Disclaimer: Glee was created Ian Brennan, Brad Falchuk, and Ryan Murphy. I don't own Glee or any of its characters, nor am I making any money from this page.

A/N: Slight tie-in to another one of my stories, "Confrontation and Conversation." This story could be read as a stand-alone, but reading the other story might help.

Timeline: Shortly after "Audition" but before "Britney/Brittany."

Rating: T, for language, self-destrctive tendencies, and mentions of sexual situations.

Crying, Mercedes had decided years ago, was useless. Tears never made a situation any better. They just left you emotionally drained and feeling worse overall.

But sometimes . . . sometimes, she just felt so overwhelmed by sadness that she was unable to stop her eyes from watering and the tears slipped down her cheeks. And try as she might, Mercedes couldn't stop the tears from coming.

Like now.

She stood in a stall in one of the girls' bathrooms at McKinley High School, careful not to lean against the metal, which was probably covered with germs. The bathroom was empty; anyone else was either in class or at lunch, where she should've been.

Taking a few deep breaths to calm down, Mercedes managed to bring herself back under control, and let herself out of the stall. She walked to the sink to look into the mirrors, and grimaced at the red-rimmed eyes of her reflection. Thinking that she could reduce the puffiness of her eyes, she reached for a paper towel, but then quickly placed both of her hands under the automatic faucet in the sink. Before she touched her face, it was probably a good idea to wash away any germs she might've contracted from being in the bathroom. With all of the budget cuts, who knew when the place had last been cleaned.

Careful to wash every area of her hands with water, Mercedes reached to receive soap from the dispenser, glancing up as she did so. She caught sight of another person's reflection at the edge of the mirror, and she started, her eyes going wide.

"Therapeutic, isn't it?" Santana Lopez asked with her eyes focused on Mercedes's face in the mirror. "After being around her, you want to wash your hands. I can't really blame you."

"Santana," Mercedes said in a level tone, "if the only reason you're here is to gloat, then I'm going to have to ask you to leave me alone."

As always, Santana wore her Cheerios uniform and her hair in a ponytail. However, her trademark smirk was absent from her face, replaced by a somewhat foreign expression of sympathy.

"You don't think that I know what's it like?" Santana asked. "Please, Mercedes. Quinn sold me out so she could get her position as Cheerios captain back. And now that she's captain, she just ignores you when you say hello to her in front of her Cheerio clones." She paused. "That's when this about, isn't it?"

"Well, you were right," Mercedes said bitterly. "You warned me about Quinn, but I didn't listen to you. Congratulations, Santana."

Scoffing, Santana crossed her arms over her chest. "I didn't want to be right about this, okay? I mean . . ." she looked away. "I was kind of hoping that maybe Quinn would reign in her bitchy nature and actually not cut you loose, but that didn't happen."

"Why are you people like this?" Mercedes demanded, finally finishing washing her hands and using a paper towel to wipe them dry. "What motivates you Cheerios to be so nasty?"

"We have Coach Sylvester as a role model for one thing," Santana replied. "She encourages us to ruin each other. And as for Quinn . . ." Santana shrugged. "Don't you notice a pattern with her? She rats me out to Coach Sylvester to get back her old position, she no longer acknowledges you because you're not popular and she is, and last year, she slept with my boyfriend."

"You're still harping on that?" Mercedes asked wearily.

"Well, it's kind of an issue with me," Santana said sharply. "My point is that Quinn has some kind of chronic disorder that leads her to backstab her friends so she can get ahead. You know what, Mercedes? Quinn isn't even worth crying over."

Mercedes turned to Santana and studied her for several moments. "You say that, but I noticed that even when you knew that Quinn had slept with Puck when he was your boyfriend, you still hung out with her. And when she came back after this summer, she hung out with you. Why do the two of you still hang out if you hate her so much?"

"What you want to ask is why Quinn hung out with me instead of you, right?" Santana speculated. "I guess that hurts, huh?"

"You're enjoying rubbing salt in my wounds, aren't you?" Mercedes asked flatly.

"Even after that whole disagreement between you and me about Puck last year, I don't dislike you," Santana said. "I mean, you showed me that you had attitude. So, no, I'm not enjoying this. I've endured Quinn's bitchiness too many times to wish it on you."

"You're avoiding my question," Mercedes pointed out. "Why do you hang out with her?"

Santana turned to the mirror, breaking eye contact with Mercedes. "You're a victim in this, Mercedes. I'm not."

She made a move to stalk off, but Mercedes grabbed one of her muscled biceps to stop her from walking away.

"Wait a minute," Mercedes said, perplexed. "What is that supposed to mean?"

Tensing, Santana wrenched her arm out of Mercedes's grip, and whirled around, anger crossing her face.

"Look," she said in a tightly controlled voice. "Quinn and I have been friends for a long time."

"Right," Mercedes nodded. "Church camp, second grade."

Santana acknowledged the truth of this statement with a roll of her eyes. "I have always some second in Quinn's life." Her tone was heated, with an undercurrent of resentment. "I have always been there for her, through everything. But was she ever there for me? When my parents got divorced, when my father remarried? No. Not once. Something else always came before me, some loser guy, like Finn and then Puck, or her never-ending quest for popularity, or her pathetic need to get approval by other people."

Stunned, Mercedes could only stare at Santana. She could remember back to last year when Santana had casually informed her that she was going to get her surgery, which she used as evidence that her parents loved her. But now, it seemed as if Santana had been covering up a chaotic home life.

"And then, last year, when I found out Quinn was pregnant, I was done," Santana continued disgustedly. "I was sick of the all take and no give between her and I. Let her solve her own problems for once." She stopped for a moment and seemed to struggle with herself. "And then I found out that Puck was the father." Santana shook her head.

"Santana," Mercedes began, reaching to put a hand on the other girl's shoulder, but Santana jerked away. While Mercedes watched in shock, Santana lashed out and rammed her fist against one of the metal stall doors.

The clap of metal against metal as the door slammed against the inside of the stall startled Mercedes into action.

"Santana!" She exclaimed. Once again, she grabbed the girl's arm and pulled her back. She turned Santana so she could see her eyes, and was taken aback by Santana's expression of savage anger.

"What's really pathetic is that I would fix all of this if I could," Santana said, her voice quiet, but still vicious. "I'm such an idiot, but I wish that Quinn would never have gotten pregnant, so we could still be friends-" Santana broke off and raised her fist again, twisting toward the mirror above the sink.

"Santana, no!" Mercedes shouted. She moved to stop the other girl, who was intent on smashing her fist into the glass. With Santana's fist millimeters from the mirror, Mercedes shoved her aside.


Both girls turned to the doorway to find a gloomy Brittany staring at them.

"Brit." Santana's anger appeared to have vanished, and she smiled at Brittany. "I thought you were getting lunch."

"I wanted to buy an Uncrustable, but I forgot how," Brittany said forlornly.

"I'll help you," Santana offered.

Brittany grinned. "That would be awesome."

Readjusting her Cheerios uniform, Santana glanced in the mirror to quickly check her appearance. She met Mercedes's eyes in the reflection.

"See ya later, Mercedes," was all Santana said before sauntering out the door.

Shocked to the core by her abrupt episode, Mercedes once again found herself staring after Santana as the other girl walked away. Brittany seemed pick up on her consternation, and moved to where Mercedes was standing.

"Don't be sad," she said, wrapping her arms around Mercedes in a hug. "Santana's sad, too."

"I think she's angry," Mercedes said, wincing at her statement of the obvious.

"Santana gets mad when she's sad," Brittany confided. "I'm going to get an Uncrustable. Want to come with me?"

"That's okay," Mercedes replied. "You ahead, Brittany."

"Okay," Brittany said cheerily. "I'll see you in glee club."

"'Bye," Mercedes said, watching as the blonde skipped away.

Brittany exited the bathroom, leaving Mercedes to wonder what the hell had just happened.

Santana's actions in this story are open to interpretation. Also, Mercedes seemed slightly OOC to me, but I found it hard to write her as upset and angry because she's normally so good-natured.

Constructive criticism is welcome.