|Set the World on Fire
Author: Cora709 PM
For six months Santana has been living in New York City with Kurt and Rachel, but now Brittany has received her diploma and is finally coming to join them. Can new relationships accommodate old ones? And can the past ever really be recaptured?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Friendship - Santana L. & Brittany P. - Chapters: 13 - Words: 259,791 - Reviews: 1,023 - Favs: 1,149 - Follows: 1,246 - Updated: 02-07-13 - Published: 01-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7790714
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's note - just want to point out that I'm posting three chapters for this first installment. It was supposed to be one, but it grew to be so massive that I decided to split it up. I still think of it as one unit, though.
This fic is sort of my vision of what I wanted the Glee spin-off to be like. Since we now know that's not going to happen, and since it's not clear whether the characters are going to NYC or not, I decided to take a stab at my own version. It's primarily a Brittana fic, but the Kurt/Santana/Rachel trio is also very important to me. (And I'll never forgive the show for not capitalizing on the comedy potential in those 3 playing off each other.)
I've spent an enormous amount of time on this already, so please review if you can, because I'm curious to know how many people would even want to see it continue. I realize the concept and this particular grouping of characters isn't exactly the norm, so I hope I'm not the only one who likes the idea of them together.
Thanks so much for reading!
Six months. That was how long it had been. Six months, two weeks, and four days since she'd last seen Brittany. Six months, two weeks, four days, and... Santana glanced at the clock as she plumped up the couch cushions one more time. Five hours. Not that she was counting.
Because she was an adult now, she reminded herself for what felt like the hundredth time today. A mature, independent woman who was living on her own in the big city, or sort of on her own anyway, and she needed that to be obvious to Brittany when she got here. To seem too eager or too worried about appearances would be to screw up the agreement they'd made regarding their relationship when this visit had been planned, the agreement to take things slow, one day at a time. Tentatively. Casually. Be casual, damn it, she commanded herself, wringing her hands.
On a last-minute check of the living room, she placed an empty vase in the center of the coffee table, then stepped back and examined it with a critical eye. She switched it to an end table instead and walked to the other side of the room, looking at it from that angle. Then she realized she was behaving like a lunatic and that nobody would give a damn where the vase was, especially since the flowers weren't even here yet. (But just in case, she moved it back to the coffee table. Casually.)
Now she stood still and looked around the small living room of the apartment, forcing herself to take a deep breath to steady her nerves. It was almost time. Brittany could be here any minute now. After an entire day of getting things ready, cleaning the place, trying to make it look less small and unimpressive than it really was, making sure every last detail was perfect... it was finally time.
Unable to resist the urge any longer, she went to the front window and looked down four stories into the street below, checking for the station wagon that dorky jazz band guy drove. Jeff. Or John. Jasper? Something like that. She'd never really bothered to learn their names. But apparently Jeff or John or whatever had been headed to New York at the same time as Brittany, and so being the chivalrous type of nerd that he was, he'd offered to bring her along if she helped pay for gas and promised not to make him listen to Ke$ha. Santana resolutely quenched the idea that the guy had had some ulterior motive in suggesting this road trip. That was the old her, the possessive, insecure Santana. Not the new and improved grown-up.
Because it wasn't like she had any right to be jealous, anyway. They weren't together. Not in that sense, not anymore. In fact, they'd both been in other relationships during the past half a year they'd been apart. As for what would happen now, now that Brittany had earned her diploma after an extra semester at McKinley and was finally arriving in the city... she had no idea. She didn't even know for sure if she was staying, or if it was just a visit. They'd agreed that it was a trial run. That was why Santana had made up the sofa bed in the living room yesterday, even though it had broken her heart just a little bit to know they'd be sleeping in separate rooms. But still, she knew it was the smart way to go. They had so much catching up to do. Six months was a long time to be apart. If she was honest with herself, sometimes it felt more like six years.
It was just that so much had happened. Beginning, of course, with the confusing, melancholy way the two of them had parted. Even now, she didn't know quite what to make of their last face-to-face conversation. She started to play it back in her head again, but before she could make any progress, she heard a distant echo of voices, and then footsteps clomping up the stairs. She tensed for a second, hopeful. Had she missed the car? But the voices became clearer as they moved down the hallway. And unfortunately, these two in particular were all too familiar. It was just them. Shit. She'd been hoping Brittany would get here first, so they could have at least a few minutes to themselves. But of course not. Not with her luck.
Now the voices were approaching the door, still muffled, but loud and argumentative.
"Kurt, it's not that I'm denying your considerable expertise on the subject, it's just that clearly Mandy Patinkin's most memorable role was Che in the original run of Evita. It's an iconic part."
"I'm not going to debate your obviously clichéd definition of iconic, but Sunday in the Park with George is without a doubt his superior performance. The character's name is in the title. What more do you want?"
"He won a Tony for Evita! How can you argue with that?"
"Oh Rachel," Kurt said in a breezy, smug way as the door swung open. "Your opinions are downright adorable in their wrongness." They moved from the front entryway into the living room, and noticing her standing by the window and staring at them with badly suppressed irritation, Kurt added, "Let's ask Santana."
She pounced on this opportunity with a lethal glint in her eyes. "You know what, that is a super idea. Let's ask Santana. Because I'm guessing you two scenery-chewers are talking about something Broadway-related, right?" She ambled toward them with her arms crossed, enjoying the chance to blow off some steam. "Like for example which role was slightly gayer than the other? Or maybe which musical would be least likely to make an audience want to stab Q-tips doused with gasoline into their ears, and then light them on fire just to make it stop? Well let me break it down for you, Lucy and Ethel, because it turns out you're right, I can settle this debate for you. Whatever piece of obscure theater lameness it is that you're arguing about? The answer is, they both sucked. So yayyyy, you both win, and now you can shut up about it!"
Rachel rolled her eyes, unbuttoning her coat in a weary manner as she waited out the storm. "I take it Brittany isn't here yet?"
Santana drew in a deep breath to recover from her rant. As always, she felt a little better afterwards. She moved back over toward the window. "It's only ten after five. She said between five and six."
"Well, it's a good thing you're not watching the clock," Kurt tossed off in a casual manner, receiving a glare in response.
She checked the street again. Still nothing. Biting her lip, she forced down a sigh of impatience. Then, looking around the room, her eye snagged on the empty vase. "Rachel, where are the flowers?"
In the middle of hanging her coat up in the front closet, Rachel's hand froze. "Oh no," she said in a small voice.
Santana came back toward her, already livid. "You have got to be fucking kidding me. The one thing I asked you to do!"
"Look, I can explain!" she said, backing up to put some distance between them. "It's a funny story, really. I was on my way to the florist's when I passed a group of Catholic schoolgirls in the park, singing Rihanna songs to their boyfriends from the top of a picnic table. They definitely had potential, but their breathing was all wrong, and their dancing wasn't so much sexy as... pornographic. So, being a champion of the arts like I am, I stopped to give them some pointers. Anyway, one thing led to another, and to make a long story short..."
"Too late," Kurt muttered.
"I ended up doing some of the songs myself," she went on. "And I think they really appreciated the lesson. It's true, they stuck gum on my purse, and I think one of them may have called me something bad in Chinese. But later, when they think back on it, I'm confident my advice will sink in and make a difference in their lives." She finished up with an expression of beatific self-sacrifice. You could practically see the halo. "After all, Santana, what's more important? A bouquet of flowers that'll just wilt and die, or the opportunity to share my talent with a new generation of performers?"
Santana continued to stare at her in baffled outrage for a few more seconds, and then she lunged. With cat-like quickness Kurt caught her around the waist to hold her back, just as Rachel ducked away and darted behind the couch to use it as a barricade. It was like a perfectly choreographed ballet they'd enacted countless times.
"I wonder how you're gonna like performing without teeth, Saint Rihanna, because I am about to get all up in your face!" But Kurt kept a firm grip on her. Due to these frequent outbursts, his upper body strength was increasing. It was a strange way to build muscle tone, but effective.
"All right, all right!" Rachel held her hands up in a placating gesture. "I'll go back to the florist now, okay? Will that make you happy?"
"No, it won't make me happy, because they're closed, you idiot! I told you they closed at five."
"Santana..." Rachel shut her eyes briefly, resting her hands on the back of the couch. "I'm sorry. I got distracted. I don't know what else to say!"
She felt the venom drain out of her, to be replaced by simple disappointment. "You are unbelievable, you know that?"
Kurt tentatively dropped his arms, staying close just in case things escalated again. "To be fair," he said, "while I agree that Rachel's self-centeredness is astronomical, is this really any worse than the time we missed the Jersey Shore marathon because someone stole the cable money and bought forty dollar nail polish?"
Damn it, why did he have to bring that up? Santana avoided eye contact with them both as she smoothed her rumpled shirt down, a little sheepish now, but trying to maintain her dignity. "How many times do I have to apologize for that?
"You never apologized for that," Rachel couldn't help pointing out.
"It was more of a rhetorical question," she muttered, examining her nails, which still looked amazing. That polish was so worth it.
"My point is," Kurt went on, "We've all done things we're not proud of."
"I've got it!" Rachel exclaimed now, her face lighting up with an idea. "I'll cook dinner for everyone. To make up for the flowers. Brittany would like that, right?" And without waiting for an answer, she headed into the kitchen, as if fleeing the scene of the crime.
"We're not eating any of your vegan shit!" Santana called after her. And in a strange way, she got a thrill just from saying the word "we" in relation to herself and Brittany. It had been so long. We're going to be a 'we' again, she realized. At least for a little while. And if things worked out, maybe longer.
But it was dangerous to think that far ahead, so she stopped herself. The mature thing to do, she reminded herself again, was to take it one day at a time. She turned her attention back to the window. The street below was empty in a way it hardly ever was, almost as if it was mocking her. She noticed Kurt out of the corner of her eye still hanging around, and prayed he would retreat to his room, or go keep Rachel company in the kitchen and leave her the hell alone. But no such luck. Instead he pulled out a fresh copy of the New York Times, settling down on the couch and flipping on the lamp beside it.
This ostentatious reading of the newspaper was one of his new habits, and she halfway suspected he did it on purpose in a way best suited to annoy her. First he unfolded the thing and shook it out, the crackle of the sheets filling the silence of the room and making her cringe, especially since her nerves were already on edge. Then he held it out at arms' length, turned his nose up, crossed his legs prissily, and stared at it. All he needed was a pipe and a velvet smoking jacket to complete the picture. He even turned the pages in a showy way. In the past she'd wondered why he didn't just read it online like everyone else who wasn't senile yet, but now she realized it was because the online edition wouldn't give him such a perfect opportunity to behave like a snooty asshat.
"Are you actually even reading that?" she finally sneered, when there was still no sign of the car below and she couldn't take it any longer. "Or are you just trying to become the most boring performance artist in the history of time?"
He turned another page, and without acknowledging her remark, asked, "Why don't you just call her and see how close she is?"
She looked away and waited a few seconds before answering. "I've already called her six times. I don't want to seem paranoid."
Kurt made no response to this, though somehow he managed to turn even silence into sardonic judgment.
Knowing she shouldn't, she checked the clock again. 5:23. Where the hell was she? Maybe they'd stopped to eat dinner somewhere. Maybe they would bring take-out for everyone. That would serve Rachel right, if no one touched her meal. It would probably suck anyway. Most of her food looked like raw sewage and didn't smell much better.
By now it was dark enough outside that Santana could see her own image in the glass of the window, the reflection cast by the lamp behind her. What she saw provided one more source of anxiety. "Kurt," she said with a sense of urgency, getting up and standing in front of him. "My hair's doing that thing again."
He glanced up at her. "I can see that. Probably happened when you launched yourself at Rachel." He went back to reading.
"Well? Fix it!"
He sighed heavily and lowered the paper. "Why do I always have to be the one to fix it?"
"Because. That's what you're here for. You're like, my fairy godbrother. Now get off your ass and use your magic wand on me." She headed toward the bathroom and then stopped, amused at herself. "Is it just me, or does that sound so wanky?"
With obvious reluctance, he stood and followed her. "It does when you say it."
In the tiny bathroom, she hopped up onto the sink counter. While Kurt rummaged around in a drawer for whatever it was he needed to restore her to hotness, she examined her surroundings critically, trying to see it through a newcomer's eyes. Had it always been this drab and depressing? How had she gotten used to this?
"We should get a new shower curtain."
"What's wrong with it?" He squeezed a dollop of gel into his hand and began working it into her hair.
"It's gray. It looks like a cast-off from a Soviet orphanage. God only knows what kind of microbes are breeding in it. I mean, that Kurt Cobain look-alike you brought home last weekend? I'm pretty sure it was the first time in months he'd been exposed to indoor plumbing."
"Brittany is not coming to New York to see our shower curtain, Santana. She's coming to see you. Hold your head straight."
"I know that." She angled her chin up, trying to keep it level so he could work his magic. "I just... want things to be nice." In a quieter voice that she hoped didn't sound too pathetic, she added, "I really want her to like it here."
Kurt's expression softened, and he seemed on the verge of saying something reassuring, but before he could manage it, they heard quick footsteps coming down the hall. Rachel appeared in the doorway, her lips compressed in a thin line. She wrung her hands nervously against the hideous frilly apron she wore. Her entire demeanor indicated a person who had been preparing for a role her entire life, but who now at the last minute had developed unaccountable stage fright. Either that, or she just really needed to pee. They stared at her, waiting.
"What?" Kurt finally demanded, when she still hadn't said anything.
"Just... don't freak out, Santana. Try to stay calm. Deep breaths."
Naturally, these words caused her heart to start pounding and a sickening jolt to pass through her entire body. "What are you talking about?"
"Your phone battery must be dead," Rachel continued. "They've been trying to call you. I'm not exactly sure how they got my new number... maybe..."
"Rachel, just say it!" Kurt snapped. Santana was grateful, because she wasn't sure she could have spoken at all.
Stepping forward into the already crowded bathroom, Rachel spoke directly to Santana. "They had car trouble. Brittany and John. They're staying at a motel in New Jersey."
She waited, but that seemed to be all. "So she's okay?"
"Of course she is, she's fine. It's just that... she won't be here tonight. I knew you'd be upset."
Santana took a deep breath and let it out, closing her eyes for a second in relief. She wasn't sure whether she wanted to hug Rachel or throttle her.
"Jesus H. Christ, Debbie Downer!" Kurt said. "You don't preface an announcement about car trouble with the words 'Try to stay calm.'"
"Well, I'm sorry," she said defensively. "I'm not used to delivering bad news. People usually want me to deliver good news. Sometimes through song."
While they were sniping at each other, Santana let the full meaning of the information sink in, and now she felt herself transition from a state of relief to one of simple disappointment. Brittany wasn't coming. After an entire day of waiting, after hours spent getting everything ready... she wasn't coming at all. Suddenly all the excitement and nervous tension of the day drained away from her, and she felt exhausted.
Rachel added, "She said she'll almost definitely be here tomorrow, as soon as they can get the car fixed. And she said to tell you she's sorry. And to charge your phone."
"Yeah. Whatever. I mean, it's no big deal," Santana said unconvincingly. "It's just one more day, right?" She tried not to let them see how deflated she felt. She slid down off the sink and turned around, pretending to be occupied with putting the gel back in the medicine cabinet, but in the mirror she could see the two of them exchange concerned glances behind her back, and she hated that. They looked like the parents of an unpredictable toddler wondering whether to expect a tantrum.
Kurt held up a styling brush, questioningly. "Do you still want me to..."
"No," she said, pushing past him into the hall. "Forget it. It doesn't matter." She headed toward her tiny cell of a bedroom, wanting only to be left alone.
"You know," Rachel's voice followed her, in a tone that indicated she was trying to cheer her up. "It's a good thing I didn't get the flowers after all. They might have been dead by the time she got here."
Not bothering to give any kind of response to this, she shut her door to the sound of Kurt hissing in a stage whisper, "Really, Rachel?"
Now, finally, she was alone. She stood against the door for a few seconds, reminding herself like she'd been doing all day that she was an adult. An adult didn't retreat to her bedroom and sulk when she got disappointing news. An adult didn't curl up in a self-pitying ball on her bed, the way she was doing now. An adult most certainly didn't bury her head in the pile of pillows and try desperately not to cry, torturing herself with thoughts of the one person she longed to see and touch more than anyone else in the world, and whom she was irrationally afraid that fate or God or simply indifferent chance was going to keep from her, forever. A true adult wouldn't do any of those things.
Then what would they do in this situation? she wondered. The mature thing. The rational thing. Which would be to get up and turn some lights on, first, so that the lurid neon glow of the pizza place across the street wasn't the only thing illuminating the room. Then, probably, to put her phone on the charger. And then maybe to go and help with dinner. And after all that, to go to bed early and get some sleep, so that she could get up and live this entire day over again tomorrow, hopefully with a better outcome.
She considered this course of action. She almost even convinced herself to do it. Then, instead, she grabbed her iPod, kicked off her shoes, and pulled the covers up and all the way over her head, giving in to the tears. Fuck it. Tomorrow, she would seriously start acting like an adult. When Brittany got here, for sure. No doubt about it. But just for tonight, she was more than okay with still being a teenager.