Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Glee writers and creators.
WARNING: Includes mild violence, heavy angst, and crazy!Santana.
A/N: First off, I would like to say that I love Santana. This fic in no way represents how I like to paint her character, but the idea would not leave. This follows right after 'Special Education,' in which it was emphasized that Rachel was fixated on the 'who' of Finn's virginity debacle. Santana also seems to be on a 'Hate Rachel' parade, and it occurred to me that perhaps something off-screen could have happened. This is an exploration of that. The title is obviously taken from Eminem and Rihanna's 'Love the Way You Lie.'
Watch Me Burn
Rachel couldn't believe how exhausted she was. Winning (oh, all right, tying) at Sectionals should've been enough to boost her energy back up to where it normally was. But she didn't feel refreshed, or rejuvenated, or any of the things she usually felt after performing and bringing a crowd to its feet. She might've made the argument that it was because it wasn't her who had led New Directions to victory again, but her pride in her teammates's performances countered that thought. Quinn and Sam and everyone, really—especially Mike and Brittany—they'd all been nearly perfect. The win (tie), at the time, felt spectacular.
But now, alone in the auditorium, with no one to put on a happy face for, no reason to sing or dance, Rachel couldn't deny the exhaustion that had been creeping up on her from the moment Santana had…. She wiped the thought away almost as quickly as it came. She didn't want to think about that ever again, though the Latina certainly wasn't making it an easy task to forget it.
The singer heaved a sigh that finally allowed her sore shoulders to release their tension and rest, and she felt like sobbing. But that would've taken too much energy, so instead she leaned her frame heavily against the piano and rubbed a cold hand down her cheek, closing her eyes to her own frosty touch. It was the only kind touch she would be feeling for some time now, she was sure, so she was going to enjoy it. At least it cooled her burning, tight cheeks somewhat.
It was too much. All of it. Rachel just wanted it to stop. Wanted the world to stop spinning and, at least for a time, let her life be calm, tranquil. She'd always been a believer in making one's dreams come true (how would they be worth it if one didn't work for them?), so she quickly decided that she would bring a brief halt to her chaotic life with a long hot bath upon her arrival home. Her dads would be out, as per usual, and so she could even use the master bathroom with the largest tub. She would finally put the lavender-scented candles her papa had given her last year for Hanukkah to use. The smallest of smiles graced her lips at the thought of the heaven that awaited her, and she made to close her binder of sheet music in her eagerness to escape the suffocating hell that was McKinley High School.
"Hey there, Man Hands."
A chill went straight up Rachel's spine, though she fought to maintain a rigid posture. Santana's cold voice never failed to send the hairs on the back of the brunette's neck standing at attention, and it was all the worse since that night. She'd hoped it would have the opposite effect, as the Latina was already a bloodhound for weakness, and that night had only heightened her focus on Rachel, along with her thirst for blood. Alas, luck was not on her side. As it hadn't been since the beginning of this year.
Rachel spared Santana a glance, unable to meet those dead eyes for too long. The Latina seemed to notice, and it made her smirk grow. The singer focused her gaze on the sheet music under her shaking fingers, the black notes blurring and bleeding into the field of white they lay on so she no longer had a clue of what she was pretending to look over. Her stomach twisted violently as the cheerleader's proximity became an issue, and Rachel found herself cursing that night, not for the first time. While Santana's voice had always unnerved her, before that night, the brunette had never found the Latina's company to be so jarring.
"Santana," she said evenly, but her voice wavered and she knew the cheerleader wouldn't miss it.
"No hello? Not even a 'how are you'?" she mocked, almost sweetly. It was chilling. "Where are your manners, Stubbles?"
Rachel could literally feel the Latina passing behind her, and when the page clenched in her ghostly white fingers began to shake, she released it hastily and whirled on the cheerleader, determined not to play the frightened damsel in this sick game of the other girl's.
"Santana, please," she begged, staring into the slightly wider eyes of the taller girl with as much bravery as she could muster. "You have gotten what you wanted. Finn broke up with me, all right? I'm alone and miserable, and you have made your point, however unnecessary it was. I never intended on telling anyone, and I never will. I am just as ashamed of what happened as you are."
That was the wrong thing to say. She knew it as soon as it escaped her lips, but there was no taking it back now. The word 'ashamed' seemed to ring out through the empty auditorium, taunting the both of them and feeding the fire raging in the Latina's eyes. Rachel stepped backward unconsciously, pressing her back into the cool wood of the piano and trying not to show just how completely terrified she was right now.
Santana was vicious, but she would never physically harm her. She wasn't that crazy. Right?
She was almost hyperventilating when the Latina chose to strike, taking a threatening step closer as a sneer twisted her normally beautiful features.
"Oh, you're ashamed, Treasure Trail?" she spat, eyeing the diva with disdain. "As though my little mistake wasn't the highlight of your miserable existence?"
She was about to go on, but Rachel had heard the word she needed and she latched onto it like a life raft.
"Exactly!" she yelped, and Santana practically growled at being interrupted. "It was a mistake for the both of us. I disgust you an-and I'm not gay."
She flinched at the last word, and then the Latina was smirking at her and her stomach twisted violently. Every fiber of her body was screaming for her to run from the cheerleader and her wickedness, but she was paralyzed. She felt stuck to the piano behind her, like it had trapped her as soon as she touched it.
"Is that what you tell Not-So-Finnocent when you're calling her name?" she purred, again drifting closer.
Rachel had the edge of the piano in a death grip and every ounce of blood in her face drained away. Santana was delighting in it. She could see her eyes dancing with mirth at the singer's horror. She whipped away, refusing to look into those eyes any longer as she faced her binder of sheet music. Her hands were shaking again.
"I don't know what you're talking about," she said firmly, stiffly. Her voice sounded appropriately clipped and icy, and she was proud of herself.
Santana wasn't impressed in the least. She simply leaned an elbow against the piano next to her, drawing lazy designs over the black top with the tips of her fingers.
"Course, their names are pretty close and, hey, Frankenteen would be dumb enough to let it slide," she said casually, cracking a grin at her fellow brunette when she leveled a frown her way.
"Don't talk about him that way," she warned, but again the Latina ignored her.
"I mean, even you got them mixed up. Tell me, hobbit, how does it feel knowing you completely fucked up any chance you ever had with her when you went after the wrong person?" She was practically giddy.
I never had a chance with her before either. It was on the tip of her tongue, but she managed to control the impulse. She bit her lip viciously, not caring that she was digging into it so hard it was turning white. She had to keep herself from giving Santana more fuel to add to the bonfire she already had.
"I have no idea what you're talking about, Santana," she said easily, lifting her chin a little in defiance to her words. "You are correct that I appear to have ruined any chance I once had with Finn, but in my defense, we wouldn't be in this position if not for you."
She smirked. "You mean you and Puckerman ruined your chances. I didn't do anything, Berry. At least, that Finnessa knows about."
Rachel closed her eyes, gathering herself, and sighed. "I made a mistake—"
"—and that's all it was. I'm not gay."
"Oh, so that's what it means when a girl puts her tongue in my mouth?" Santana retorted, mock-thoughtfully. "Gee, I—"
A flash of the memory of the Latina's tongue massaging hers was all it took for Rachel to be overtaken by a wave of embarrassment, followed by fury, and she slammed the binder shut, turning on her fellow brunette once more.
"Okay, if you want to play it that way, you are the one who sucked on my lip until I—"
"I forget. Was that before or after you moaned Q—"
"You're just angry because I didn't have sex with you!" Rachel blurted, the blood rushing back to her face as soon as she said it and clapping a hand firmly over her mouth.
That was quite possibly the most idiotic thing she'd said yet, but she hadn't been able to help herself. She'd panicked. If Santana said it, actually said it out loud, it would be real. She couldn't pretend anymore that a different consonant had fallen from her lips first. She couldn't pretend these feelings were fake, or just normal teenage hormones. She would be a cliché, a statistic, and she would be fucked for the rest of her romantic life in high school.
The Latina laughed. She actually threw her head back and laughed, and if it weren't for that moment of hesitation in which she looked a little taken aback, Rachel would've believed her words had had no effect on her whatsoever.
"Seriously, Yentl? You think I'm that desperate?" She rolled her eyes. "Please. I'm Santana fucking Lopez. I can get anyone I want, any time I want."
"Except for me," the singer said hastily, determined to take this weak spot she'd found and twist it until it burned and she was in control of the conversation again. "And I'll bet that kills you, doesn't it?"
Santana scoffed, covering her grimace.
"That you didn't exactly rock my world?" she continued, smirking in triumph at the wordless Latina. "Well, I'm sorry if not all of us are as easy as Brittany is."
Rachel regretted the words. As soon as she said them, she wanted to turn back time and erase them, because that's not how she felt about Brittany at all. The girl may have been a little odd and challenged, perhaps, but she was sweet and friendly and the singer genuinely liked her. She didn't think she was 'easy,' and she was sorry she even thought those vicious words.
When her left cheek met Santana's right hand, Rachel couldn't have been more sorry if she tried.
She couldn't help the yelp of simultaneous surprise and pain that forced itself through her throat and out her lips, her cheek already stinging as though the Latina had used her fist instead of her open palm. It burned and it hurt to move her face, and Rachel was cupping the wounded area from her doubled over position when she felt her shoulders snatched in a vice grip.
She felt the piano collide with her back and whimpered helplessly when she was forced back into it a second time, though less forcefully then. Her focus was abruptly stolen from her throbbing injuries when Santana proceeded to dig her fingernails into each of her cheeks, keeping her attention directly on her.
Her cold, dead eyes crackled with rage and Rachel didn't know if it was because of the feeling of complete and utter terror that took her over at the sight or because of the pain in her back and face, but tears were burning behind her own eyes and she was trembling all over. The Latina didn't care, only shrinking the distance between them and breathing down on the singer with the quick, hot pants of fury, and Rachel was certain she would kill her.
"If you ever talk about Brittany that way again," Santana growled, and the quietness of it just sent a shiver down her spine, "I will end your pathetic existence. You got that?"
Rachel couldn't move her jaw because of the Latina's grip, and it was too painful to change expressions. All she could do was whimper through her lips and nod just enough to let the frightening girl know it wasn't another tremble. It seemed to calm Santana. Not by much, but just enough that her fingernails weren't digging into her cheeks anymore and Rachel wasn't afraid for her life any longer.
"Hey," a voice cut through the silence, and while Santana whipped her torso around to receive the intruder, Rachel's breath hitched and she turned her head away, not wanting the cheerleader to see her in such a state. "What's going on here?"
Her voice was harsh and questioning, and Rachel imagined her standing there with her hands on her hips, eyebrow arched and hazel eyes scanning the scene with her usual mixture of indifference and derision. She shuddered and she knew Santana felt it.
"Nothing, Tubbers," the Latina said lightly, and Rachel was awed at her ability to go from sounding like a homicidal maniac to a somewhat disobedient minion in a matter of seconds. "Just having a little chat with Berry here. Isn't that right?"
With that, she smacked her cheek. Gently, this time. Playfully. Rachel gasped and clenched her teeth to keep a whine from escaping. She didn't dare peek around the Latina or through her hair to see how the head cheerleader was reacting to this. She knew she would burst into tears at the sight of her.
There was a brief moment of silence, and then she spoke again.
Rachel was surprised. She hadn't taken her 'best friend's' word on things. She was prodding her, expecting the truth from her. She was making sure everything really was okay. Like she car—don't do that to yourself. Please don't.
She didn't have to look to know that Santana was glaring expectantly down at her, waiting for her to speak, and daring her to say things weren't fine. Rachel took a deep, shuddering breath and forced herself to straighten her stance. It was slow going and so torturously painful on her back, but she managed to do it, bringing herself to her full five feet and two inches and half-facing the blonde cheerleader standing just on stage.
"Everything's fine, Qui—" she lost her breath and tried again. "As Santana said, we were simply having a discussion." She swallowed. "Regarding our chances at Regionals this year."
She caught the Latina nodded approvingly out of the corner of eye, but couldn't bring herself to care much. She was having a difficult time keeping her composure when all she wanted to do was burst into tears and tend to her aching back. And when she was in the room, examining her quizzically.
The two by the piano waited with bated breath while the head cheerleader made her decision on whether or not they were being truthful, and Rachel didn't know whether to be relieved or panicked when she caught her stepping closer out of the corner of her eye.
"I think you need to back off, Santana," she said cautiously, though her words were spoken firmly, as though to an untamed beast. The analogy wasn't far off, Rachel reflected. "Now."
The singer was surprised. Santana, on the other hand, seemed amused. She choked out a laugh while Rachel attempted to ignore the fluttering low in her abdomen at the blonde's defense of her. It was still fake. She could still say that.
"Well, that's a twist," the Latina commented icily, and Rachel shuddered for entirely different reasons at the reappearance of the maniac in her voice.
She was mildly surprised Santana had given in so easily. She'd basically admitted that something bad was going on, but then…the head cheerleader tended to see right through people, and once she made a decision she stuck to it. Besides, the Latina had known her for a long time. She must've been able to see when she was fighting a losing battle.
"The town harlot—" Rachel stiffened "—playing the knight in shining armor? Isn't that just precious, Berry?" Santana mocked, and the singer found it within herself to glare boldly up into her black eyes. "Makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, doesn't it?" She smirked.
"San, back off," her sharp voice interrupted. This time there was no trace of cautiousness in her voice. She was getting impatient.
The Latina wasn't concerned. "Or does it make you feel other things?" she purred, closer to Rachel's face. "Kind of makes me wonder if you're hopeless after all."
The singer almost whimpered. She wanted to beg and plead for Santana to just stop—she couldn't take it before, but if the head cheerleader found out about her unwanted longing, she would never survive it. She would have to leave McKinley. Possibly Ohio in general. Her cheek was still aching, however, and she didn't think she could quite manage words anymore without sobbing.
"Santana," she hissed. "I'm telling you to back off now. Get away from her."
"News flash, Q. I'm not your little bitch anymore," the Latina snapped ferociously, finally taking the heat off of Rachel. "You don't get to tell me what to do like some mutt at your heels. Last year changed things. Or have you forgotten about the spawn you popped?"
"Don't talk about her like that!" she snarled back, and Rachel couldn't help but flinch at that. She felt like she was standing between two wildcats about to pounce. It was not a pleasant sensation. "And have you forgotten your place again? I'm captain. That means I call the shots, and I am telling you to get away from Rachel."
Santana's laughter filled the entire auditorium and sent chills racing up and down Rachel's spine. Either that or the chills were from the head cheerleader saying her name. She couldn't tell, and she really didn't want to know, so she focused on her terror instead.
"Oh, so now it's Rachel, hm?" the Latina prompted, grinning insanely. "Wow, Q. You are just begging me to try a little experiment."
The singer could hear the obvious confusion in the blonde's voice when she queried, "What?"
Rachel wasn't confused. She was apprehensive. She wanted to run like hell, but she had a feeling she wouldn't get far before one or both of them stopped her. Or before the pain overtook her and she couldn't exert herself anymore. She was just wondering if ducking beneath the piano would do her any good when the cold eyes were back on her.
"Let's see, shall we?" she purred, and Rachel started to shake her head, tears threatening to spill over her cheeks, but before she could so much as blink, Santana had her hand in a vice grip around her chin again and crashed their lips together.
It hurt. Not just her cheek, but it was so forceful it smashed her lips into her teeth. She was thankful she didn't taste any blood as Santana continued on, swiping her tongue across her lips. Rachel kept her mouth shut as tight as she could, refusing to reply to the kiss, even as she whimpered in pain at the way their lips ground together. Fortunately, the Latina just seemed to be doing the tongue thing for show, because she wasn't punished for it and moments later she was pulling away, licking her swollen lips while Rachel gasped for breath.
And just as Santana knew she would, the singer glanced at the head cheerleader in some twisted kind of hope that she would react…badly. Her hazel eyes locked her in place, her mouth open like she wanted to say something, to protest—but she choked. She froze up. And all Rachel could read was confusion.
She deflated instantly, looking away from Quinn and biting her lip to keep from sobbing because Santana had done it. All in one go, she'd forced Rachel to acknowledge her feelings and proved to her that she had no chance with the object of her affections. Ever. Because she simply didn't care enough.
The air shifted around her, somehow becoming even tenser after the shock that followed the kiss, but Rachel dejectedly put it to her own senses reacquainting themselves with the tenseness. Rather than a change they all felt.
"Better luck next time," Santana purred, and Rachel shied away when she realized how close her voice was. She felt her breaths and cringed.
The Latina just chuckled, patting her stinging cheek again, and walked away. As though nothing happened at all. Like not a thing in her world had changed. And it probably hadn't, Rachel reflected. Santana was like a hurricane, in some ways. She raged through life, destroying everything that touched her, and then continued on her merry way, unaffected. Unchanged.
Rachel hated her.
Quinn drew in a deep breath, and it was only then that the brunette was able to tear her gaze away from the retreating form of the devil incarnate. Her gaze whipped to the blonde, who looked more uncertain than Rachel had ever seen her. It didn't make her feel better.
"Are you o—"
She stood up straight, pushing off from the piano, and ignored the whine of pain that wrenched from her throat as she attempted to follow the Latina's path. She couldn't take dealing with Quinn right now, especially not if she was going to be nice for once in their entire acquaintance. She'd just wanted a bath. That was all she'd wanted.
"Hey, wait!" the blonde called, sounding mildly offended.
It didn't take her long to catch up to her, and when she did, she caught her elbow in an oddly gentle grasp, turning her back to the cheerleader. Rachel didn't bother lying to herself this time. She enjoyed the touch both because it was so much gentler than Santana's, and because it was Quinn's soft hand on her skin. She ripped her arm out of her hand, refusing her touch despite herself.
"What?" she grumbled.
She was irritated by the swelling in her cheek. It was making words more difficult than strictly necessary.
Her eyes flickered to meet wide hazel when she heard the taller girl gasp. She was shocked by something or other, and Rachel was surprised she was putting her emotions out there so easily. She could read her like a book right now. It wasn't hard at all. She was shocked and angry and concerned all at once.
"Are you okay?" she repeated, so softly the brunette's eyes were tempted to flutter, but they snapped wide open when she felt the blonde's fingers touch tentatively to her cheek.
She hissed in pain and surprise, shoving the hand away and backing up simultaneously, refusing to recognize the emotion suddenly prevalent in hazel eyes as hurt.
"It's nothing; I'm fine," Rachel growled, and Quinn now looked incredulous.
"What? No, she hit you! You're not fine," she insisted, and stepped into the brunette's space again.
"I am," she retorted.
Quinn ignored her this time, reaching more slowly to touch her cheek. Rachel eyed her warily. Did she not know what she was doing to her right now? Did she not see her disappointment when she realized what she already knew? That the blonde didn't care for her, particularly not in that way, and never would. This was like sweet torment, getting a taste of what she'd always known was buried beneath that cold façade and knowing she would never have it again.
She would rather Quinn treated her like dirt.
"Let me help you," she murmured, cutting into Rachel's thoughts just as she was about to make contact with her cheek again.
She shied her head away. "I don't need your help, Quinn. I'm fine."
"Yeah, you look it," she said dryly, and the brunette folded her arms defiantly.
"I've taken care of a thousand slushies without you. I can certainly handle an ice pack."
She'd meant what she said to come out biting and perhaps sting the head cheerleader, even if it was just the tiniest bit. But the way her voice was cracking with tears and coming out oddly because of her swollen cheek took the snap right out of it, and Quinn stood unimpressed.
"This is different and you know it, Rachel," she said, and her tone was back to gentle, coaxing. "You should report her to Figgins and—"
"Why do you keep calling me that?" the brunette groaned, exasperated.
She was truly curious, but her main reason for asking was that she didn't want to address the matter of Figgins. For one thing, Figgins's title may have read 'principal,' but everyone knew that the real master of the school was one Sue Sylvester. And even if she'd lost respect for Santana after that summer surgery of hers, she obviously still recognized her talent, or else she wouldn't still be on the squad. And she couldn't have one of her star Cheerios getting suspended.
For another, trying to report Santana would only result in the last thing Rachel wanted to come out. The reason for it all.
"It's your name," Quinn replied at length, uncertainty winding through her voice and coming out in her shrugging shoulders.
Good. She had her off-track. Now to keep her there.
"I know that," she replied shortly. "You're the one who usually seems to have difficulty grasping the concept." She winced.
She hesitated; she was thrown. "I…today is different."
The brunette scoffed. "No, it isn't."
"Yes, it is, and you know it," the blonde snapped back, a little fire in her voice now.
"Why?" She shook her head, snorting derisively. "Because you suddenly have reason to pity Man Hands? I don't want your pity."
Quinn looked like she was struggling with this. Like she wanted to explode, but wouldn't let herself. It was entertaining to watch, at least, though Rachel wished she would just let her go. She was tired of standing and she couldn't stand being around her right now. Particularly not alone.
A mischievous glint entered the blonde's eyes. Rachel's stomach clenched in apprehension.
"Fine. I'll call you by a nickname," she said agreeably. Far too agreeably. "You need to report this to Figgins, Bright Eyes."
The blood drained from her face so rapidly she might've had a foot rush, if such a thing had existed. Quinn didn't mean anything by it, she reminded herself. She was just trying to get around her stubbornness, but it was killing her. The way she said it so sweetly, familiarly. Rachel fought the tears suddenly burning at the back of her eyelids yet again, begging for escape.
She shook her head at the oblivious blonde. "Don't do that."
Quinn cocked her head endearingly. "Do what, Bright Eyes?"
"Don't call me that," she said, a little stronger this time. She swallowed the lump in her throat. "Please."
"Why not? Do you have another preference, Bright Eyes?" She was smirking.
"Please," Rachel whimpered one last time, and then the tears started flowing.
She distantly heard Quinn start to reply again, continuing what she seemed to think was a playful game that was tormenting the brunette. She was too busy trying to wipe her cheeks dry without agitating her injury to pay much attention, and she soon had to give up on the endeavor, as it was only making her cry harder. She felt her knees wobbling and found her way back to the piano bench, where she slumped and sobbed without restraint, letting all the terror and exhaustion and pain and torture from the last hour or so flood right out of her body with tears that seemed to sting the very floor beneath her.
"A-are you okay? I didn't mean to make you cry," Quinn said, much closer than she was before, and she sounded panicked.
Rachel tried to hide her face and yelped when she cupped her cheek too abruptly, and then she felt a solid, gentle hand creep onto her shoulder and she just couldn't take it anymore. She lowered her hands, hiccupping and then flinching in more pain from her back.
"Please go," she whispered around her tears. "Please."
The blonde sounded bewildered. "But, Rach—"
"Just leave. Get out."
There was no malice in her voice, and she kind of hated that. She gestured weakly toward an exit and turned to slump against the closed piano, which sometimes felt like her only friend. The hand didn't go away.
Her anger spiked. "Get out of here!"
She whipped to face the cheerleader again, ignoring the twinge of pain in her back yet again in favor of shooting a falsely fierce glare up at her. Her hazel eyes were filled with shock, as though she just couldn't believe Rachel would speak to her like that. The brunette again refused to acknowledge the hurt in those eyes, and she felt a bitter sort of victory when emotion was erased from the blonde's expression.
Quinn steeled her jaw, her eyes going frighteningly empty, and she nodded curtly before exiting the way she came in. Rachel watched her disappear from view, waiting until she was certain the auditorium was empty of her presence.
And then she rested her arms on the piano and leaned her forehead into them and cried for all she was worth.