensed the change in atmosphere immediately, and she suddenly wished she wasn't having this conversation over the phone. She was no stranger to trauma and knew there was a time and a place for heavy discussions.

"I... we don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."

"I'd prefer not to."

"That's ok," she said gently, preparing to shift the conversation back to what she wanted to talk about. "Maybe we can all get tickets to see her on tour together."

"Wait, really?! That would be really fun. Art would love that. Plus, you could get to know him while doing something we all enjoy."

"Sorry I've skipped out on your game nights. It isn't that I don't want to meet your friends…"

"Nah, I get it. It's a little heavy on the nerd stuff. I know it's not your style."

"It's not, but I do want to meet your friends! And eventually you'll have to explain this DN stuff to me."

"DM," he corrected, "and yes, of course I will."

Quinn took the moment of comfortable silence in their conversation to climb atop the bed and turn the TV on. She hit the mute button and began to click through the channels, her mind not at all focused on the task at hand.

Having the possibility of getting Mercedes back into her life made her feel so weightless and warm. She laid on her back, setting the phone on speaker and placing it beside her head before staring up at the ceiling.

"You know… Mercedes used to be the person I called as soon as anything happened in my life. She was my rock."

Sam hummed in response, waiting for her to continue.

Quinn sighed.

"Today, I was so happy things went well with her. It was like a little piece of the old me was coming back. That optimistic, naive girl I used to be. And I… I felt like I was taking a step in the right direction, you know? Like maybe things can really work out. That I don't have to give up on my dreams and that I can have it all. Mercedes is making her dreams come true, so why can't I, without selling myself for piecemeal?"

"Quinn? Are you ok?"

All it took was a deep shuddering breath to trigger the first tear.

"No," she whispered to her boyfriend, suddenly feeling miserable out of nowhere.

"What can I do to help?" he asked gently, clearly surprised by the turn in tone.

"Sorry," she said, with a half a bitter laugh. "I'll be alright. I just need to tell you something. I'm not sure if it's good or bad. All I know is that it's true and if I don't tell you I…"

She dropped the rest of the sentence, turning onto her side as she brushed away the tears on her cheeks. She dried her hand on the crisp white of the bedsheets and then ran a hand through her hair to get it out of her quickly warming face.

"That's ok," Sam said softly, "Take your time. There's no rush. I'm here to listen."

Quinn felt more tears gather in her eyes at his kindness. It was obvious he was nervous, he had a sort of barely audible lisp to some of his words. It was always present when he was nervous or anxious. She wished she could comfort him in that moment, but she knew if she said anything other than what she needed to say in that moment, it would be a lie.

He deserved better than lies.

"I need to talk to you about Santana," she finally forced out after several moments of silence.

"Santana? Your best friend, Santana?" the tension in his voice had given way to confusion.

"Yeah," Quinn said, glad that she'd introduced the two, at least over phone.

"Ok," he said, then after a beat, "What about Santana?"

"She's…" she stopped, unsure of how to proceed. She dragged her fingers along the comforter, feeling a sense of dread. "When I went to see Mercedes, and she told me she'd give me a chance I… the first person I wanted to call was Santana."

"Ok; have you spoken to her yet? I feel like that's information I'd share with my best friend," Sam reasoned, with only the slightest bit of hesitation.

Quinn pushed herself up into a sitting position, crossing her legs and trying to think of the best way to explain this to her boyfriend. A man she loved, even though she knew she wasn't in love with him.

"She's not just my best friend, Sam."

Quinn's heart was in her throat, and it felt like a monumental task to not just vomit it out.

"Ok, best friend, your person, the Luigi to your Mario, drift compatible. I know you two are close."

"No Sam, I mean… She's not just my best friend," she repeated.

She realized quite suddenly she didn't know how to explain her feelings to Sam without saying something she wasn't sure she was ready to say. She loved Santana, but she wasn't sure she was in love with her either. And to tell Sam, in this very moment, that she loved Santana felt disingenuous.

"Quinn, I'm confused. I don't know if I know what you're trying to tell me."

It was times like these that Quinn both hated and adored Sam for his complete obliviousness. Currently, she was erring on the side of frustration. She bit her tongue, stopping herself from blurting that they'd fucked. It was so long ago. Part of her wondered if these feelings for Santana that she'd held onto so desperately were even worth holding on to.

But when she thought about how she felt when she was with Santana—how she feels when she's with her—she couldn't question their worth.

"Maybe I'm doing this wrong," Quinn finally sighed aloud.

"I think so, because I'm still… not following."

Quinn could only laugh.

"Ok, Sam, I'll try again. Forget Santana for a moment. I need to tell you something about myself."

"Ok."

"I'm…" Well, gay wasn't right. And, God, Quinn hadn't even considered looking at another woman the way she looked at Santana, and perhaps this was specific to her and only her, but she had no better way of explaining it to Sam. "I'm bisexual?"

"You're bisexual?"

"Yes?"

"Wait, are you asking me or…?"

"I don't know."

"Quinn!"

"Ok, sorry. Yes, I'm bisexual."

"Ok."

"Ok?"

"Well, yeah. I mean, lots of people are. That doesn't change anything between us."

"I…" Well. That was easy.

Until it wasn't.

"Wait, Santana's a lesbian."

"Erm, yes," Quinn responded, not sure if he was asking.

"Santana's a lesbian. You said you needed to talk to me about Santana." The wheels were beginning to turn.

"I did say that."

"But then you changed your mind and told me you're bi."

"Yes," Quinn felt tense.

"Is…? Oh."

The disappointment in his voice was painful.

"Are you two…? Did you…? Um," he swallowed audibly, his voice hardening with his next sentence. The accusation was raw. "You cheated on me? With Santana?"

"Wait, no," Quinn stuttered. "Sam, no, I didn't."

"Then I'm… I'm so confused Quinn. First you say you want to talk about Santana. And then you said you aren't just friends. And now you're saying you're bi. Please just… Just say what you need to say. This is fucking killing me."

"I love you, Sam. You are too good for me," Quinn started.

"No. Don't do that."

"Do what?"

"Don't take away my choice."

"What?"

"You're gonna start monologing, and telling me I'm a good guy or whatever. And then you're going to say I deserve better and then you're gonna dump me. And that's just… that's messed up Quinn. Don't I get a say?"

"But you do deserve better," Quinn said defensively.

"Who knows what I deserve?! All I know is that I love you, and you love me, and… fuck, I'm not trying to quote Barney. I just… I think we should talk this out before you go making decisions for us. Because I think we're good together. What we have is good. And you said you didn't have sex with Santana so it's not like you—"

"I didn't say that," Quinn interjected.

"What?" Sam was taken aback.

"I didn't say I didn't have sex with Santana."

"But you said you didn't… that you didn't cheat on me."

"I didn't cheat on you," Quinn said. Not for lack of trying, however she kept that thought to herself.

"Ok, so you didn't cheat on me. But you… had sex with Santana?"

"Yeah," Quinn admitted, quietly.

"Quinn," Sam's voice was stern, and also very clearly hurt. "I don't know if it's your Midwest upbringing or what, but everywhere else in the country, having sex with someone who is not your boyfriend is the very definition of cheating."

"It was before we were together. Before I met you."

"Oh," he breathed, obviously growing exhausted from the constant changes in his emotions. He took a heavy breath and released it slowly.

"Were you two together? Or was it just sex? I'm so confused. She's your best friend…"

"She's my best friend," Quinn nodded, realizing how fucked up this all was. "I guess it was just sex, at first. We were never together, but she wanted to be. I might've wanted that too? I don't know. I might've just wanted to be close to someone who I respected, and who also respected me. And… then I met you. And you've been an absolute dream. But still, Santana was the first person I wanted to call after I met with Mercedes. I wanted to share that moment with her—share that success."

"Ok, so what does that mean? In this context, I mean."

"That I'm not over her," Quinn said, exasperated. She surprised herself with that statement. Could you need time to get over someone you were never truly with? Was that a thing?

Sam was silent.

"Sam?"

He didn't respond. Quinn could hear him breathing, but he wasn't speaking.

"Does she know?" he finally asked.

"Does she know what?"

"How you feel!"

"Why are you yelling?"

"Because you just told me you have feelings for your best friend! Who so happens to be a lesbian! Who you've slept with! Excuse me for yelling, but what the fuck, Quinn?!"

"Sam, I will hang up this goddamned phone if you don't stop," she hissed, tapping the screen aggressively to turn off the speakerphone. She held the phone to her ear. "Are you out of your mind?!"

"Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"Doing this! To me! Why are you doing this?"

"I just needed to tell someone. God, I needed to tell someone. And you… you're all I have right now."

Sam went quiet again. Then, "This is really cruel of you."

"What?"

"This is really cruel of you, Quinn. I… I don't even know what to say to you. How selfish can you be? Really?"

"I just thought you deserved the truth."

"To what end, Quinn? How would you like this to end? What do you want me to say? I love you, ok? And Santana is actually a really fucking cool person. And I get how you're attracted to her! She's hot. And smart. And… what am I? How can I compete with that?"

"Sam," the pity in Quinn's voice was telling.

"No, I get it. I just…"

"I chose you, Sam," she admitted. "Santana begged me to choose her and I chose you. I don't know what else to tell you."

"But you love her more. She matters more to you."

Quinn didn't respond.

"I just don't understand why you're with me when…"

The silence was thick and heavy. Quinn couldn't tell him why she'd chosen him. That it wasn't some intrinsic attribute of his that had tipped the scales. That it wasn't some inherent flaw in Santana. It was merely a result of circumstance. She was tired of strife. She was tired of difficulty and fear—of looking over her shoulder. Of waiting for the other shoe to drop. She was tired of terror.

She wanted something easy. Something easy and good. Something that wouldn't rot her further.

But wasn't this lie doing exactly that?

The truth was, she wanted to be with Santana Lopez.

She hadn't chosen Sam, not really. She'd chosen the status quo. She'd chosen the easy way out. But the easy way wasn't the honest way.

As she listened to the silence that had slowly solidified between herself and the man she had let heal her from the inside out, she knew that somehow, she'd still corrupted one of the only good things in her life.

"Sam, I'll be home tomorrow afternoon. And then we can talk, right? We can talk this through. Because that's what I want."

"Fine."

"Thank you," Quinn breathed, relief flooding her veins.

"I'll see you tomorrow," he said.

Quinn frowned, hesitating to hang up the call. Sam was too, apparently, as he remained on the line.

"See you tomorrow," she finally said. "Love you."

"Yeah, love you too."