A/N: This is only because I love you guys. And because I can't not redeem Santana—tried, can't. Chapter title from The Fray's 'Never Say Never.'
All is Crumbling
Santana made it to her car before she felt it.
As she strutted out of the auditorium, sashaying her hips and tossing a smirk over her shoulder at the mess she'd left behind, she was running on that feeling of pure power that had been swirling around her like a windstorm since that night she and Berry kissed. It was addictive. It gave her a rush, a thrill she'd only felt in small measures when she slushied or tormented one of the many losers of McKinley High. This was something different. It was heady.
Down the hallways, the Latina was fueled by lingering rage at Berry. Taunting her, making her feel helpless because she couldn't have something—not necessarily because she wanted it, but simply because she couldn't have it and that made it desirable—that was one thing. Talking about Brittany like she was some two-bit whore…that was something else entirely. The combination of fury and power hadn't been a good one, no matter how superior she felt in those moments.
In the parking lot, she pinpointed her car and kept her focus on it, determined to make it to the red vehicle before any other emotion could enter the array she was already feeling. She made it there and unlocked the door, taking her seat as she tossed the backpack she'd retrieved on her way out to the passenger seat. She dug out her phone and turned it on before sliding her key in the ignition and flipping the engine once.
And then her hand fell from the keys as her chest was pressed down by the weight of the realization of what she'd just done, and she felt it. She felt like a monster.
Remembering those wide brown eyes staring up at her, shining with tears and silently begging her—for what, Santana didn't know—and filled with the most blood-chilling terror…. Those whimpers of pain. Small, unintelligible pleads for mercy. And maybe worst of all, the shake of her head. Miniscule in its briefness, but there. And she'd just ignored it and pressed on, forced herself on the other girl.
No, she didn't just feel like a monster. She was one.
Santana choked on the suddenly ragged breaths she drew in, already scrabbling for her phone to call the one person she could when she felt like this. When emotion was choking the life out of her bitchy façade and she couldn't handle it. She let out a muffled curse when her shaking hands knocked the device to the floorboard and she carefully leaned around the steering wheel to snatch it up, scrolling through her list of contacts rapidly.
She blinked, trying to clear her suddenly blurred vision as she stared at the entry. Brittany.
The center of Santana's universe, her place of calm, the one person she could go to. The other person her addiction to power had shoved aside with a casual knife in the back. Her fist clenched around the phone in revenge for the jealousy now crashing over her, wishing she held Abrams's little goose neck instead, strangling the life out of—
The Latina flinched and the phone fell to her lap, fist unwrapping itself from a phantom Berry's chin. She flexed the hand several times, refusing to close her eyes even though she felt tears threatening, because she knew if she did, all she would see were haunted brown eyes. She leaned her elbow against the window and passed a hand over her forehead and hair, unsuccessfully attempting to compose herself with the motion.
She slushied people, laughed when they were thrown in dumpsters, came up with vicious nicknames to spit at them when they were at their worst, even trolled the internet just to make sure they knew they weren't safe there, either. But she never really got it. Never really understood what it felt like to be a bully, a monster, until Berry looked at her like she was afraid for her very life. Like she was certain Santana would kill her.
She plucked up the phone again, scrolling farther down.
Quinn, right above RP Berry. Aka, RuPaul Berry. She'd been too lazy to type it all out, she remembered. The two names screamed at her in white against the black background, branding themselves on her mind without pity.
She'd fucked up. Bad.
It was an understatement, but Santana didn't know how else to phrase it. Nothing could capture how deep a hole she'd dug herself, in her mind. She set her phone on the dashboard and leaned her forehead into her hand again. How had she gotten here? Hurting Brittany had been the start. She lost her. To Abrams, of all people, and with Brittany went everything else. Because, whether the Latina had wanted to admit it to herself or not, she was her world. Everything good inside her came from Brittany.
When she pushed her aside, goodness left the building and now she was this. This monster, that took out all its rage and pent-up aggression and jealousy of Abrams out on Berry, after a simple moment of weakness in which she'd made herself the ideal victim. And then that monster ruthlessly persecuted the diva, hunting her down, isolating her, and then it drove in the knife. And it twisted it, reminding Berry that the woman she wanted would never look at her that way.
Berry may have been a selfish, obnoxious, bossy little freak, who half the time Santana wanted to ship off to Israel, but…. She didn't deserve that. Not at all.
Not after being the first person to believe the Latina when she said she wouldn't mess up glee's chances. Not after giving Brittany a gold star sticker on the bus ride back from Regionals to make her feel better about missing a step. Brittany had thought she was the reason New Directions lost, Santana remembered. And she hadn't known how to make her realize it couldn't possibly have been, and then Berry had leaned over the back of her seat and given Brittany one of her gold stars and said, "You earned it after that performance." And then she sat back down, and Brittany didn't stop grinning the whole way home.
Santana's breath hitched and she rubbed her eye angrily, until the skin around it was so irritated it was red. She had an itch, of course. She yanked down the mirror to check her makeup and dug through her backpack hastily, hurrying to reapply before anyone noticed that her mask had slid out of place, if only for the briefest while. That type of weakness wouldn't get her back on top of the Cheerios, after all.
She unconsciously flexed her hand a few more times as she padded her cheeks with the foundation. She paused when her phone vibrated on the dashboard. She knew it was from Brittany, because she always texted her at this time to ask where Waldo, her stuffed duck with the little red and white striped shirt, was. Under the bed was the answer.
Brittany would accidentally toss him off the bed during the night and kick him beneath it when she was crawling out of her cocoon in the morning. A slight, genuine smile quirked the Latina's lips and she hurried to fire the text right back with her answer. Her thumb paused over the 'c' when she finished her answer. The answer would be no, she couldn't come over, because there was one thing standing in her way: Artie Abrams.
With a scowl, Santana hit send and met her own eyes in the mirror again. That wasn't true.
The only thing standing in her way was her. This monster that had just irrevocably fucked over Rachel Berry after it stabbed her best friend and the love of her life in the back. And she didn't know how to fix it.
The visor bounced three times when she smacked it back up.
Quinn was on a mission. She had one target in mind at the moment and that person was one Principal Figgins. Rachel was (clearly) not in the right frame of mind to report Santana's insanity, so Quinn was going to take care of it for her. If she happened to make it look as though she was actually obeying the diva (yeah, right), well, she obviously misunderstood and it was no fault of Quinn's if she was surprised later on when she showed back up in the auditorium. Or at her house, or wherever Rachel happened to sneak off to.
Maybe the midget didn't want her help. Well, not maybe. She didn't want her help—that much was obvious—but Quinn wasn't going to stand idly by when someone she cared about was hurt. Because, yes, she did care about Rachel's welfare. Maybe she was annoying as hell and maybe her narcissism knew no end (again, not really maybe, on either count), but she was Quinn's teammate all the same. And in this case, did she really even need that excuse?
No, she decided, not really. No one deserved to be hit. No one.
And as much as Quinn had tried to make Rachel believe otherwise in the past, she was not, in fact, no one. She was human, she had feelings, and she didn't deserve abuse. Just seeing the red swell of her cheek, the slowly forming bruise around her beauty mark, the drying stains of tear tracks—it made Quinn's blood boil, and some unknown beast felt like it was raging in the middle of her chest, trying to burst out and wreak vengeance on whoever had marred that perfectly honeyed skin.
She knew who, but she couldn't think about that right now. It was too much all at once. Maybe she had hit her before, too, but that was different somehow. It just wasn't the same as thinking someone she grew up with, shared her darkest secrets with, trusted as her second for so long…had abused someone. Rachel Berry, to be specific. Someone who had suffered enough at their hands, Quinn thought.
She shook her golden head forcefully of the memory running mercilessly on replay and placed a hand on each hip, her power stance. Her head automatically rose at the motion and she felt all emotion slide from her expression, leaving an empty shell behind. It scared many an upperclassman into submission back when she was just a sophomore and head cheerleader, impressed many a businessman coming for dinner at the Fabray's, and sent Jacob Ben Israel into hysterics once. Though that wasn't a particularly difficult task….
Another shake of the head and she burst through the glass door of Figgins's secretary's office. Her mouth twisted into a smirk of satisfaction when she saw the man still seated behind his desk, glancing rapidly between who she was sure had quickly become his three least favorite coaches. Sylvester, Beiste, and Schuester. Good. They needed to hear this, too.
The football coach was seated on one of the couches along the wall, hands folded in her lap as she watched the other two bicker (as usual), and the cheerleading coach was right in the glee club coach's face, spewing insults at an unnaturally fast pace.
Quinn rolled her eyes, steeled her resolve, and shoved open the glass door with a commanding, "Principal Figgins."
Four pairs of eyes shot to her immediately, but she ignored the varying looks of curiosity and disapproval to either side of her and kept her focus on her target. She may have been interrupting an important meeting, but from the looks of it, they weren't getting very far with it anyway. She was doing Figgins a favor and saving him a headache.
He looked surprised, and for good reason. Quinn was pretty sure she'd never been in his office before…. She shoved that thought aside as Figgins leaned forward, placing his forearms on his desk as he peered at her with interest.
"Yes, Miss Fabray?"
Mr. Schuester stepped closer in her peripheral vision. "Quinn, what's going on? Is ev—"
She spoke over top of him when she announced, "I'm here to report Santana Lopez for assaulting Rachel Berry."
Coach Beiste was off the couch in an instant and Quinn ignored the heavy gasps of all three coaches now surrounding her. Mr. Schuester took another step closer and she felt Coach Sylvester do the same. However, her attention remained on the principal, whose mouth opened wordlessly.
"What?" Mr. Schue gasped, sounding stricken and…shocked. Disbelieving.
She ignored him.
"Q, you mean to tell me Melons snapped on Barbra, jeopardizing her spot on the squad and our chance for a win at Nationals?" Sylvester demanded, displeased to say the least.
Quinn rolled her eyes. Why did she once idolize that woman? She was telling them Rachel was abused by one of her Cheerios and all she could do was worry about her ridiculous cheerleading competition?
"Is she all right?" Beiste asked quietly, and the blonde unclenched enough to offer the woman an uncertain look. Her face fell like her heart had just been broken, and Quinn had to steel her jaw in order to keep from expressing similar sentiments.
Figgins, in the meantime, finally composed himself. "Miss Fabray, that is a very serious acc—"
"Since this incident occurred on school grounds," she said sharply, again speaking over him, "in accordance with the zero tolerance for bullying policy at McKinley since Kurt Hummel's transfer, I expect the proper punishment will be handed out posthaste."
She finished it with a raise of her chin, as though that was the end of the discussion and her word would be followed, no questions asked. She hoped it would be, but Figgins hesitated and she knew it wasn't the end of things. Mr. Schuester had sunk back into the couch along the wall, hand over his mouth, like he just couldn't believe this could have happened. She fought the urge to scoff at him.
As though the glee club members hadn't been tearing Rachel down and making threats toward her for months under his watch. He really did turn a blind eye when it came to her. Quinn's anger deflated at the recollection of her own cruel words toward the diva, though she didn't let it affect the steeliness of her façade.
"Did you see this happen, Miss Fabray?" Figgins asked at last, and she was pleased to see that she had his full, undivided attention for once. He was actually taking this seriously. Good.
She gave a slight shake of the head. "No, I found them in the auditorium. Santana had Rachel backed up against the piano and she was clearly uncomfortable with the situation. I told Santana to back off and eventually she left—" no need to tell them about that simply awkward kiss that she was still completely confused about (what on earth had Santana been trying to accomplish?) "—and I saw a bruise on Rachel's cheek, like someone hit her."
The principal frowned, looking disappointed, and there were similar sounds of exasperation echoing through the room. Quinn scowled at him.
"But you did not see Miss Lopez physically assault Miss Berry?" he confirmed.
She huffed. "No, but it's not that hard to put together."
"But Quinn, you can't be sure—" Mr. Schuester interjected, smiling condescendingly.
"You weren't there, okay?" she snarled, and he leaned back against the couch again, looking almost chagrined. She softened her voice a little when she added, "Rachel was terrified of her."
He swallowed visibly, and she turned her attention back to Figgins.
"What are you going to do about all this?" she demanded, and he sighed.
"I can do nothing with the evidence you have given me," he said, lifting his hands as though to throw the burden off of himself. "My hands are tied."
Quinn glared at him. She could feel her eyes burning with anger and that beast was suddenly roaring for release again, scrambling to get out and destroy this aggravating obstacle to achieving justice. Figgins leaned back in his chair, as though he could see the creature writhing within her, raring to be let loose on his sorry self.
Her voice was low when she spat, "What do you mean you can't do anything?"
"He means that you didn't see anything worthwhile, Q," Sylvester interjected, and she snapped her nasty sneer over her shoulder to face the impassive woman. "All you've got is circumstantial and that isn't enough to do anything to Ms. Montag, no matter how much she may deserve it."
Quinn fumed, nostrils flaring with the fury coursing through her veins, and she reminded herself repeatedly that blowing up at her elders would only backfire in the end. She needed to keep her respectful good girl image intact so she could get them to do what she wanted, whenever she wanted.
"Listen, Miss Fabray," Figgins said cautiously, and she whirled to face him again. He swallowed. "If you can get Miss Berry to come forward with her own accusation, as well as evidence of this abuse, as long as your stories match, you may have a case. Until then, I'm sorry, but there is nothing I can do for you."
Stay calm, she coached herself. It was frustrating that her word wasn't enough, but they'd given her another route. All she had to do was get Rachel to come forward as well and things would be settled. Beiste was frowning sympathetically at her and she ground her teeth together once more before turning on her heel and marching out as ceremoniously as she had entered, entirely ignoring the other two coaches.
She stopped at her locker on her way out, thinking to drop by the auditorium to see if Rachel was still there before she went home. If she intended on checking up on the diva at her house, there were a few things she would need to grab first, just in case. The brunette probably wouldn't ask her to stay over, but on the off chance that her dads weren't home and she didn't want to be alone, Quinn didn't fancy wearing too-small argyle pajamas to bed. Particularly if Berry had a camera in her phone.
The auditorium was dark and emptied out, as she'd half-expected, so she made the trek out to her car and drove home, immediately dreading going inside when she saw that only the light from the TV was on through the window. This automatically meant one thing: scotch.
Her mother's favorite drink, as far as Quinn knew, was actually champagne. Like some cliché housewife from the 50s. Russell's favorite drink was scotch, and Judy had taken to drinking it on those occasions when she most regretted her decision to kick him out. This typically meant a fresh set of bills had come that Judy had to figure out how to pay. Despite the hefty sum she'd won in the divorce, things were tighter than the Fabray women were used to, and Judy reacted to the dreaded envelopes with panic and scotch.
Quinn was sure it didn't help that Russell used to be in charge of the finances, but she found herself feeling rather unsympathetic when her mother's answer to all this was to turn to alcohol. It was a built-in reaction to all the bad things that happened in the Fabray family, but she'd naively hoped her mother had started to move on from that.
What made it worse was the way Judy reacted to the scotch. Champagne ridded her of lucidity, so she could take Russell's chauvinistic attitude and condescending demands without complaint. Scotch turned her into another person entirely. All she seemed to do was stare at the TV and drink, and if Quinn was too loud for her tastes, she yelled.
It wouldn't have been bad if it were her father yelling at her. She could take that. She was used to it when he was still around. But her mother yelling at her was something else entirely. She hardly ever scolded Quinn when she was young, and even during sober arguments, she barely raised her voice. So to hear such snappish, harsh words coming from the usually calm, collected woman was frightening to Quinn.
However, her overnight bag was inside and if she intended on staying with Rachel, going into the lion's den was a necessary evil. Besides, she really should take a shower before she visited someone at their home. Cheerios practice did not leave the most pleasant of scents behind.
So she steeled herself and crept inside, kicking off her shoes at the door and hanging up her Cheerios jacket as mutely as possible while the sounds of ABC News blared in the background. She slipped toward the living room and peered in, only to find her mother half-asleep with a glass of scotch still dangling from her fingers, her eyes glazed as the screen flashed across her face. Quinn released a breath of relief and hurried the rest of the way down the hall before bounding up the stairs.
After slinging her backpack to her bed and tossing her always-ready overnight bag next to it, she stripped down, placing her uniform neatly on its hanger and her hair tie in the jar with the rest of them. Forty-five minutes later, her bathroom mirror was fogged, her hair was combed, and she stood naked with a towel on at the entryway to her closet, trying to decide what would be appropriate for a visit to the Berry's.
The blonde ended up with a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved lavender top, figuring casual but conservative would be best for the occasion. She slung her backpack and overnight bag over her shoulders and headed for the front door, crossing her fingers and praying that her good luck wouldn't run out. She had just made it past the living room when her stomach leapt into her throat.
She swallowed down her nerves, creeping back to the doorframe to peek in at her scowling mother. She knew the woman was drunk when she called her 'Quinn.' It was the only time her affectionate nickname wasn't used, and though she pretended it annoyed her, she sincerely missed the little 'y' on the end of her name when her mom cut it short that way.
"Yes, Mom?" she asked meekly, fiddling with her sleeves anxiously.
Her eyes narrowed. "Where do you think you're sneaking off to? Off to see that Sam boy, are you?" She sneered around the name. "Don't think I don't know what's going on with you two."
Quinn faltered, confused. "Mom, we're dating. I told you. H-he came for dinner and—"
"He's going to get you pregnant all over again! You'll see," she roared, and then coughed heartily.
The younger blonde was physically moved backward by that blow, and tears were already stinging at her eyes. She couldn't deal with this now. She had things to do. She couldn't handle her drunk mother accusing her of whoring around when she was worrying about this whole Rachel situation.
So she did what Fabrays did when they couldn't strike back: she ran. She slid on her shoes and grabbed her Cheerios jacket as an afterthought and rushed to the door, trying not to let the tears fall as she heard her mother call after her, "I see the way you throw yourself at that boy!"
The drive home was awkward, to say the least. Rachel couldn't lean back in her seat because it hurt to put that much pressure on her back. But she also couldn't maintain her posture, because—surprise—it hurt. She was stunned and annoyed at just how many movements utilized one's back muscles, but regardless, vowed never to take her back for granted again.
She also couldn't put her backpack on her shoulder and had to resort to practically dragging it along the ground. Though that hurt, as well, it wasn't as bad as if she'd had her Biology textbook repeatedly digging into the bruise she was sure was already forming.
Once she was finally within the safety of her home, she decided to forgo carrying the bag upstairs and instead set up camp on the couch, shrugging her coat onto the armchair sitting adjacent to it. Her keys went into the mail bowl in the center of the coffee table, and she flipped through the envelopes they'd received today as she headed to the kitchen for an ice pack and a bottle of water. Mostly bills, she noted, as usual.
Though apparently her papa, James, was invited to join the Lima Association for Medical Enhancement. Interesting acronym, Rachel noted, before tossing it into the trash.
The answering machine was blinking with three messages, so she clicked 'play' as she pressed the ice pack to her back and chugged down some refreshing water. This sense of normalcy and routine (minus the ice pack) was refreshing in itself, and she felt calmed by the whole thing. Her world hadn't been entirely destroyed. She could still do some things.
She deleted the wrong number and the one that didn't leave a message, and then a grin slowly spread across her face as the third one started playing, that deep, calming voice filling the kitchen and leaving her with such a feeling of peace, of home. If not for the sting in her cheek when she smiled, the moment would've been the best part of her day.
"Hey, sweetie, it's Papa. Your dad told me what happened at Sectionals and I am so proud of you, honey. A tie is great news, and I'm glad to hear that your friend Kurt gets to continue to the next level with you. I want to talk to you more about this business with Finn, but I just needed to call to tell you how proud I am and how much I miss you. I love you, babygirl. I'll talk to you soon."
The dial tone sounded and Rachel sighed, leaning her hip into the counter next to the machine and simply letting those warm, loving words wash over her for a moment longer. This was what kept her going, honestly. On her worst days, even if her fathers weren't there, they showed how much they cared just by calling and talking every day. It made all the pain and heartache from her horrible days at school wash away, if just for that evening, because somebody cared. Somebody loved her.
It was only when she recalled his mention of Finn that her peaceful moment was destroyed, the reminder of everything that happened over the past month or so and especially the last week, and then today, was too powerful to allow her the calm she needed. A chill ran up her spine, a token of her previous terror, and she forced herself into action, not allowing herself to stand there and be taunted by memories.
The ice pack was tossed back into the freezer, though she kept her water bottle with her as she trudged up the stairs to retrieve her bath supplies from her bedroom. The master bathroom in her fathers's room was the biggest she'd ever seen, which meant the tub was pretty sizeable as well, and the water ran hot almost immediately. It was perfect, in her view, and always had been. When she was little, she would put on her scuba gear and pretend to dive for seashells. She was always disappointed when she didn't find any.
Rachel shook her head of her reminiscences, instead focusing on the busy work she'd set herself to. She poured in bath salts in moderation as the tub gradually filled with steaming water before she went about the business of setting candles and her personal brands of shampoo, conditioner, and soap along the edge of the tub. She carefully lit the candles before stripping down, avoiding the sight of herself in the mirror—she wasn't quite ready to face the damage Santana had done yet.
When she finally sank into the warm, waiting water, it was with a moan of pleasure that echoed off the walls and made her blush. Her sore muscles were soothed and coaxed into relaxing, joints finally stretching with ease as she was, quite literally, washed in the safety of her own home. Away from school, and Finn, and Santana. And Quinn.
Her eyes slid closed and she leaned back against the rim of the tub, willing her mind away from thoughts of the mess awaiting her at school the next day. As usual, it didn't do much good.
As if things weren't already complicated enough between herself, Finn, Santana, and Noah, now Quinn had to be brought back into the mix, and not even by the most expected member of that little quadrangle. As long as Rachel was left to ignore her feelings for the tempestuous blonde, she was safe and mostly out of the loop, but Santana couldn't possibly leave things be. As if things weren't bad enough. Why was everything so…fucked?
Santana had taken Finn's virginity and kissed Rachel while sleeping around with Noah, who impregnated Quinn behind Finn's back and helped bring an end to Rachel's relationship with Finn by making out with her, and Finn was mostly just heartbroken about being cheated on so much, though he seemed to have some feelings for Quinn and for both Santana and Rachel, both of whom were secretly pining after blonde cheerleaders, whether they wanted to admit it or not, who were involved in their own relationships and weren't interested in a change of genders in their partners, or new partners at all, though Noah certainly seemed to hope Quinn would change her mind about that.
Was that the definition of fucked? Rachel thought it might be. She would have to look it up later. Perhaps on UrbanDictionary.
She cleared her head of those extraneous thoughts, instead focusing on the facts. What she was certain of.
One, she was terrified of Santana. Two, she had no chance at a romantic relationship with Quinn, and she'd likely ruined any shot she had at a friendship with her when she so forcefully pushed her away that very afternoon. Three, she could not, and would not, involve herself with anyone for whom she had no feelings (in other words, anyone but Quinn). Four, she could not let Quinn know about her feelings, which led her to five. She couldn't report Santana to Figgins like Quinn had told her to.
It would lead to too many questions that would ultimately end in the truth of it all coming out, which wouldn't be good for anyone, least of all Rachel. The truth would completely alienate everyone in her life she had come to hold dear, leaving her with no one but her absentee fathers and possibly Kurt, who was absentee in his own way.
Finn's heart would be crushed further, Santana's reputation ruined (not that Rachel cared, but there was a serious possibly the Latina would end up taking it out on her, and she did not want that to happen), Brittany's remaining trust in Santana shattered, the glee club would hate her for wrecking the uneasy balance they'd struck after Sectionals, and, worst of all, Quinn would hate her more than ever. She'd never look at her again. And as much as she hated to admit it, Rachel would not be able to take that.
She could live with this, as long as Quinn didn't hate her.
With that conclusion reached, Rachel was decided on her course of action for the next day at school: lay low and avoid Santana at all costs.
She stretched her legs one last time before reaching to go about the business of actually bathing herself. Once she was completely cleansed and rinsed, she pulled the plug at the bottom of the tub and stepped out, pulling her pink bathrobe around her shoulders before she blew out the candles and set about clean-up, saving combing her hair for last.
The soak had done her back good, to her relief, though she still felt fairly stiff in her movements. She threw back a couple of painkillers with the rest of her water before she combed out her hair, trying not to wince at the image of her puffy, yellowed cheek mirrored back at her. She had just gotten to combing out her bangs when she heard the doorbell ring.
Rachel frowned. Her fathers hadn't said anything about a package being delivered in their messages recently, and that was usually the only reason she received visitors. It rang again, and she blew out a quiet huff and set the comb on the counter, tying her robe tight around her body and padding lightly down the stairs. She called out to reassure whoever it was she was coming, and peered through the peephole once she arrived.
Who she saw there made her stomach leap to her throat and she stared at the golden doorknob for several breathless moments before she cracked it open and peered through at her visitor, eyes wide and inquiring.
"What do you want?" she whispered.
Quinn ran a restless hand through her long blonde locks. "Can I come in?"