|Living in a fairy tale
Author: Phoenix hemo PM
Santana is in need of a fiancé to get a dream job and Brittany is up for the challenge. But something funny happens on their way to the altar that breaks all the rules and changes the game. Falling in love was never part of the deal. Their little act fools everyone including themselves. When the midnight comes will the fairytale be over or will they live happily ever after?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Humor - Brittany P. & Santana L. - Chapters: 9 - Words: 30,798 - Reviews: 115 - Favs: 83 - Follows: 235 - Updated: 09-21-12 - Published: 08-23-12 - id: 8457660
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
OK so new story guys..based on a book i read when i was a teenager. G!P Santana. smut in later chapters. enjoy.
The storm raged outside, the light in the hallway flickered, and Santana Lopez cast a shadow over the mailboxes, but it didn't matter. She knew by heart what the card on the box above her said:
Brittany Pierce Apartment 1B
Stories Told, Ideas Illuminated Unreal but Not Untrue
Santana frowned at the card, positive it didn't belong on a mailbox in the dignified old house she shared with three other tenants. That was why she'd rented the apartment in the first place: it had dignity. Santana liked dignity the way she liked calm and control and quiet. It had taken her a long time to get all of those things into her life and into one apartment. Then she'd met her downstairs neighbor.
Her frown deepened as she remembered the first time she'd seen Brittany Pierce in the flesh, practically hissing at her as she shooed a cat away from her rebuilt black Porsche, her long blonde hair cascading around her face like sunshine. Later sightings hadn't improved her first impression, and the memory of them didn't improve her mood now. She wore short dresses in electric colors, and since she was tall, they were very short, and she was always glaring at Santana, her thin brows drawn together under that dumb blue velvet hat she wore pulled down around her ears even in the summer. She looked like somebody from Little House on the Prairie on acid, which was why Santana usually took care to ignore her.
But now, staring down at the card on her mailbox, appropriately back lit by the apocalyptic storm, she knew there was a possibility she might actually have to get to know her. And it was her own damn fault.
The thought gave her a headache, so she shoved her mail into her jacket pocket and went up the stairs to her apartment and her aspirin.
Downstairs, Brittany Pierce frowned too, and cocked her head to try to catch again the sound she'd heard. It had been something between a creaking door and a cat in trouble. She looked over at Charity to see if she was showing signs of life, but Charity was, as usual, a black velvet blob stretched out on the end table Brittany had rescued from a trash heap two streets over. The cat basked in the warmth from the cracked crystal lamp Brittany had found at Goodwill for a dollar. The three made a lovely picture, light and texture and color, silky fur and smooth wood and warm lamp glow. Unbelievably, fools had thrown away all three; sometimes the blindness of people just amazed Brittany.
"Hello?" The petite blonde across the chipped oak table from Brittany waved her hand. "You there? You have the gooniest look on your face."
"I thought I heard something," Brittany told her best friend. "Never mind. Where was I? Oh, yeah. I'm broke." She shrugged at Quinn across from her. "Nothing new."
"Well, you're depressed about it. That's new." Quinn took a sugar cookie from the plate in front of her and shoved the rest toward Brittany with one manicured hand, narrowly missing Brittany's stained glass lamp. The lamp was another find: blue, green, and yellow Tiffany pieces with a crack in one that had made it just possible for her to buy it. The crack had been the clincher for Brittany: with the crack, the lamp had a history, a story; it was real. Sort of like her hands, she tried to tell herself as she compared them to Quinn's. Blunt, paint-stained, no two nails the same length. Interesting. Real.
Quinn, as usual, had missed color and pattern completely and was still on words. "Also, you're the one who has to come up with the bucks for the feline senior cat chow. I should eat so good."
"Right." Brittany scrunched up her face. She hated thinking about money, which was probably why she hadn't had much for the past four years. "Maybe leaving teaching wasn't such a good idea."
Quinn straightened so fast, Charity opened an eye again.
"Are you kidding? This is new. I can't believe you're doubting yourself." She leaned across the table to stare into Brittany's piercing blue eyes. "Get a grip. Make some tea to go with these cookies. Tell me a story. Do something weird and unpractical so I'll know you're Brittany Pierce."
"Very funny." Brittany pushed her chair back and went to find tea bags and her beat-up copper teakettle. She was sure the tea bags were in one of the canisters on the shelf, but the kettle could be anywhere. She opened the bottom cupboard and started pawing through the pans, books, and paintbrushes that had somehow taken up housekeeping together.
"I'm not kidding." Quinn followed her to the sink. "I've known you for twelve years, and this is the first time I've heard you say you can't do something."
Brittany was so outraged at the thought that she pulled her head out of the cupboard without giving herself enough clearance and smacked herself hard. "Ouch." She rubbed her head through her hair. "I'm not saying I can't make it as an artist." Brittany stuck her head back into the cabinet and shoved aside her cookie sheets long enough to find her teakettle and yank it out. "I believe in myself. I just may have moved too fast." She got up and filled the kettle from the faucet.
"Well, it's not like you ever move slow." Quinn took down canisters one by one, finally finding the tea in a brown and silver square can. "Why did you put the tea in the can that says 'cocoa'? Never mind. Constant Comment or Earl Grey?"
"Earl Grey." Brittany put the kettle on the stove and turned up the heat. "This is a serious moment, and I need a serious tea."
"Which is why I'm drinking Constant Comment." Quinn waggled her slender fingers inside the canister and fished out two tea bags. "I have no serious moments."
"Well, pretend you're having one for me." Brittany sighed, envying Quinn's optimism. Of course, Quinn hadn't quit a safe and solid teaching job to become a painter, or spent the past four years living on her savings until she didn't have any. Brittany felt her head pound. "Quinn, I don't think I can do this anymore. I'm tired of scraping to pay my bills, and I'm tired of trying to sell my paintings to people who don't understand what I'm doing, and I'm tired—" She bit her lip. "I'm so tired of worrying about everything." That was the thing, really; she was worn down from the uncertainty. Like water on a rock; that was what the edge of poverty did to you.
"So what are you going to do?" Quinn asked, but somewhere there was a faint sound, half screech and half meow, and Brittany cocked her head again instead of answering.
"I swear I hear a cat crying," she told Quinn. "Listen. Do you hear anything?"
Quinn paused and then shook her head. "Uh-uh. Your water's starting to boil. Maybe that's it."
Brittany took the kettle off while Quinn took down two mismatched cups and saucers, plunking her Constant Comment tea bag in a Blue Willow cup and Brittany's Earl Grey in the bright orange Fiestaware. Brittany poured the hot water over the bags and said, "Pretty" as the tea color spread through the cups.
"Forget the pretty tea B." Quinn picked up her cup and carried it back to the table. "You're in crisis here. You're out of money and you can't sell your paintings. How's the storytelling going?"
"Budget cuts." Brittany sat down across from her with her own cup and saucer. "Most libraries can't afford me, and it's a slow time for bookstores, and forget schools entirely. They all say I'm very popular and they'll use me again as soon as possible, but in the meantime I'm out of luck."
"Okay." Quinn crinkled her nose as she thought. "How else were you making money? Oh, the jewelry. What about the jewelry?"
Brittany winced with guilt. "That's selling, but Dustin won't give me the money until the end of the month. And he owes me from the end of last month, but he's holding on to that too. It's not that much, about a hundred, but it would help." She knew she should go in and demand her jewelry money, but the thought of Dustin sneering at her wasn't appealing. He looked so much like her father that it was like every summer she'd ever spent with him condensed into two minutes.
Quinn frowned at her. "So how much do you need? To keep the wolf from the door, I mean."
Brittany sighed. "About a thousand. Last month's rent, this month's rent, and expenses. That would get me to when Dustin pays and then maybe something else would turn up." That sounded pathetic, so she took a deep breath and started again. "The thing is, I quit so I could paint, but I'm spending all my time trying to support myself instead of concentrating on my work. I thought I'd have a show by now, but nobody understands what I'm doing. And even though I almost have enough paintings for a show, I'm not sure what I'm doing is right for who am I now anyway."
Quinn sipped her tea. "Ouch. Hot. Blow on yours first. What do you mean, you're not sure what you're doing is right? I love your paintings. All those details."
"Well, that's it." Brittany shoved her tea away to lean closer. "I like the details too, but I've done them. I think I need to stretch, to try things that are harder for me, but I can't afford to. I'm building my reputation on primitive narrative paintings; I can't suddenly become an abstract expressionist."
Quinn made a face. "That's what you want to do?"
"No." Brittany shut her eyes, trying to see the paintings she wanted to do, paintings with the emotions in the brushstrokes instead of in the tiny painted details, thick slashes of paint instead of small, rich dots. "I need to work larger. I need—"
The mewling cry that had teased her earlier came again, louder. "That is definitely a cat," Brittany said, and went to open the window.
The wind exploded in and stirred Brittany's apartment into even more chaos than usual. Charity rolled to her feet and meowed her annoyance, but Brittany ignored her and leaned out into the storm.
Two bright eyes stared up at her from under the bush beneath her window.
"You stay right there," she told them, and ran for the apartment door.
"Brittany?" Quinn called after her, but she let the door bang behind her and ran out into the rain. Whatever it was had vanished, and Brittany got down on her hands and knees in the mud to peer under the bush.
A kitten peered back, soaked and mangy and not at all happy to see her. Brittany reached for it and got clawed for her pains. "I'm rescuing you, dummy," she told it when she'd hauled it out from under the bush and it was squirming against her. "Stop fighting me."
Once inside, she wrapped the soaked little body in a dish towel while Quinn and Charity looked at it with equal distaste.
"It looks like a rat," Quinn said. "I can't believe it. You rescued a rat."
Charity hissed, and when Brittany toweled the kitten dry, it hissed too.
"It's a calico kitten." Brittany got down on her knees so she could go eye to eye with the towel-wrapped little animal on the table. "You're okay now."
The mottled kitten glared at her and screeched its meow with all the melody of a fingernail down a blackboard.
"Just what you needed. Another mouth to feed," Quinn said, and the kitten screeched at her too. "And what a mouth it is." Quinn shot a sympathetic look at Charity. "If you want to come live with me, I understand," she told the cat. "I know you're legally dead, but even you must draw the line at living with a rat."
Charity glared at the kitten one more time and then curled up under the light and went back to sleep.
"A kitten doesn't eat much," Brittany said, and went to get food. She found a can of tuna on the shelf over the stove, stuck behind her copy of Grimms' fairy tales, a jar of crimson acrylic paint, and her cinnamon. She took down the can and called back to Quinn. "Want some tuna?"
"No. I just came over to bring you the cookies, and then I got distracted." Quinn and the kitten looked at each other with equal distaste. "You know, this is not a happy rat."
"Stop it, Quinn." Brittany dumped the tuna onto a china plate covered with violets, scooped a third of it into a half round of pita bread, and divided the remaining two thirds between Charity's red cat dish and a yellow Fiestaware saucer. She took the dishes back to her round oak table, dropping Charity's red bowl in front of her as she went. Charity was so enthusiastic about the tuna, she sat up. Brittany put the yellow saucer in front of the kitten and stopped to admire the violets on her plate next to the complementary color of the Fiestaware. Color and contrast, she thought. Clash. That's what life is about.
"Brittany," Quinn said. "I know you're going to freak when I say this, but I can loan you a thousand dollars. I want to loan you a thousand dollars. Please."
Brittany froze and then turned to face her friend. Quinn stood beside the table in the light from the stained glass lamp, looking fragile and cautious and sympathetic, and Brittany loved her for the offer as much as she was angry that the offer had been made. "No. I can make it."
Quinn bit her lip. "Then let me buy a painting. You know how I feel about the Lizzie Borden painting. Let me—"
"Quinn, you already own three of my paintings." Brittany turned back to the cat. "Enough charity already."
"It's not charity." Quinn's voice was intense. "I bought those paintings because I loved them. And I—"
"No." Brittany picked up the plate with her pita on it. "Want some tuna? I can cut this in half."
"No." Quinn sighed. "No, I have papers to grade." She shoved her chair under the table and looked at Brittany regretfully. "If you ever need my help, you know it's there."
"I know." Brittany sat down next to the kitten, trying to concentrate on it instead of on Quinn's offer. "If you come across an easy way to make a thousand bucks, let me know."
Quinn nodded. "I'll try to remember that." The kitten screeched again, and she retreated to the door. "Teach that cat to shut up, will you? Schuester is not going to be amused if he finds out you're keeping a cat in his apartment building. The only reason Charity gets by is that she's ninety-eight percent potted plant."
Once Quinn had gone, Brittany got down on her knees next to the table so she could look the kitten in the eye. "Look, I know we just met," she told the cat. "But trust me on this, you have to eat. I know you've had a rough childhood, but so did I, and I eat. Besides, from now on you're a Pierce cat. And Pierces don't quit. Eat the tuna, and you can stay."
Brittany picked up a tiny piece of tuna and held it under the kitten's nose. The kitten licked the tuna and then took it carefully in its mouth.
"See?" Brittany scratched gently behind the kitten's ears. "Poor baby. You're just an orphan of the storm. Little Orphan Annie. But now you're with me."
Little Orphan Annie struggled farther out of the towel and began to eat, slowly at first and then ravenously. Brittany pushed the unruly fuzz of her hair back behind her ears as she watched the kitten, and then she began to eat her pita.
"You're going to have to lie low," she told the kitten. "I'm not allowed to have pets, so we'll have to hide you from the landlord. And from the girl upstairs too. dark-haired girl in a suit. No sense of humor. Flares her nostrils and scowls a lot. You can't miss her. She kicked Charity once. She looks like she has cats like you for breakfast."
The kitten finished the tuna and licked its chops, its orange and brown fur finally a little drier but still spiky.
"Maybe you're an omen." Brittany stroked her fingers lightly down the kitten's back while it moved on to cleaning the plate. "Maybe this means things will be better. Maybe…"
She began to tell herself the story again, the story of her new life, the one she'd been building for the past four years. She'd given up security to follow her dream, so of course she had to face years of adversity first—four was about right—because without adversity and struggle no story was really a story. Now the next chapter would be her paintings finally selling, and maybe her storytelling career suddenly taking off too. And a prince or a princess would be good. Somebody nice and warm to keep her company. It had been seven months since Artie had moved out—taking her stereo, the creep—and she was about ready to trust somebody again.
Not marry anyone, certainly; she'd already seen what that part of the fairy tale could do to women. Look at her mother. The thought of her mother depressed her, but Annie abandoned the empty plate and began to lick the dampness from her fur, and the scratchy sound brought Brittany back to earth.
Forget the fairytale. Stories were all well and good, but princes weren't stories, they were impossible. Brittany had known that from the time she'd realized that her mother's promises that her father would be back were a bigger fairy tale than anything the Brothers Grimm had ever spun out. Nobody was ever there when you needed someone. You're born alone and you die alone, Brittany told herself. Remember that. Now think of something to get yourself out of this.
Annie curled up and went to sleep. Charity licked up the last of the tuna and fell unconscious with pleasure. Brittany sat silently for a long time, staring at the patterns in her stained glass lamp.
Upstairs, Santana stretched out on her chrome and black leather couch, bathed in the cool light from her white enameled track lighting, her headache receding but her troubles intact. It didn't help that the mess she was in was her own fault.
Santana winced. She wasn't a liar; she couldn't ever remember lying before. But she also couldn't remember anything she'd ever wanted as much as she wanted to teach history at quiet, private Prescott College. And she hadn't lied about anything important in her interview for the job: her credentials were all real and impressive, and her goals were honest and good.
Santana closed her eyes. Rationalization. None of that mattered. She'd lied. The memory of her interview came back in painful detail. Dr. Grey, dean of humanities, and Dr. Harper, head of the history department, had interviewed her. Dr. Grey looked like a retired southern cop: big, beery, genial, with an overall air of stupidity. He wore a bow tie in what Santana thought of as a feeble attempt at an academic look. Dr. Harper needed no such camouflage. He looked as if the moisture had slowly seeped out of him over the years, leaving only a dried-up little shell behind horn-rimmed glasses. Santana's dreams of a department headship had begun when she saw that Harper was older than God.
And things had gone well at first. They'd been impressed with her credentials, impressed with her first book, published four years before, impressed with her demeanor, and just impressed with her in general. She knew she was good; she'd sacrificed for years to make sure that she was good, that she'd published in the right places and presented at the right conferences, that her background was above reproach, that she always did and said the right thing. And now the only question was, would they think she was good enough? But that hadn't been the question. The question that Dr. Grey, his fat lips pursing, had asked was "Are you married, Dr. Lopez?"
"No." And then she'd seen the look on Grey's face: regret. Santana hadn't made it as far as she had in a very competitive profession by being slow. "But I'm engaged," she'd finished. Then she'd had a stroke of what at the time had seemed like genius. "Prescott would be the perfect place for us. My girlfriend and I've been waiting to get married until I was established so we could raise our children the old-fashioned way."
Grey didn't just thaw, she blossomed. "Excellent, excellent. Old-fashioned values. You'll definitely be hearing from us again, Dr. Lopez."
Dr. Harper had sniffed.
And Santana had wondered if she was losing her mind. It was bad enough that she'd created a fiancee; she'd really sent herself to hell when she'd babbled about mythical children. And the weird part was, it seemed so true while she'd been saying it. Not the fiancee part, but the idea of settling down with some elegant little woman and reproducing in a small town. The pictures had been there in her head, sunny scenes of neat lawns and well-behaved children in well-ironed shorts. You're pathetic, Lopez, she'd told herself at the time. And you lied. God's going to make you pay for that. You'll probably get struck by lightning.
But as it turned out, it wasn't lightning that slugged her from behind, but Grey. She'd been invited to speak to the faculty on her research, the standard jobtalk audition for a college position. And, Grey had written, make sure you bring your fiancee.
Right. Santana punished herself with the thought of it and drank more beer. She deserved this. If Prescott wouldn't take her on her own very considerable merits, she should have just let them go. There were other schools. And once she finished the book she was working on—
But she couldn't finish the book. Not at the city university, where she was now, not while teaching three awful, mind-numbing classes. To finish the book she needed someplace like Prescott. And to get Prescott she needed a plan.
Santana shifted on the couch. She actually had two plans. One was to show up without a fiancee and probably not get the job. That one had the benefit of honesty and not much else. The other was to convince somebody to pose as her fiancee, and then if she got the job, she could tell the people at Prescott that the engagement was off. They couldn't take the appointment back. As a plan it wasn't great, which was why she'd put it out of her mind until three days before the interview, but as the deadline approached, it became more attractive. It beat not getting Prescott.
All she needed was a woman who was reasonably bright and reasonably attractive in a sedate sort of way who was willing to lie through her teeth and then quietly disappear. Her first thought had been Quinn in the apartment downstairs. They'd had a brief affair and parted friends. She would probably do it, she knew, but she'd make a mess of it. Quinn was too sharp-looking and too sharp-tongued. She needed a…a wifely-looking woman. A Little House on the Prairie kind of woman. A woman who could lie without batting an eye.
No, she thought, but logically, she was her best hope. Stories told, her card said, so truth was not one of her virtues. And Quinn had said she was bisexual, and she trusted Quinn's judgment if not her restraint. Brittany Pierce was about six inches taller than she was, with a slim and slender body; if she put her in one of those cocktail dresses, Grey might go for it. Since Brittany seemed to hate her for some reason, she'd probably have to be in desperate need of money before she'd agree to spend any amount of time with her, but she didn't look rich. Desperation could drive a person to do things he or she would never contemplate ordinarily.
I should know, Santana thought gloomily, and stared at the ceiling. Make a note to call Quinn about the Pierce woman, she told herself, and then realized that she didn't have time to make notes. It was Tuesday. She was due in Prescott on Friday. She felt dizzy for a moment, and realized it was because she was holding her breath, her response to tension for as far back as she could remember. "Breathe, Lopez," her soccer coach had yelled at her in high school the first time she'd passed out during a game. "You gotta keep breathing if you want to play the game."
She inhaled sharply through her nose and then stretched out her hand for the phone and punched in Quinn's number.
Five minutes later, Santana was listening to Quinn laugh herself sick. "You told them what?" she gasped at her when she could talk. "I can't believe it."
"Knock it off Fabray," Santana said. "It's not funny. This is my career at stake here."
"And we all know that's more important to you than any of your body parts." Quinn snickered. "I love this. You want me to be the little woman S? No problem. I'll get one of those dweeby little dresses—"
"No." Santana broke in before Quinn could get too attached to the idea. "I need a professional liar, somebody who won't start giggling when the chips are down."
"Brittany." Quinn's voice went up a notch in approval. "She's wonderful, absolutely trustworthy."
"Except she tells lies for a living."
"She tells stories," Quinn corrected Santana with some heat. "Unreal but not untrue, that's what Brittany says. And anyway, it's not like you're lily-white here, bud. You're the one who created the Little Woman Who Could."
Santana exhaled in frustration.
"I can't believe you lied in the first place," Quinn went on. "I would have said it wasn't possible. You really are a stick-in-the-mud, but maybe this will break you out of that rut—"
Santana glared at the phone. "I like my rut. I have to go Q. Good-bye."
"Because you really are solidifying before my eyes—" Quinn said, and she hung up.
Oh, God. She let her head fall back against the leather chair back. Three days and no fiancee. She was in big trouble, and her only hope was a nutcake. There had to be a better way. The last thing she needed was to pin all her hopes for the future on Brittany Pierce.
She got up and got herself another beer.
Brittany spent the next morning trying to drum up work and failing miserably. When she got home, the kitten had escaped and was sitting on the doorstep waiting for her. So was the landlord, a man Quinn called Grumpy Schuester. Oh, no, Brittany thought, and then straightened her shoulders and went to save her cat, marching past the dark-haired latina from upstairs who was washing her nasty black car. Brittany disliked her car almost as much as she disliked her; it looked like something Darth Vader would drive.
Schuester pointed at the kitten as if it were a cockroach. "That's a cat."
"Yes, I know." Brittany took a deep breath and then smiled at him. Brittany knew she was charming, God had given her something better than beauty—a glowing, wide-mouthed, man-melting smile, courtesy of her mother and a long line of native dutch women who'd dazzled their way through history. It was her best physical weapon and it never failed her. It didn't now.
Schuester smirked at her.
Behind her she heard the cat kicker turn off the water just in time for Annie to tear out one of her ungodly meows.
Schuester flinched. "Brittany, you're a month behind on the rent, and you're not allowed to have pets."
"I know." Brittany pumped out more wattage on her smile. "You know I'll pay the rent. I've lived here for eight years, and I've never let you down, have I?"
Schuester closed his eyes. "No, but the cat—"
"I'm only keeping the cat until its owners get back," Brittany said truthfully, since she was sure Annie's owner would never get back to this apartment house. "It's a very valuable cat, you know." She dropped her voice to make Schuester a conspirator with her. "One of a kind. An Alizarin Crimson. Very unusual voice. Don't tell anyone, or there'll be catnappers all over the place." Schuester blinked and she let her voice go back up to its natural register. "I'm sure Quinn won't mind, and the people upstairs will never know. It's such a little cat."
"But they do know," Schuester said. "Dr. Lopez knows. She's right here."
Brittany turned to look at the cat kicker. She was short and petite but there was something about her that made her as threatening as she'd told Annie, her hair thick and black and her eyes dark and intense. She leaned on the car watching them, and she didn't look angry, she looked calculating.
Brittany went for it. "Do you mind, Dr. Lopez?" She hit the latina with her smile in the best tradition of her ancestresses.
Santana blinked. And then she grinned at her. It wasn't the usual feeble smirk that men gave her after she'd blasted them, it was a wide-awake grin. Brittany felt something stir inside her at the sight . "I don't mind at all, Miss Pierce. It's an honor to have an Alizarin Crimson in the building."
Brittany felt uneasy, but she wasn't about to look a gift jerk in the mouth, even if she did kick cats. "Thank you, Dr. Lopez. That's very sweet of you." She smiled at the latina again, and Santana's own smile widened.
"I'll have the rent for you soon," she promised Schuester, and he went off, shaking his head.
Brittany scooped up the kitten and turned to go, but the cat kicker called her back. "Could I have a word with you, Miss Pierce?"
I knew it, Brittany told herself. It was too good to be true. She took a deep breath and turned back, smiling her brains out, prepared to do whatever she had to do to keep Annie from becoming an orphan again.