Fic: In All The Many Worlds I Have Loved You [Part 1/4]
Pairings: Brittany S. Pierce/Santana Lopez, very minor mentions Santana/OCs, Santana/Dani
Spoilers: Spoilers up to 4x22 "All or Nothing" and slight 5x12/5x13 spoilers if you squint.
Summary: She never thought that she'd have this. She shouldn't be having this. This wish was nothing but a pipe dream.
Notes: Fic #4 of Operation Word Explosion
It's over!: Santana Lopez and her dancer girlfriend call it quits!
Santana Lopez is back on the market.
The pop princess and her choreographer and So You Think You Can Dance! alum girlfriend Cleo Cooper have reportedly broken up after two years together. Sources close to the pair tell us "things between them have been strained for a while. Santana has been so busy the last year and Cleo is branching out. They've drifted apart!" A rep for the singer declined to comment.
Lopez and Cooper met three years ago during Lopez's first world tour and became a couple during a six month long promotional tour for her second album a year later. Cooper appeared smitten with the singer and was overheard telling press at last years Grammy's that she "would marry her in a heartbeat if she asked".
Lopez, on the other hand, has always been much more coy. "[Cleo]'s fun to be around," She said during a Rolling Stone interview last September. "Plus, she's a hard worker. We have a good time."
The multi platinum-selling singer has had a string of relationships with both men and women since the overnight success of her first album Seventy-Seven Days in 2016, dating models Carmen Delmar and Oscar Johns in 2017 and singer Blue Taylor in 2018. She was reported to have become engaged to actor Johnny Green in June 2019 but both denied the reports and separated three months later.
"I'm all about the music," Lopez said during an October 2019 Vogue interview when asked if she wanted to settle down. "That's what's important to me. That's what I want to concentrate on."
Then again, how could anyone expect Lopez to be thinking about settling down with her current success? At the still tender age of 27, she has achieved more than anyone could have hoped for. She is an eight time Grammy-winning recording artist and is currently awaiting the outcome of nine more nominations this month. One of those nominations is for the song "Hold On Me", co-written with Stevie Nicks for the soundtrack of her movie Go Your Own Way, a fictional story based around the music of Fleetwood Mac.
In the film, Lopez plays Vie, a young singer-songwriter desperate to be famous who finds her life turned upside down when she joins the already famous The Chain during their second world tour in 1975. It's there that she meets the Brooks brothers (Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ryan Gosling) and becomes embroiled in a decade long love triangle.
The film, garnered as revolutionary and heart breaking by critics, has already earned Lopez countless accolades. She has snatched a Golden Globe and a SAG award nomination for her performance and all eyes will be on her on January 13th when the Oscars are announced.
"If I'm honest, it's not something I planned for," Lopez said on the Ellen Show last month. "I was way more excited about working with Stevie [Nicks] and I think everyone had been waiting for some sort of musical based on Fleetwood Mac's catalogue. I just felt lucky that they asked me to be a part of the project and honored that everyone feels we've done them justice."
Go Your Own Way continues to play in selected theatres and is available for Blu-ray preorder. Santana Lopez' third album "Many Worlds" is currently available for download from all major outlets. The 79th Golden Globes will air on Sunday January 16 on NBC.
Friday, January 14, 2022
Just like any other Friday afternoon, she enters the large, dark lecture hall and doesn't say anything as she steps up to the blackboard with seventy-eight sets of eyes trained obediently on her.
The weight of the chalk is familiar in her hand and she silently marks out lines of letters, numbers and symbols from memory, barely noticing the gazes that bore into the back of her head.
It's been so long since she started doing this that she can barely remember why her hands used to shake when she reached for the chalk, why her brow would sweat and it would take her twice as long to write out the simplest of problems.
Now, as she turns to face the crowd, her voice doesn't shake and her stern glare doesn't waver. It didn't take her long to figure out that the people in front of her were way more scared of her than she should be of them. It was her, after all, that decided their final grades.
"You have ten minutes," is all she says and, just like that, all the eyes stop looking.
Like normal, it's not until fifteen minutes later that she really starts to loosen up. She has everyone's attention and she's pretty sure everyone is looking at her apart from the usual obvious group of hungover fratboys that sit at the back of the room. She knows they're only here for the attendance credit and she sends her infamous glare up to them as she holds out the chalk.
"Whoever can solve this problem gets an immediate A for my class. Anyone care to try?"
When nobody raises their hand, Brittany smiles.
"You're such an asshole," Rae rolls her eyes ninety minutes later when all her students have left. Brittany grins impishly and packs away her things. "They're undergrad Freshmen."
"What?" she says innocently. "I was doing problems like that when I was in undergrad."
Rae gives her a look. "Yeah, but you're a goddamn genius and it's mean. You've got to stop trying to separate the wheat from the chaff."
Brittany laughs. "That girl in the third row almost had it again though, did you see?"
Rae rolls her eyes fondly before taking the bag from Brittany's hands until all she can do is follow her out of the room. She's been here so many times that, when they walk down the hallways, nobody gives her a second look.
"What's the plan, Batman?" Brittany asks as they building.
"Everything's in the car," Rae tells her, eyes rolling again. "We should leave right away if you want to get there by tonight."
"And the kids?"
Rae chuckles at that. "They're in the car too."
They find them sitting on the hood of the car, a billow of silver-grey smoke clouding around them. It disappears the minute she sees them as a young man, with curly dark hair hidden beneath a beanie, instantly drops what he was holding to the floor.
"It's not what it looks like," he gripes out, smoke escaping from his nose before he chokes out a cough.
Brittany just knowingly glares and pops the trunk to toss her jacket inside. "Isaac Baker, you better not be smoking pot because we've talked about that." When he doesn't say anything and just looks down at the ground, she continues on sharply. "What have I told you, Isaac?"
"That drugs are bad and stupid and they put my position at this university in jeopardy," he recites back to her obediently. "And that any mistakes I make reflect badly on your ability to teach and guide me if you have to report me to the Dean."
"You'll kill me if you have to report me," Ike sighs.
"That will mean paperwork," he tells her. "And you hate paperwork."
Brittany gives him a patronizing smile. "Good boy," she says, patting his cheek. "Now get in the car."
"So what is it that you actually do?" Nora asks as she sits in the passenger seat beside Rae. "I wasn't aware that a mathematician's assistants were a thing."
Ike starts giggling beside Brittany. "Is it like a magician's assistant?" he asks dumbly.
Brittany glares over the top of her glasses at him. "Shut up and eat your snacks, Isaac," she tells him and his laughter stops abruptly.
Rae rolls her eyes and looks at Brittany through the rear-view mirror. "I actually have no idea but the money's good," she explains. "I'm mostly just here to keep her head out of the clouds. I drive her around and make sure she eats and does, you know, human things. It's easier than taking care of a cat."
"Rude," Brittany comments idly as she works diligently on her laptop.
"Shut up and write your speech, Pierce," she snaps.
It makes both Nora and Ike laugh.
This is the worst part of her job.
If someone told her ten years ago that her life would be all about numbers and giving speeches to weird groups of people, she probably would have laughed at them. But here she is, nine years later, sat in the backseat of her own car—joined by two of her PhD students and her assistant—writing a speech about math.
It's really hard to think about sometimes.
"How do you two drive like this?" Nora asks from the driver's seat when they're halfway there. "It's too quiet in here."
It's cold and dark and they've been sat in silence for over an hour. The only light comes from the dashboard and Brittany's laptop in the backseat. It doesn't matter because Brittany still manages to see Nora lean forward and turn on the radio.
It makes her tense up immediately.
Noise fills the car and Brittany tenses even more as Nora searches for something that isn't the talk radio that Brittany can only just handle. Rae turns to look at her but she just stares at the word processor in front of her to block out the usual need to deflect. It's just some quick and catchy pop but it makes Brittany sink into her seat. She doesn't look up until she feels a hand on her knee.
"You want me to turn it off, Britt?" Rae asks quietly.
Brittany shakes her head. It's a lie but it doesn't matter.
It's the longest she's listened to the radio in years. An hour later, and she's surprised that her usual reason to punch the power button hasn't filled her ears yet.
She doesn't know if it makes her feel better or worse.
Ike and Nora have been bopping along to all the quick-paced drive time music but Rae keeps looking at her curiously. It's making her more anxious than the actual music so she concentrates on writing her speech until a still too-familiar voice comes through the speakers.
She flinches intrinsically. Rae sees it and turns to Nora beside her quickly.
"Can we turn if off?" she asks as Brittany tries to block out the sound by thinking of numbers and symbols and the problem she gave her class earlier. "I hate this song."
Ike scoffs and peers between the seats, turning the volume up instead. "How can you hate this song? This is my jam, yo!"
Nora turns to them both excitedly. "Did you hear she got nominated for the Oscar?"
Ike nods and sways to the music. "I was not surprised. That movie made me cry. The part near the end—"
"With the guitar on her back—"
"She looked so hot," Ike groans and Brittany feels her entire body start to stiffen with the need to block everything out. "…but I was like, bawling my eyes out."
"Turn it off," Brittany mutters quietly. No one hears.
"And like, I heard she's a complete bitch in real life," Nora says, laughing. "But after that sex scene… in the log cabin with Ryan Gosling? I really don't think I care about her personality because that girl has got moves, if you know what I'm sayin'"
Her breathing becomes uneven. "Turn if off, please," she whispers.
Instead, Ike laughs and reaches to quickly high five Nora. "I wouldn't mind bending her over and—"
"TURN IT OFF," Brittany shouts as she slams her laptop closed and pants desperately for breath. Rae quickly punches the power button and the car lapses into awkward and stifling silence. Brittany reopens her laptop and sighs, shaking her head as she feels all three of them paying attention to her. Her hands shake as she begins typing again. "I can barely think with you guys guffawing like that."
"Sorry, Dr. Pierce," Nora apologizes quickly.
Ike narrows his eyes but nods in agreement.
Rae doesn't say anything until Brittany's driving and the other two are sleeping in the backseat. She looks at her curiously and Brittany feels her gaze like a burn.
"Are you okay?" she asks finally.
Brittany swallows thickly and nods. "I'm fine."
It's a lie but it doesn't matter.
Did Santana Lopez cheat on girlfriend Cleo Cooper?
When reports surfaced of their split two weeks ago, sources revealed that Santana Lopez and her choreographer girlfriend, Cleo Cooper, had separated due to the strain of their heavy workload on their relationship. Today, however, it has been revealed that their workload had little to do with it.
Our sources told us that "Cleo has done her best to be at Santana's side throughout all her current success. She even turned down jobs on a few major reality TV shows and even a role in the new Step Up! movie, just because she wanted to share the experience with [Santana]."
So why the split?
Friends of the dancer report that Santana's serial infidelity is to blame for the break-up.
"It's no secret that Santana's never wanted to settle down. She doesn't really care about relationships and has never been as into the relationship as Cleo was. Ever since they started dating, Santana's never been able to stay faithful. That's what broke up the rest of her relationships. Cleo couldn't take it anymore. There were so many rumors that Santana was having affairs with her co-stars when she was filming Go Your Own Way and Cleo couldn't take it anymore. She finally confronted Santana and Santana admitted that the rumors were true. Santana begged for her back but Cleo just couldn't trust her anymore."
Lopez has previously been accused of cheating on model Carmen Delmar in 2017 when she was seen kissing Oscar Johns on a yacht in Saint-Tropez when they were allegedly still dating. All parties denied cheating but sources revealed that it was a cover-up worked out between their PR teams.
A rep for the singer denied to comment but all eyes will be on Lopez this Sunday when she attends the Golden Globes, which will air on NBC.
"What—the fuck—is THIS?!"
Of the three people in the room, only one of them doesn't flinch. Bubba, her security guard and driver, looks at her uninterestedly before going back to the plate of food in front of him. Her assistant and her manager, however, jump about ten feet in the air between them.
"It's nothing," Sullivan tells her quickly and she wonders how, after more than six years of knowing each other, he doesn't know that she knows that he fucking sucks at lying. "It's just a puff piece—They're bored, reaching for something that isn't there—The magazine is a piece of trash!"
Santana throws said magazine at him.
"It's a piece of trash that's read by over fifty million people, you dumbass!" she yells, reaching for more magazines and a pillow, just so that she has enough ammo. She throws all of it at him quickly. "You were supposed to—figure—this—shit—out!" The fucker annoying dodges everything she throws and moves to hide behind Harper, her ever-trustworthy assistant and the only person able to calm her down. "I don't want fifty million people thinking that I'm a skanky cheater! Santana Lopez does not cheat! Santana Lopez is nice… and wholesome… and a fucking awesome girlfriend who just so happens to attract absolute fucking lunatics who try to steal all her money or hit on her assistant at any given opportunity!"
"But, Santana, Cleo didn't do any of those things," Sullivan says diplomatically.
Santana reaches for another magazine and inwardly smile when the thick spine hits him square between his stupid black-rimmed glasses.
"No she didn't," she hisses. "She fucking told my mother that we were going to get married!"
Sullivan looks at her as he reaches down to pick his glasses up from the floor. "And you can understand how we can't use that against her, right? It's not exactly the best idea to fight a cheating accusation by admitting commitment-phobia."
Her eyes go big and wide and angry.
"I am NOT commitment-phobic!" she argues shrilly, glad when Harper grabs her by the elbows and begins to whisper calmly to her. "I was with her for two damn years! I've never been with anybody for two years! And I told her I don't want to get married! I've never wanted to get married and I made that clear to her and anyone else who will hear it!"
Harper hushes her softly, calmly stroking the tops of her arms and nodding knowingly. Santana looks at her and finds herself calming until Harper smiles proudly at her.
"We wanted different things," Santana says softly. "What's wrong with that?"
Harper wraps her in a hug and Santana clings to her. She's the only person who can make everything stop and put her life in perspective. She's the only person who makes the nervous, anxious feeling she's carried with her for the past week go away.
"There's nothing wrong with it," she whispers as she strokes Santana's back and Sullivan backs away to a place where he can hide behind her mini bar. "It's just a stupid magazine."
Santana sighs and tries to believe her.
Harper sets a bottle of water in front of her as Gus pulls out the chair opposite. He doesn't say anything as he settles in front of her and Santana likes that. He doesn't try to climb up her ass like all the other people she interviewed for his job did.
"So, basically it's a busy weekend," is the first thing Gus says, before he's even acknowledged her. He flicks through things on his iPad before sighing. "The Grammys and the tour announcement are our highest priority. The promo is being released online at noon and you have to be at the radio station by three. You'll be performing an acoustic set and talking about the tour mostly but the usual stuff too. What should I do about the Cleo thing?"
Santana sips her water placidly and sighs. "What do you mean?"
"Should I embargo the questions or…?" He looks up at her from his iPad when she doesn't answer and stares for a moment before shrugging. "If you want my opinion—"
"Well, you are my publicist," she reminds him.
He grins. "You don't pay me for my opinion. You pay me to change everyone else's."
"Touché," she comments and can't help but remember how true that is. He's got her through so many things unscathed and hidden so many secrets she never thought she'd have to keep. He's probably one of the few people she trusts. "But still."
The sad thing is that, he smirks at her, and after six years, Santana's still not even sure if they're friends.
"It could be good," he shrugs. "It could be an opportunity for you to set the story straight. And people are more likely to believe you if the words come from your own mouth instead of through a statement. Honestly, Cleo's being stupid with this and this could be an chance to… get rid of her, so to speak."
Santana's brow lifts. "Sounds tricky."
Gus shrugs and smirks. He looks down at his iPad and chuckles in the same old sinister way.
"And that's why I'm the best."
She's tired by the time that Harper manages to force Sullivan out the door with Gus following complacently behind him.
"Are you sure about this?" Harper says once the door is locked behind them. Santana swirls her coffee and shrugs noncommittally until Harper rolls her eyes. "Santana, why don't you just talk to her and explain? All this seems like such a silly reason to loose a girlfriend and a good choreographer."
Santana's shoulders hunch and her body stiffens protectively as Harper sits down opposite her.
"Because there's nothing to explain," she mumbles defensively. "There's nothing to explain and—yeah. There's nothing to explain, okay? It's over. There are other choreographers."
"But you liked her," Harper states and it's a fact. She did. She liked Cleo. She liked how she made her feel. She liked how she wasn't like everyone else. She was a friend who knew her rather than some barely-known stranger who approached her because of an image made up by people Santana barely knew. It felt good. Sometimes she made her forget all the things she didn't want to remember.
"So?" she shrugs awkwardly. "She got the wrong idea. It was dangerous and, yeah, I probably could have gone along with it but I wouldn't have been happy. I wouldn't have been honest. I don't really want to do that on a lie, you know?"
Harper nods and her face relaxes like she understands. "I still don't think you needed to break up with her though. You could still call her."
Santana adamantly shakes her head. "No, it's no good now. She's got the wrong idea and it's better this way."
Harper's gazes settles on her awkwardly, like she wants to ask all the questions that she knows she shouldn't or can't. Santana hates it because if she had her way, Harper would know everything. Harper would know every deep and dirty secret, every ever-present want. She's the closest thing to a best friend that Santana has but Harper barely really knows her. A few overpaid lawyers and her manager made sure of that.
She stares into her cup as Harper struggles, and waits for her to give up and walk away. That moment never comes and Santana feels her stomach flip as Harper reaches out and touches her wrist.
"Santana," she asks tentatively, whispering even though they're the only two in the room. "Why do you have it?"
The words make Santana stop and wonder what would happen if she just finally gave up and told her everything. It wouldn't be that bad. She's almost sure of it.
Still, she sighs despondently and shrugs. "Probably not for the reason you think," she mutters, fighting a smile. "I've had it a long time."
Harper's green eyes flicker over her face, cheeks flourishing with relief at Santana's answer. Santana can see her getting braver.
"Did somebody give it to you?" she asks softly. "Did you buy it for someone?"
Santana takes her hand and shakes her head as definitively and apologetically as she can. Harper gets it and sighs, tangling her fingers with Santana's. Any other person and her heart would be beating out of sync but with Harper it feels steady and safe.
"You can't tell me," Harper whispers knowingly, rolling her eyes. "Right."
She gets up a second later and moves to the phone to order them dinner from room service. Santana watches her and lets the smile fall carefully from her face. An old ache blossoms in her chest so quickly and easily that it makes her feel dizzy. She swallows it down, the act now practiced and precise.
Images flutter through her memory.
She tries not to remember them.
It's harder than normal.
It's late by the time they get to the hotel.
Brittany looks awkwardly around the lobby at the crystal clear glass and marble floors. It's too perfect and, as she steps up to the desk fumbling for her booking details, she feels entirely out of place.
She would have been more comfortable at a Hilton.
It's not like the gala is at this hotel. They're just trying to impress her and she hates it.
"Hello, ma'am. Welcome to L'Ermitage Beverly Hills," the clerk at the front desk says, smiling too widely for someone who's working so late it's almost early. "How may I be of service?"
Brittany continues fumbling in her bag as Rae, Nora and Ike stand behind her gawping at their surroundings.
"I—uh—I have a reservation," Brittany finally says, squinting tiredly behind her glasses as her search comes up short.
The clerk just continues to smile at her patiently. "What's the name, ma'am?"
Brittany keeps searching anyway.
"Um. Pierce," she mutters and hates that she can feel Rae's comforting hand on her back. "Brittany Pierce… Dr. Brittany S. Pierce."
The clerk's smile seems to grow. "Ah, Dr. Pierce," she says as she taps on the keyboard in front of her. "We've been expecting you. Your rooms are ready and everything has been paid for. The American Mathematical Society have asked us to reassure you that all expenses are covered for this trip and to help yourself to the mini bar. We have arranged a car for your journey to The Beverly Hills Hotel tomorrow evening in time for the gala."
Brittany pauses before nodding and smiling just as kindly as the woman in front of her.
"Is there anything else I can do for you this evening, Dr. Pierce?" she asks and Brittany shakes her head until her messy hair falls into her eyes. "Very good, Dr. Pierce. I just need your signature here—" Brittany quickly scans the page put before her before messily scribbling her name and taking the keycards the woman offers her. "Here are your keys," she says. "I'll call someone to get your bags. Our private dining service is open twenty-four hours a day. My name is Rebecca and I'll be here until 8am if you need anything."
Brittany offers the woman the best smile she can. "Thank you, Rebecca."
Their room isn't a room but a suite that instantly gives Brittany an instant feeling of dread. There's a bedroom and two bathrooms, plus a living area and a small kitchenette with a fully stocked fridge. Rae mills around, setting out her things about the room but Brittany heads to the desk in the corner and pulls out her laptop to check over her speech.
She doesn't know how long she's been awkwardly typing and sighing before Rae settles into the chair opposite her.
Brittany barely glances at her before nodding.
"Want me to take a look at it?"
Brittany shakes her head and catches the fond smile Rae gives her as she looks down at the words in front of her. It's not until Rae chuckles softly that Brittany can no longer pretend she isn't there.
"You're being weird," Rae tells her matter-of-factly. It isn't rude or unkind and it would be a lie to say that Rae hasn't said the same words to her many times before. Brittany tries not to look too forlorn as Rae smiles at her softly. "What's up, Buttercup? You've been off all day. You nervous?"
Brittany shakes her head because she doesn't really care about these things anymore. They got boring a long time ago. It's just that she feel this strange, uncomfortable sense of foreboding that she hasn't felt before. It thickly fills her throat and bubbles up from her stomach into her chest like bile, setting her on edge.
She shrugs noncommittally instead of saying anything. Rae's smile falls a little because of it and she reaches out to pat Brittany's wrist. Brittany can tell she doesn't believe her.
"Okay," she sighs anyway. "I'm going to bed. Don't be up late."
Brittany smiles and rolls her eyes to hide how grateful she is. "Yes, mom," she mutters.
Rae throws a pillow at her and disappears into the bedroom.
Rae isn't smiling the next morning when she finds Brittany asleep at her desk.
Brittany looks at her sheepishly and hates it when Rae worriedly kisses the top of her head and tries to act like she doesn't find her like this every morning.
It's the kind of morning that makes her hate being famous. There's almost twice as many paparazzi hanging outside her hotel as normal and it shouldn't feel normal how she has to be protected and shoved through the sea of people to get to her car but it is. Harper, Gus and Sullivan wade her through the crowd and, what was once absolutely terrifying, is now a chore.
"We probably should have left the hotel before the tour announcement dropped," Sullivan says the minute Bubba's shoved them all inside the car.
Santana doesn't miss the unimpressed look that Harper gives him but they're all silent as they make their way to the radio station. There's a crowd of people waiting outside and Harper hands Santana a sharpie allowing her to start signing autographs for the huge crowd the minute she gets out of the car.
"You okay?" Harper says once they're inside. Santana nods but Harper fixes her clothes and checks her make up anyway. She holds all her things as the producers instantly begin bombarding Santana with questions and squeezes her hand the entire way to the studio green room.
Gus and Sully instantly take over like normal, setting out the ground rules. It goes well and Santana does what she normally does, doing as she's told and answering all the questions in the way that Gus instructed her to. They ask her about Cleo and, when Gus instantly starts grinning happily when she answers how they planned, she knows she did good. Sully kisses her cheek as she makes her way to where her band sits ready waiting for her and she feels good until she catches Harper's uncomfortable smile.
"We should have dinner to celebrate," Sully says between last minute sound checks. "There's this sushi place—"
Santana cuts him off quickly. "I have that dinner with those producers," she reminds him.
"Well, we can go to a club after," Sully says.
Harper looks down at her phone before answering for her. "We've got to go to that Pre-Golden Globes party."
He looks down at his own phone and sighs. "Then we better all go get ready."
"You know, considering this is a gala, I thought you'd maybe throw on a gown, Dr. P," Ike teases as they make their way over to the Beverly Hills Hotel.
Brittany looks down at her navy tailored suit before glancing self-consciously up at Rae. She gives her a reassuring nod before Brittany turns back to Isaac with a glare.
"I don't appreciate that sexism," she tells him pointedly. "This event is to celebrate the women in this field so if you don't feel that you can do that without making comments about what they're wearing, maybe you should head back to the hotel."
He winces and hangs his head. "Sorry, Dr. Pierce."
"Do you have your speech?" Rae asks for the ten millionth time.
Brittany smiles and nods because nothing ever changes. Rae always gets way more nervous than she does. Brittany just taps her breast pocket and reassuringly squeezes her hand where it rests on the table. It's nice to have something to think about that isn't the fact that she's surrounded by her colleagues.
"I don't know how you always seem so calm," Rae looks around the room. "No matter how many times I'm around these people, I still feel terrified." She looks Brittany up and down before rolling her eyes. "It's probably because you're like… the smartest out of all of them—"
"Oh, stop it," Brittany mutters, brushing the bottom of her jacket. "They're just people who really like numbers."
Rae goes to reply but stops when lights come on and everyone applauds as someone steps onto the stage. Instead, she listens as the woman begins to make her introduction, her hand reaching for Brittany's and squeezing hard. It's a long introduction but Brittany's glad when it begins to wrap up.
"And so, it's my greatest honor to present to you, The American Mathematical Society's Woman of the Year, Dr. Brittany S. Pierce."
Brittany lets her brow raise awkwardly as the room bursts into loud applause.
"Wish me luck," she mutters quietly as she gets up.
Rae looks at her with so much pride it actually hurts.
"You don't need luck," she winks.
The speech goes well and everyone probably applauds for longer than they should. Brittany leaves the stage to down an entire glass of champagne and is glad that they choose then to serve dinner.
Soon after, people start to come up to their table—filling the seats that Ike and Nora vacated so that they could go and "network"—just so that they can talk to her.
Brittany has to stop herself from rolling her eyes as people ask her the same question repeatedly. Her answers are so robotic that she keeps randomly catching Rae mouthing them along with her.
That's until a young woman—a journalist of some sort—sits down beside her and instantly starts getting too close. Brittany can tell because Rae stops smiling in silent amusement, her expression hardening protectively. The woman flirts shamelessly, her hand on Brittany's thigh as she leans in close, asking the same usual questions mixed in with some more personal ones. Brittany deflects them easily.
"So, c'mon, I've got to ask," the woman says, batting her eyelashes. "My readers are desperate to know about what you're working on next."
Brittany shakes her head and drinks more champagne, laughing as she peels off the same old answer. "I'm not working on anything right now," she states. "I'm concentrating on teaching."
The woman gives her a look. "That's bullshit," she retorts brazenly. Her smirk remains smugly on her lips and Brittany can't help but spare a glance at it. "Everyone knows that you've been working on what you used to call your 'true passion' for years now but you never seem to talk about it anymore. You once referred to it as what would be 'the highlight of your life's work' but now you say you're not doing anything?" The hand on her thigh drifts higher. "Excuse me if I find that hard to believe that."
Brittany smiles as politely and as calmly as she can. She leaves the hand on her thigh and drains the last of her glass. She glances at Rae and gives her "the look" that has her beckoning Nora and Ike back to their table as she gathers their things.
"It was lovely talking to you, Miss. Becker," she says as kindly as she can. "But I'm afraid that it's getting late—"
The woman laughs and cocks her brow. "It's six-thirty."
"What can I say?" Brittany shrugs as she finally pushes the hand off her thigh and gets up. "These American Mathematical Society gals know how to party."
The woman's expression finally drops. "But I have more questions."
Brittany goes to speak but Rae quickly intercepts. "Dr. Pierce has a meeting that she needs to get to."
She guides Brittany away from the table and none of them speak until they're out in the hallway. Nora and Ike both look completely confused.
"I didn't think she was going to give up," Rae comments idly, watching through the doors to the ballroom to make sure that the woman isn't following them. "Did she say who she worked for because I'll make sure to mention them when the AMS undoubtedly emails me to ask me if everything was to your satisfaction."
Brittany rolls her eyes. "Just stop," she sighs as she pats her pockets to make sure she's got everything. "It's okay."
Rae gives her a disbelieving look before folding her arms over her chest. Nora and Ike continue to look confused before Ike shrugs his shoulders.
"Do you guys want to go and get some real food or something maybe?" He asks as he slips his hands into the pockets of his too-big suit. "It's still early."
Nora's eyes light up but Brittany shakes her head. "You guys can but I think I'm just going to head back to the hotel." They move to argue but Brittany stops them before they can speak. "I'll go ask the front desk to call for a car."
She moves across the lobby, not noticing the crowd of people outside the entryway.
"What time is the dinner?" Santana asks as they drive back to the hotel to change.
Sully looks up at her from his phone. "I thought you said it was at eight?"
Harper clicks her tongue and rolls her eyes at the both of them. "Dinner's at eight-thirty and we're going straight from there to the Pre-Golden Globes thing. That's why we picked the restaurant that's around the corner from the venue."
"So that's like… ninety minutes to get ready," Santana shrugs.
Harper frowns. "More like an hour if you want to fight LA traffic. Plus, the beauty team are waiting for us back at the hotel."
"This is why I pay you the big bucks," Sully says smugly.
Harper turns to him unimpressed. "Um. You don't pay me anything."
Santana smirks when he sinks down into his seat but that tiny happiness soon disappears when she sees the monstrous crowd of photographers outside of the hotel. She curses loudly and the animosity between Harper and Sully disappears like normal when they both know they've got work to do.
Bubba winds down the black partition to the front seat and turns to them quickly. "Here's how it's going to go, Lo," he says. "I'm going to stop the car and you are not to get out until I open the door. Harper, when I open the door you'll get out first and Santana will stay as close to you as possible. Sully, you will make a clear pathway through the crowd and I will have everyone's back. Are we clear?"
All three of them in the back look at each other and say nothing.
"Are we clear?!" Bubba says again.
They murmur their agreement.
The crowd is bigger than they thought. They don't even get to the sidewalk outside the hotel and they have to stop in the middle of the crowd of photographers.
Everything goes wrong from the minute that the door opens. Harper gets knocked out of the way and Sully can't even get out of the car as Bubba tries to regain control of the situation.
For the first time, in a very long time, Santana's actually kind of terrified that something's going to go wrong and she looks around her before doing the only thing she can.
She sees a path and she runs as fast as she can through it.
She doesn't notice the small group of people exiting the hotel ahead of her.
"You can't just go back to the hotel," Ike says for about the tenth time in the last five minutes. "We're in LA. We're not driving back until tomorrow afternoon. Come on, Dr. P."
Brittany shakes her head and rolls her eyes as she walks ahead of them. Rae nudges her side.
"We'll go out for dinner, or to a bar… somewhere quiet…"
"I know you've got a wild side hidden in there, Doc," Nora teases.
Brittany turns to them as she opens the door, mouth open to speak. She's ready to tell them that she's tired, that her days of partying are over but maybe—just maybe—she could be persuaded to go somewhere if the location was right, except she doesn't get to say any of that because the door opens and someone's running right into her back.
She turns to the person quickly, shocked by the collision and ready to make sure that they're okay.
But any and all words die on her lips the minute she turns around. All the words and all the numbers—all the signs and symbols and understandings—disappear from her brain as she catches sight of the person in front of her, leaving only the vision of the worried brown eyes looking back at her behind.
She drops the door handle without thinking and takes three uncertain steps backward, desperate to blink and force the image away.
It's impossible, however, when those same brown eyes soften with recognition.
They brighten almost imperceptibly, but Brittany notices anyway.
She's always noticed.
"Brittany?" the person asks.
That's her problem.
The terror disappears to make way for a feeling that she's never felt before as she finds too-familiar blue eyes staring starkly back at her. It's strange and not entirely unwelcome as she watches the woman stumble back inside the hotel.
Cameras click repeatedly behind them and Santana fails to care when those blue eyes are blinking repeatedly behind their glasses.
"Brittany?" she says again because it's hard to know after nine years. She looks different. With her boxy, blunt bangs and tortoise shell glasses, she looks so much unlike the Brittany that Santana saw nine years ago. She looks grown up and sensible.
She doesn't get a chance to say any of that because her so-called entourage appears behind her as someone stood nearby suddenly shrieks in surprise.
"Oh my god, you're Santana Lopez!"
Santana ignores it because, somehow, this age-old need to make sure Brittany's okay suddenly flares up inside of her.
"Brittany, are you okay?" she asks quietly, stepping closer.
Brittany still doesn't say anything. Someone—her friend, Santana guesses—looks between them curiously.
"Do you two… know each other?" he asks with lit up eyes and a pep in his step that Santana's too accustomed to.
Brittany just keeps staring at her.
Brittany's not so sure that her eyes are tricking her anymore once Nora and Ike have noticed her too.
She stares anyway because right now—this moment, here where she stands—is a moment that she didn't think she'd ever have. She never thought that she'd have this. She shouldn't be having this.
This wish was nothing but a pipe dream.
"Britt," Rae whispers from beside her and there's an edge to her voice that tells Brittany that she knows more than Brittany's ever told her. She takes her hand and Brittany notices how Santana's eyes quickly drop down to where Rae clings to her.
It snaps her into action.
"Our—our car is waiting," she mumbles, the shock thick and evident. Rae turns to her quickly and narrows her eyes in confusion but all Brittany can think about is reams of paper and promises.
Santana jumps forward quickly and holds out her hands, effectively stopping all of them as Brittany can't help but take two more steps backward.
"Wait," Santana says and Brittany suddenly recognizes the people stood behind her, watching them curiously and, even further beyond the glass doors, the photographers quickly snapping their picture. Brittany looks back at Santana to remind herself that this is who she is now. "Brittany, it's been nine years," she says like Brittany doesn't know that. "Can I get your number or something?"
Nora and Ike gasp and Rae just keeps looking at her. Two people behind Santana keep whispering to the greasy looking guy in the middle but always familiar brown eyes just keep gazing at her imploringly.
"I don't—" Brittany says and watches Santana's eyes narrow. "I don't think I can—"
"Here—" Rae says and suddenly she's thrusting a small white piece of card into Santana's hands and grabbing for Brittany so she can pull her away.
There's a crowd of photographers shouting and taking pictures of her as they make their way to the car. Rae shoves her inside and mutters annoyed words to Nora and Ike to stop what they're doing. They're loud and excited once they climb in the car and Brittany finds herself frozen, stung, as she replays the moment still wondering if it's real.
"Dr. Pierce, do you know Santana Lopez?"
A sudden sadness fills Brittany and she thinks of the nine years it's been, of the changes they've both made and the things they've both done and been through. Their lives were once supposed to be together but, now, they're completely different.
"No," she mutters and hates that it's the truth. "Not really."
The minute Brittany leaves, Harper and Sully drag her to her room with Bubba following closely behind.
"Who was that?" Harper asks the minute that the door is closed with Bubba stood protectively outside. Santana paces the room awkwardly and glances up to find Sully watching her more carefully than he's ever done before, even after everything she's been through. She sees the look and knows that he still wants her to keep her mouth shut. Harper must see it too. "Well?!"
Fuck it, Santana decides.
Sully cuts her off quickly. "No, Santana." She glances at him before shaking her head. He strides across the room in barely any steps at all and grabs her by the arm, leaning in to speak to her quickly and quietly. "No, okay?" he says again and she catches his eye, knowing that he means it. "You can't, Santana. You can't and you know why. Not after that little show."
She does and that's why she quickly turns to Harper and subtly shakes her head
It's not good enough and when Harper reaches forward to grab the piece of white card still clutched in Santana's hand, there's nothing Santana can do to stop her.
"Brittany S. Pierce," she reads aloud. "Professor of Mathematics at Berkeley?" Harper stares at her as Santana soaks in that information and the way it makes her feel uncontrollable and inherent pride. "Santana, you didn't even go to college."
Especially not Berkeley, Santana thinks idly. She nods in agreement and watches as Harper stares from her to the card in her hands.
"She's no one," Sully says, reaching for the card. Santana instantly jumps up and reaches for it too, knowing where it'll go if he gets his hands on it.
Harper holds it high above her head. "If she's no one then why are you so both so adamant to have this card?"
"It's none of your business," Sully says at the same time Santana reaches for Harper's hand.
It gets her attention and she stares patiently as Santana takes a deep breath and steadies herself. "One day, I will tell you everything, but until that day I need you to wait. Can you do that?"
Harper lets out a breath and imperceptibly nods her head before handing over the card. She pulls Santana into her arms a second later and holds her close. Santana hates it.
"One day," she whispers. "You'll realize that I'm not out to get you like everyone else."
It makes Santana hate herself just a little bit more.
Brittany's glad when she's finally able to get away from Nora and Ike.
After twenty-four hours of them constantly asking questions, most of them in the confined space of her car, she's a little surprised that she didn't kill them. They stress her out enough as it is without them continually asking her about Santana Lopez.
Rae follows her into the apartment and Brittany feels her eyes on her as she drops her keys onto the coffee table and falls onto the couch. She throws her arm up to cover her eyes and all she really wants to do is go to bed and curl into a ball. She feels strange and she hates it. She hates it at the same time that it feels like there are a million anxious butterflies inside of her.
"Talk to me, Britt," Rae says from the across the room. Brittany peers from beneath her arm to find Rae stood in the entryway to the kitchen, sorting out her laundry.
Brittany hides away again and sighs. "What do you want me to say?"
Rae lets out a mirthless chuckle and shakes her head. "I want you to say something, Britt. I want you to tell me that I did the right thing giving her that card and that you're not mad at me for it. I want you to tell me whatever you want to tell me. I want you to tell me that you're okay."
Brittany's arm drops from her face to halo around her head. She stares up to her overpriced high ceilings and swallows thickly.
"I'm fine," she lies, just like normal. "I don't care what you did."
Rae appears beside the couch a second later, looking down at her carefully before she climbs over her, kissing her forehead as she falls into the space beside her. Her arms wrap tightly around her and it makes Brittany sigh, whatever need she didn't know she had easily being consoled inside of her.
Rae hugs her close and lets out a groan of frustration.
"You know you can tell me anything, right?" she asks her quietly.
After long moments, Brittany lets her hand reach up to clutch at the arm wrapped around her. There are a million things she's desperate to say that she can't. She made a promise.
"I know," she whispers. "and that's why I love you."
The next day, the media is talking about Santana Lopez and "the woman in the hotel lobby". Sully gives her an unimpressed look every chance he gets but she's kind of glad that he's got the Golden Globes to preoccupy him.
It's not until she's left alone with him for the first time since it happened that she chooses to comment on his behavior.
"Stop looking at me like that," she mumbles, reading her magazine.
He shakes his head at her angrily. "You knew better than to do what you did yesterday. Especially with all those cameras."
She tosses the magazine across the room and looks at him in the mirror. "Well, what did you want me to do? Pretend I didn't see her when she walked right into me? What if she decided to talk to me?"
Sully scoffs and gets up out of his chair, stepping close to her until he can hiss his words into her ear.
"She did exactly what she's supposed to do but you pushed her," Sully reminds her and she rolls her eyes because she knows he's telling the truth. "If anything happens now, it's your fault."
She watches him walk away and feels disappointed in herself because maybe, just maybe, that's what she wants.
She wins the two Golden Globes she was nominated for but the excitement is ruined when Sully goes straight into work-mode the next morning, forcing her to find a new choreographer.
"You're performing the Super Bowl Halftime show in less than four weeks," he spits at her bitterly when she asks him to slow down a little. "You get that right? That you have a ton of people paying millions of dollars for a show that you haven't prepared yet? You're not that fucking stupid?"
He taps his forehead angrily before storming from the room. Harper looks at Santana, who laughs it off quickly.
"All I wanted was some breakfast first," she comments quietly.
Harper doesn't say anything.
When she goes to work on Wednesday morning, she can already tell that something's up. Students point to her and whisper amongst themselves as she walks to her office and, when she gives her students her infamous glare as she enters her class, they just look at her curiously.
It's not until she goes to grocery store on the way home that she realizes why everyone was looking at her.
She's on the cover of a freaking magazine.
She picks it up dumbly and tosses it into her cart without thinking. She forgets everything else she has to buy before quickly going through the check out line and leaving.
When she gets home, she's not surprised to find Rae sitting on her couch with her computer open.
"So, like… you're on the People website," is the first thing she says and Brittany whimpers before collapsing onto the couch beside her.
"This isn't good," she mumbles quietly and Rae looks at her with piqued curiosity. "This really, really isn't good."
"It'll blow over," Rae tells her but Brittany shakes her head quickly.
"You don't get it," she whispers, looking around anxiously. "There are very specific reasons why this isn't good and just telling you them would make it worse."
Rae studies her and Brittany's glad when her desperation registers in Rae's expression. It softens her annoyance and she grabs Brittany's hand quietly.
"Are we going to be okay?" she asks and Brittany loves her even more, just for acknowledging that they're kind of in this together forever.
She squeezes back and shrugs. "I hope so."
Of the few people that Santana keeps in touch with from high school, the person she sees the most is, surprisingly, Mike Chang.
Especially now he's some big shot choreographer who's pretty much worked with everyone. Which is why she's currently buttering him up with beer and food.
"I'm pretty booked up, Lo," he says to her. "I mean, I'll stick around for the half time show and help you find a replacement but Cleo was pretty much the best you're going to get."
Santana groans and downs her beer. She likes spending time with Mike because he doesn't mind mooching around her hotel room or seeing her in her sweats. But that's mostly because they both know it means they'll end up dancing around in the end.
"There's no one?" she sighs.
Mike snorts and sighs, beer-happy and relaxed. "Well, there's one person but… like… they're impossible to find, for one, and pretty much a myth for two. They're only known as 'the Choreographer' and they pretty much just pop up in random cities and kick ass. But I mean, their moves are like magic."
Santana peels at the label of her beer bottle and narrows her eyes. "But where can I find them?"
Mike shrugs. "That's the thing: no one even knows this person's name, let alone where they're going to be next. There's not even random videos of them on the internet."
Santana groans and shakes her head. She's had a bad enough day as it is with the continuing search for "the woman in the hotel" as the press has now dubbed Brittany. Santana's currently in the middle of a press embargo, not allowed to talk about anything.
"That's just great," she mumbles as she falls back into the couch.
Mike looks at her apologetically before leaning forward to grab another beer. He studies her carefully and she knows what's coming before his mouth even opens.
"So… you ran into Brittany…" he states and Santana darts up to look around and make sure they're still alone even.
She shakes her head. "Don't," she warns him. "You know I'm not allowed."
Mike nods understandingly and takes a sip of his drink.
"How'd she look?" he asks softly and Santana looks at him guiltily because it suddenly occurs to her that she wasn't the only one who lost Brittany when she decided to disappear of the edge of the planet.
She pauses as she thinks of what she's doing to say.
Beautiful, is her first instinctive answer. Perfect, is her second. She knows they're both completely inappropriate.
"Good," she settles for instead. "Really good. Different."
Mike gives her a look and they don't have to say anything else.
It's kind of hard to go to work and concentrate when everyone suspects that you know Santana Lopez and might possibly be romantically involved with her. It makes Brittany want to laugh while simultaneously making her want to rip her hair out because it's been nine years and she's still dealing with this shit.
She's still dealing with this shit every day; except she's been doing it on her own and she didn't realize how easy it was to do that until everyone was watching her.
Her colleagues look at her like she's the bimbo they always expected her to be and her students don't listen to her anymore. Nora and Ike spend most of their time together trying to get something out of her and Rae doesn't really say anything at all.
It… kind of sucks actually.
But it isn't until six days after she ran into Santana Lopez at a hotel in Los Angeles that the full extent of the suckiness comes to fruition.
It starts with a text from Nora that she gets mid-class while her students are working on another problem.
All it says is, omg.
She's finishing up and they have ten minutes left of the session when suddenly her cellphone starts blowing up repeatedly, silent vibrations whirring in her pocket. She's not worried but then she hears the phones of her students doing the same thing behind her and it sets her on edge. It's the longest ten minutes of her life.
There's a text from Rae on her phone when she looks at it and all it says is, go to your office, lock yourself in, and stay there until I come and get you. Don't answer the door.
It kind of scares her and she does as she's told, pacing her room as her phone continues to ring. She doesn't answer it, not even when her mother randomly calls her for the first time in weeks.
It takes forever for Rae to arrive and, when she does, using her emergency spare key, she looks stricken and terrified. She relocks the door behind her, setting down a grocery bag down on her desk before she sits behind it. Brittany allows her stomach to start sinking.
"What's wrong?" she asks and, there's a small part of her that kind of hopes someone's died but she knows that can't be true, just from the way that Rae is looking at her so strangely and saying nothing at all.
Brittany's pretty sure that she doesn't understand the full extent of the seriousness until Rae pulls out a bottle of rum from the grocery bag and uncharacteristically takes a long pull from the bottle.
"There's a video," Rae says quietly, wincing at the burn. "On TMZ."
Brittany tries to feel confused but there's something nagging at her, telling her she already knows what's coming.
"It's of Santana Lopez," Rae continues as she looks up at Brittany softly. "And you."
Brittany's heart starts to flutter and her chest aches. Her head hurts and she sits down in the chair on the other side of the desk as she waits for the words she already knows are coming.
Rae narrows her brow and sighs softly. It's almost disappointment in her expression but not quite. It's something else entirely. Something worse.
"It's a sex tape," she whispers.
Brittany's face still falls.
Santana would like to say that there have been very few times where she's been hysterical and, maybe that would be a lie, but right now that's what she is.
"You said—You said that it was gone!" she shouts at Sully as he holds his head in his hands in front of her. "You said that it would never see the light of day again. You—you said that—You said—You promised me, even though I didn't care about it back then—You said—"
Actually, maybe she's having a panic attack.
"Santana," Sully states softly, reaching for her shoulders. "You need to calm down."
She shrugs him off quickly. "I can't calm down!" she yells. "There's a damn video on the internet of me having sex with my high school girlfriend!"
Sully shakes his head and Santana's almost sure he wants to punch something but can't.
"I'll call Gus and we'll figure this shit out. We'll figure it out okay?" he reassures her and then he's gone, leaving her fuming in the middle of her hotel room.
The first thing Santana does is bury her head in her hands and cry. She barely jumps when someone starts squeezing her shoulders.
"All this secrecy," Harper whispers. "Over some girl?"
Santana looks up at her with red eyes and swollen cheeks and shakes her head. This is the day their friendship has been waiting for and she's wasting it.
"She's not some girl," she whispers brokenly. "She's the girl."
Harper's face contorts with confusion as Santana goes on.
"She was the first girl," she whimpers, the truth oozing from her. "The one who made me realize that I only like girls." Santana bites back her tears and shrugs. "And I'm sorry I never told you any of this and kept it secret but I was just trying to protect her in the best way I knew how." A sob quickly breaks through and she buries her face in her hands. "And now all this shit has probably ruined her life!"
Arms wrap around her shoulders and a cheek rests against hers. Santana cries as Harper strokes her hair and they both pull back to look at each other before Harper speaks.
"Just girls?" she says, teasingly cocking and eyebrow. Santana laughs and reburies her face in Harper's shoulder. Her hands continue to soothingly stroke Santana's hair until she almost feels like she could fall asleep. "You must know by now," she whispers against her ear. "That you could do anything and I probably wouldn't care. I'm the person you call to help you hide the body."
Santana pulls back and disgustingly wipes her nose on the back of her hand.
"Sorry," she says and it feels like the millionth time. It feels worse than the first time.
Harper pushes Santana's hair from her eyes and sighs.
"Tell me about her," she asks and Santana loves the feeling of relief she gets when she realizes that she finally can.
"How long do we have to stay here?" Brittany asks quietly.
Rae hasn't said anything else and Brittany doesn't really want to.
"Until everyone goes home," she tells her. "I don't know. There could be a swarm of photographers out there by now, as well as the crowd of students I saw hanging around your parking spot."
"I don't need you to protect me, Rae," Brittany whispers. "I'm a big girl."
Rae gives her an unimpressed scowl.
"Shut up, Brittany," she mutters.
Brittany sighs and shakes her head. "Let's just… go home."
Luckily, there's no photographers or crowds of rowdy teenagers by her parking spot so Brittany drives them home in silence. Rae pours them both glasses of the rum when they get back and Brittany takes a sip of hers as Rae looks at her patiently.
Brittany figures there's no point in worrying about her promises anymore.
The truth spills from her freely.
"She—she was my high school girlfriend," she explains quietly. "We made that tape during our senior year, a few months after we got together, and I put it on the internet when she told me she wanted to be famous. It was a joke, really—the real video is mostly intercut with clips of my cat—but we never did anything about it. We—we weren't exactly ashamed of it back then. We broke up a few months later and then a while after that I started at MIT and we…" She swallows thickly. "… drifted apart."
She takes a sip of her rum as she struggles with the words.
"A couple years later, when I'd got back from Oxford, this lawyer found me and told me they were removing the tape from the internet and putting a legal embargo on it because Santana was releasing an album and cleaning up her image." She laughs mirthlessly and shakes her head. "They told me I wasn't allowed to mention the tape, or our relationship, or anything… and I didn't want to ruin it all for her so I signed it."
Rae's quiet for a while, sipping her drink and thinking to herself.
"Did you love her?" she asks finally.
Brittany clutches the edge of the kitchen counter and sighs sadly.
"She was my first love," she breathes honestly.
"And you just promised to never talk about her?" Rae clarifies. Brittany nods. "For how long?"
Brittany gives her a look of confusion before shrugging again.
Rae sighs and looks at her like she's hopeless.
Gus and Sully pretty much move into her hotel room and they call in backup to help Bubba with the large amass of press that has camped outside the hotel.
She's pretty much being held captive.
"I don't understand what they're waiting for," Santana says quietly as she watches them out the window through the thick, dark drapes they had added to the third suite she had to move to because of security risks.
Gus looks up at her from his iPad. "They're waiting for you to tell them where and who she is," he explains and that scares Santana endlessly. "They're waiting for the scraps that make their exclusive. They think she's the girl you apparently cheated on Cleo with."
Santana folds her arms around herself and laughs solemnly. "But I don't know anything about her now other than that she's a math professor. I haven't see her in years."
Sully watches her carefully. "They don't know that, honey. And that's all they need," he says. "You should just get on with your work and forget it."
Santana shakes her head.
All she can think about is Brittany's life and how she's disrupted it. How Brittany's probably got an awesome job and a great husband, cute kids and a floppy-eared dog who make her happy and Santana's ruined it all.
"I don't think I can," she whispers.
She's pretty much been moving hotel rooms every day, sometimes twice a day, because people are somehow finding out where she is and managing to figure out ways to get her.
It didn't bother her at first but when she wakes up to a guy taking pictures of her through the crack in her drapes after scaling the balconies, she doesn't want to stay here anymore. She hates it that there's apparently nowhere safe for her to go. They're waiting for her everywhere.
"I can't take this anymore," she whispers into her hands as Harper rubs her back. "I hate this fucking city. I hate this fucking life… this fucking…"
Harper squeezes her shoulders consolingly.
"You're worried about her," she tells Santana pointedly. Santana lets out a hopeless sigh. "Have you tried to reach out to her?"
Santana shakes her head quickly. "I'm scared to."
Harper rests her chin on Santana's shoulder.
"Do you want me to?" she asks.
Santana stutters against the no that she knows should be leaving her lips and allows the silence to speak unsurely for her.
Harper smiles at her kindly.
"Just say the word."
The impression that she gets is that everyone knows it's her in that video but they're all too polite to say it. They all just stare at her as she walks through the halls and, instead of actually teaching her students, she just gives them pages and pages of problems that they never actually try to complete.
Her boss calls her into his office a couple of days later and she knows what it's about as much as she tries to pretend it isn't.
She sits in front of his big desk and feels the weight drop into her stomach as he removes his glasses and sighs at her.
"Brittany, I'm not going to try to sugar coat this," he tells her. "But the faculty and I don't think that it's appropriate for you to be on campus with everything that's going on. I understand that none of this is your fault but it's distracting your students and bringing unwanted attention to the department." When Brittany doesn't say anything, he goes on gently. "We think that, until this all dies down, it's best if you take some personal leave."
Brittany frowns and scratches her nails against her knees. "Are—are you firing me?" she asks uncertainly.
She just wants to make sure.
Her boss quickly shakes his head. "Not at all. You and I both know that the school is proud to have you in the faculty. You're mind is brilliant, Brittany and it's without question that you're going to do great things in this field… We just don't want this issue to hinder that greatness and leave you with a reputation that precedes anything else."
Brittany nods as much as she hates what she's hearing. "What—What about my students?"
"Every week, you'll hand over your lesson plans to one of your teaching assistants and they'll take your classes for you," he tells her and she nods to herself. "It's still early in the semester and we hope to have you back as soon as possible."
She keeps nodding and Brittany doesn't know what's happening. She feels pushed out and embraced at the same time. There's also a tiny part of her that feels embarrassed that it's come to this and that's why she gets out of the chair quickly and heads to the door. He calls her name as she opens it.
"If there's anything you need…"
She nods and twenty minutes later, she's clearing out everything she needs from her office.
"I can't stay here anymore," she whispers as Sully makes the call to get them more security.
Harper sets down a cup of coffee beside her. None of them have really been sleeping but Santana's the worst. Her face is puffy and swollen and she's sure that photographer who managed to get a picture of her this morning is already making up a million things about why.
"It's to keep you safe," Harper whispers and Santana knows that she doesn't believe it, that she's repeating what she's been told to repeat. "That's the important thing."
"But I don't feel safe, Harper," she whispers desperately. "I just feel… worried and scared, all the damn time. I'm not getting anything done and I'm going to let everyone down."
Harper takes her hand and drags her to lie on the couch. She strokes her back and tries to calm her down. In the other room, they can both hear Sully shouting at someone on the phone as Gus sighs despondently across the other side of the room.
"I don't know what's happened in the past," Harper whispers as quietly as she can. "I don't know what's happening right now with this, and you, and Sully…" She gives him a weary glance. "But I don't believe that what he's doing right now is what's going to keep you safe. They're trying to keep you out of it but Sully has done the complete opposite of everything Gus has told him to do this week." She takes another worried look to make sure that the coast is clear. "It's almost like he's losing control and I think you need to take that control back."
Santana lets her eyes search over him before sighing. "I owe him everything, Harper."
Harper sighs and shakes her head. "Maybe," she shrugs. "But maybe not and if you don't feel like he's doing the best for you, you should do something. You should do what you feel is right. You should go where you feel safe."
Santana rolls her eyes. "Everywhere I feel safe is surrounded by photographers."
Harper shrugs and gives her a coy smile.
"Then maybe you should go to the last place anyone would expect," she suggests and it makes Santana's brow furrow.
It makes her think and, as she looks at Harper, she considers that maybe she's thinking the same thing.
"Harper," she says, glancing at Sully. Harper lets her brow lift. "I'm saying the word."
"Maybe we should do something…"
Brittany looks up from her computer, where she's already completed three weeks of lesson plans, to peer at Rae over the top of her glasses.
"Like what?" she says. "I've got work to do."
Rae rolls her eyes and shakes her head. "You really don't. You were told to complete a week of lesson plans at a time and it's been three days. We should be taking advantage. We should be taking wild road trips or shopping or something…"
Brittany frowns and continues typing away. "I was going to reorganize my books."
Rae scoffs at her incredulously. "By what? Because they're already organized alphabetically by color!"
Brittany shrugs impishly. "I was thinking I could create an new organizational system, maybe. I don't know."
Rae just stares.
"Only you," she comments and Brittany frowns before they're both saved by the phone ringing.
Rae rolls her eyes and gets up to answer it, eventually finding the phone in the kitchen just before it clicks to the machine. She comes back a few moments later and Brittany looks up at her expectantly. Rae stares at her because if it was any other day, there's no way she would care.
Maybe she is bored.
"It was Marcie at the university," Rae tells her. "She said there was a messenger there with a package. She was just warning us that she sent them over here."
She's definitely bored because that gives her a tiny spark of excitement.
"I wonder what it is," she comments idly.
Rae wanders off to do the laundry.
The door knocks an hour later.
There's a young guy on the other side holding a large arrangement of lilies.
There's no card and Brittany frowns as the guy leaves without a tip and wanders away.
"Lilies," Rae comments as she leans in to smell them.
Brittany nods. "I love lilies."
Rae seems surprised. "I didn't know that," she says as she disappears back inside.
The butterflies in Brittany's stomach flutter and she doesn't speak as she leans in to take in their familiar smell.
Sully seems pretty adamant to be at her side at all times, but she tells him she needs some space and he takes Gus back to his room so they can carry on figuring out how they're going to start the halftime show rehearsals from inside The Beverly Hills Hotel without a choreographer.
The minute he's gone, Santana rounds on Harper to hear what she discovered.
"Well?" she prompts when Harper carries on sliding over the deadbolt.
"She's worked at Berkeley for four years," she starts out. "She was an associate professor for just over two and a half years before they promoted her. Apparently she's already been offered tenure and she's pretty much the biggest name in mathematics right now."
Santana looks at her and doesn't know how to feel all the pride she feels.
"Apparently, she's won a ton of prizes and a lot of money," Harper continues. "She's got two PhDs and she solved one of the millennium problems."
Santana gasps and her brain clouds over as she stutters over her words.
"What—what about her personal life?" she asks softly. "Is—is she happy?"
Harper's face changes a little. "Apparently she's very private," she tells her. "She's… My guy asked around the university about her and he pretty much said that she keeps to herself, works hard, and is a great teacher. He asked some of them if she was married but most people only knew of an assistant. Apparently there have been rumors about them but no proof to the fact."
Santana nods. She doesn't really know what she was expecting. Harper reaches for her hand and narrows her gaze.
"What are you thinking?" she asks.
Santana gulps and looks at her.
"That we need to make a plan," she says.
Harper smiles and Santana feels like she's making better decisions than she has in years.
That opinion kind of changes when she's in disguise escaping from the hotel and Sully's telling her she's being stupid.
It changes even more when she's stood on the sidewalk between Harper and Bubba, looking up at a cute, blue-painted house that looks just how she would have expected it.
This is it, she thinks and presses the doorbell.
"If you clean this house anymore, you might actually erase it from existence," Brittany comments as she grabs her book and coffee, heading back to her room and the comfy armchair she keeps by the window overlooking her favorite view of the city.
She hears Rae scoffing all the way down the hallway. "Someone's got to clean it and you definitely won't."
Brittany chuckles to herself. "I think you've watched too much Hoarders this week," she calls back.
"I'm just being thorough," Rae shouts and any retort Brittany has is cut off by the doorbell.
She pauses in the doorway of her bedroom and peers back down the hallway. "Are you going to climb back out of the plumbing or should I get that?" she quips.
She's already heading down the stairs to the front door when she hears Rae's dry retort of non-amusement bounced back at her. She's so busy thinking of something else to tease her with that she doesn't check the peephole like she usually does and opens the door until the sound of the streets fill her ears.
She doesn't turn around until she hears familiar "Hi" that sometimes still haunts her dreams and freezes when she finds brown eyes looking back at her.
All she can think is that, maybe, this is not the best idea.
"Can I stay with you?" Santana says.
The coffee cup in Brittany's hand falls and smashes to the floor and suddenly all she can process is the warm liquid coating her socks and the ringing in her ears.