Short Change Hero
Santana Lopez sat uncomfortably on the overstuffed cushion in Dr. Emma Pillsbury's office for her monthly evaluation. The older, redheaded woman was the psychiatrist for the NYPD and on Santana's list for least favorite person in the world, right under her partner. It wasn't that Emma was a bad person, but her job required her to force Santana to do the thing she hated more than anything in the world, which was to open up. In reality she never told her everything she was thinking, what kind of idiot would? She knew she was sane and on top of that any serious deep rooted issues she had couldn't be solved by a woman who couldn't stand to listen to the more graphic details of what they had to deal with on the streets.
"So Officer Lopez how have you been?" she asked in her kind placating manner.
"The same since the last time we talked last month," Santana sighed.
"I don't know," she looked over a piece of paper that sat squarely in the middle of her immaculate desk, "it says here that you received a new partner after Matt transferred away, that's new."
Santana winced, "Can we please not talk about her?"
"We both know these are the kinds of things you are here for. Now tell me, what kind of problems are you having with Rachel?"
"Where to start? She is a rookie who is full of bullshit ideals and never listens to anyone else. She knows the police handbook by heart. Combine that with an inability to shut the fuck up, and you have a person that is flat out intolerable."
"She has the highest marks out of all the cadets that graduated from the academy, and you did quite well yourself, so you should have that in common."
Santana stared perplexedly at the woman, she just didn't get it, "Whatever. I will try to get along with the imp," she lied.
"Good!" Emma exclaimed not reading the insincerity in her voice, "Now I know how much you hate it when I bring this up, but how is your love life."
She clenched her jaw so as not to curse, "I get laid every now and then, but no serious relationships. The same as the last fucking time you asked me pervert."
Emma flustered at this, but she didn't let it deter her, "Last month you said there was someone you were interested in."
"Yes, interested in sleeping with."
"R-right and did you consider pursuing a long term relationship with this person?"
"No, and a good thing too because she was a lousy lay."
Emma seemed embarrassed by her own topic, "Looking over your performance evaluation I see that you have been doing well despite your issues with Rachel, and ignoring the unnecessary derisive comments from the Lieutenant, have been quite an active member of the force as well. The only worry I really have is that your social life is suffering."
"You did hear me say I get laid right?"
"Yes I did, what I don't hear is you mentioning a relationship that lasts past a one night stand."
"That's perfectly normal, especially here! Puckerman has a different woman every other day!"
"We aren't here to talk about him, we are here to talk about you."
"I don't get it, my performance is top notch and I am cuffing more crooks than the average cop, but you want me to… what? Stop and cultivate a relationship with someone? Why? They all end in failure. You want me to stop with the exemplary job performance and chase romance?"
Emma was scrawling notes on her clipboard, "Why do you think that perusing a relationship will lower your performance?"
"Because I have had relationships before and they take time and energy I am currently giving to this job."
"I see. That's fine, but consider this; this is just a job. At the end of the day, no at the end of your life, do you really want to look back on this and nothing else."
She scoffed, "No, but not to worry I'll have plenty of sex to keep me occupied when reviewing the more boring segments of my life."
The psychiatrist nodded, "If you are comfortable I certainly won't mock your choice, but until our next session really think that over," she had clearly dismissed Santana's flippant response.
"I'm free to go then?" she asked already getting up.
Emma nodded and found herself alone in her office almost instantly.
Santana burst out off the office doors feeling like a kid in school after the final bell, she had just been released from the one task she had been dreading for weeks, it was the end of her shift and she had the next two days off. Her mood didn't even totally sour when two more people on her least favorite persons list showed up; Sergeant Quinn Fabray and Lieutenant Sue Sylvester. Sue was a pain in the ass in the most severe way, but it was really Quinn's approach that bothered her, Santana couldn't stand her.
"Officer Lopez you are just leaving your Psych Eval?" Sue asked loudly from clear across the room.
Several heads turned to stare at her and she tried not to snap at the woman, she wouldn't let Sue break her mood, "Yes," she replied at a more reasonable volume.
Finally the woman crossed the length of the busy precinct to stand next to the person she was talking to, of course tailed by Quinn, "What?" she asked leaning well beyond the boundaries of Santana's personal bubble.
"Yes ma'am I finished my evaluation," Santana repeated through gritted teeth.
"Excellent, hope to see a good report, you are one of the best, need you out there keeping our numbers up. Though Emma advising anyone is a blind leading the blind scenario of catastrophic proportions."
"Don't tell me you came to work like that?" Quinn asked looking over Santana's civilian clothes with disdain.
"No, I changed before I went to Dr. Pillsbury," she said trying her damnedest not to lose the feeling of elation she'd had moments before.
"Next time please be in full uniform until the end of the work day."
"Got it," she said, when Quinn glared daggers she corrected, "Yes ma'am."
"Your questionable dressing habits aside, I wanted to make you aware that there is a case that Quinn and I have been working for a while. It's not terribly important, but our sources say that it may be soon, so come Monday morning be ready for an assignment. If you see Rachel let her know," Sue said and abruptly turned away. Quinn lingered long enough to shoot Santana a hateful look and followed.
After they were out of sight she was ironically thinking happily about being home free when Rachel Berry spotted her trying to make it to the door.
"Santana!" she called in her shrill voice.
She tried to pretend she didn't hear anything, but the other woman was fast enough to cut her off before she could reach the door.
"What Berry?" she snapped hopping that a fierce enough response would make her go away.
It did make her cringe a little, it didn't stop her from pressing on, "Hey, look I know you haven't really warmed up to me, but I was thinking, we should fix that."
"No, really we're fine the way we are," she said trying to sidestep the woman and finding her just as irritatingly in the way as she followed her movement.
"I know you and some of the others go out after work, and I know it's rather forward of me, but I was thinking maybe I could come along," a hopeful smile punctuated the end of her sentence.
Santana considered telling her all the reasons she would not want to go out with her and the other guys, but in a somewhat malicious moment, decided to grant the obnoxious little brat her wish.
"Sure," she said simply.
Her smile bloomed into a silly grin while Santana began to bet silently how long it would take for it to melt off.
Her longtime friend and fellow officer Puck appeared behind her, announcing his arrival with an inappropriate slap to her butt.
"Lopez, you sane enough to party tonight?"
"Puckerman, you rich enough to buy drinks after the sexual harassment suits?"
He laughed, "You know I have a special hidden reserve. Finn dropped out so it's going to just be me, you, Sam and Mike."
"Perfect I can take the missing man's spot," Rachel piped.
Puck seemed to notice Rachel for the first time, he gave her a disbelieving look before he turned questioningly to Santana, she cut him off before he could say anything.
"Berry asked to join us, she wants to get to know us by tagging along," she said pointedly.
"She'll get to know us alright," he said quietly.
Rachel Berry was as close to a perfectionist as anyone without clinical OCD could get. She had gone out of her way to learn all she could about her co-workers, most especially her partner, the moment she knew she was going to be assigned to the 6th precinct. She knew all about Noah Puckerman, who had more pending lawsuits against him than any other officer on the force, for everything from harassment to reckless endangerment. Nothing ever stuck on him if it ever did make it to court, so it made him a bit of a wild card, and it took only slight inquiries around the city to discover he was a notorious playboy.
Sam Evans worked in forensics and was stereotypically a nerd and a bit of a shut in, but despite it all he was quite popular amongst the female, and a couple of male, members of the staff due to his incredibly non-stereotypical looks. He had a clean record as far as complaints went and his work was top notch. He was one Rachel had mentally tagged as potential date material.
Finn Hudson was a fellow officer and work-a-holic he was known for late nights and tough collars, hence why he hadn't joined them, she assumed. He had been married once and was now divorced though she hadn't been able to work out why or to whom. Overall he was a nice guy and she would have put him on her potentials list, but the mysterious divorce held her back.
Mike Chang was pretty cut and dry since he had only joined several weeks before she had, but had apparently gained the favor of everyone she spoke to about him. Even the Lieutenant had nothing much to say about him except some offhand racist comments about how he would serve them better in the lab due to his race's superior technological skills.
Santana Lopez was by far the most enigmatic, she had a record that was pure black and white, as in half of it was really bad and half was really good. She had been written up on several occasions for insubordination against her Sergeant, one altercation actually ending in blows. There was even a report that she had intentionally released a contagious virus from its container in the lab, the only reason she wasn't fired for that incident was because of lack of evidence. On the other hand she had graduated top of her class from the academy, (though her marks weren't as good as Rachel's) and not only took on every major bust she could get her hands on, but managed to nullify the task with expert ease. She had countless awards and decorations for service to the city of New York. Yet everyone she asked told her Santana was moody, unreliable for anything other than work, and overall a bit of a bitch. There was even talk of her being involved in Finn's divorce.
All this information she had collected diligently and never trusted anything that didn't come from multiple sources. She had checked and double checked these facts against the testimonies of her fellow officers and members of the staff in general. So why, after all her research and all her questioning had no one mentioned the very important fact that this particular group of people regularly visited a gentleman's club called Femme?
When they had come to the building Rachel hadn't suspected what she was in store for until the last minute. The gaudy yet respectably designed building looked like an art gallery from the outside, as it was decorated with many Greek-esque statues all nude, but tastefully so. It's true purpose was further hidden by the fact that the building was nestled neatly between NoriTech South, a technological research building, and Grand Bank. Though given what type of establishment this was, she supposed that made sense. A bunch of science nerds got off work, dashed to the bank, and then here. She would have expected more from her fellow officers, however.
She sat next to Santana at the bar, clearly uncomfortable, as she barely chanced a glance around for fear of seeing another topless waitress prance by. Honestly she would have preferred to hide by Sam, but he was with the other guys sitting by the stage where a girl was now undressing to a Straight To Video remix.
"I don't get it. Why do you come here?" she shouted over the music to Santana who was drinking some unidentifiable amber liquid.
The dark haired woman looked at her with a raised eyebrow and chuckled slightly, "I'll give you two guesses," she said barely audible over the music.
"You like to hang out with the guys?"
Santana continued to give her a blank stare as she took another sip of her drink.
One of the waitresses walked up to them at that moment and Rachel almost broke her neck averting her gaze. The woman was Indian, very pretty and well endowed, so ignoring her was harder that she had hoped.
She set another drink in front of Santana with a wink, "On me," she said and walked away.
Rachel's face drained in understanding, how in the hell had she missed that fact?
"Wanna take your second guess now?" Santana asked with a smile.
"Oh, I see," she gulped.
"No. No problem, it's just… I never thought…"
She laughed and waved a hand, "Whatever Berry."
"No, really I mean it's fine, but… you know I'm not gay right?"
Santana almost choked, her Jack Daniels burned in all the wrong ways as it slid down the wrong pipe, "Are you fucking kidding me? This is not some sorry attempt to date you, you aren't even my type!" she choked.
"Oh," she let out a sigh of relief, "Because I really didn't need someone with an attraction to me as my partner! Makes for a difficult working relationship!"
"So does your big mouth and irritating attitude."
"What?" she shouted straining to hear.
"Santana!" Puck exclaimed as he dashed to her side at the bar, "You gotta check this chick out!"
She turned to the stage and from where she was, all she could really tell was that the person dancing on stage was tall and blonde, she turned back around, "Not interested in blondes." She said mechanically. This had become an iron clad truth the moment she first met Sue, it had become law by the time she met Quinn.
"No seriously you have got to see this."
It wasn't like Puck to get this worked up about random women, so she had to assume whatever was happening on stage was something special. Much to Rachel's dismay, she stood and allowed Puck to guide her through the ever thickening crowd to the table by the stage where he and the others were sitting. Every one of them had their eyes glued to the dancer and when Santana looked up she understood why. The woman wasn't just gorgeous she was a great… no an incredible dancer. Good enough to make anyone wonder why in the hell she would bother with a topless bar, she was clearly so much more talented than was needed to work here.
Santana wanted to go sit at the table but she couldn't move, she was mesmerized. The woman's golden hair flowed around her hypnotically only occasionally parting to reveal sharp, blue eyes. She was tall, lithe, incredibly flexible and putting all of these attributes to good use as she moved her body to some strange trance music, which in Santana's opinion was an odd choice for a strip song, however she was making it work and then some.
The music slowed and sped up and as it progressed she lost more and more clothing. She seemed to like her stripping wardrobe how she liked her music; odd. And like her music she made it work. When Santana had arrived she was wearing a jacket, over a long sleeve shirt, over a short sleeve shirt, over a wife beater, over a bra with jeans, over boxers, over briefs, over panties. A pile of clothes already on the stage suggested her starting outfit had been even more absurd, but not a soul complained as the music pumped on and she removed layer after layer until she was down to her underwear.
In any other situation, Puck would have teased her endlessly over the fact that her mouth was hanging open and that she was practically drooling in anticipation as the final part of the song slammed out of the speakers, but he was just as captivated.
Then as the moment of truth came, the lights went out and the room was plunged into pitch black.
Screams of frustration rose from the gathered crowd and then began the blind scramble for the exits. Santana supposed there would have been more excitement and looting if this wasn't such a popular cop hangout. After a long moment, the emergency lights came on and she found herself scanning the stage hopefully, but the woman had gone.
"Well that's a shitty end to a great evening," she muttered.
Suddenly Santana found her arm being gripped tightly by a small person who was trembling in fright, through the soft shine of the emergency lights she could see it was Rachel.
"Someone grabbed my breasts!" she shrieked.
"Don't worry they probably thought they were doorknobs."
She snatched herself away offended, "I will have you know my bosom are much bigger than a doorknob. What kind of lesbian are you if you can't even tell that?"
Santana was a second away from turning and leaving the brunette to find her way out on her own, but Sam and Mike appeared looking disappointed.
"A damn shame that had to end," Sam said nodding towards the stage, "What the hell happened?"
She shrugged, "Blackout."
"Think we should go?" Mike asked, ogling the few waitresses that were still around.
"If the power is out for the block, we aren't getting far without a cop car but I think we should get out of here for the time being. Where is Puck?"
Sam gave her a knowing look, "He, uh, went to comfort one of the waitresses."
"That has to be some sort of record," Mike snorted.
"Well he won't be back for a good minute. Let's go," she said turning Rachel around and using her like a battering ram as they cut a path out the door. Up ahead she could hear the shorter woman's protests mixed in with her hasty apologies to those she displaced, all were ignored.
Once outside the group found that the power was out for the entire block, though the street lights still worked which was odd and also fortunate. She waved goodbye to her friends, marched past Rachel and headed straight for her car, only to find her partner tailing her.
"What do you want a kiss goodnight?" she snapped, turning on her heels to face the woman.
For the billionth time since they arrived at the club, she looked flustered, "No! It's just… Sam gave me a ride here remember?"
"Right. Ask Sam to drive you back."
"I would have, but he drives a high emission van and I can't do that to the environment."
"I drive a '67 Dodge Charger, so the planet is pretty fucked either way."
She looked desperately over her shoulder in time to see Sam pulling off onto the road, then looked back at Santana who was frowning.
"Fine," she said, "If you can handle me killing the ozone, I'll drive you to your car."
"Thank you," she said faintly.
The ride back to the station was short and the Latina hoped desperately that her partner would somehow find peace in silence and not break it. It would have been more realistic to expect the Lieutenant to come to work in a tutu singing tunes from The Sound of Music.
"So does everyone else know about your… nightly exploits?"
"You mean to Femme? Are you kidding, it's where half the force goes, the only people who don't are either married or not into women."
"Really because there were only you few in there tonight," she said judgmentally.
"Where was it that you used to work, where everyone went to the same place at the same time? Just because we like the bar doesn't mean we all go together."
"Does the Lieutenant go?"
"Don't know and will never care, the question is; why do you?"
"I just think it is a little… tacky, for lack of a better word, that the officers in charge of this city's safety spend their evenings in a strip club."
Santana laughed hard at that, "Okay first it isn't a strip club it's a topless bar and yes there are huge differences," she interjected the last part upon seeing Rachel's face contort in protest, "Second you are wicked naive if you think, even for a moment, that holding yourself to a personal standard that makes you feel superior to everyone else will get you anywhere. No one cares what you do in your spare time as long as it's legal, hell even if it isn't keep it off the radar and everything's cool."
"How can you be so glib about it? Those women are exploited in there and you-"
"Those women get a good chunk of my paycheck for showing me tits that may or may not be as magnificent as the ones I already own so quite frankly I think I am being exploited."
There was a brief moment of silence before Rachel spoke again, the sound of her voice made Santana want to kick her out the window.
"Don't you have a girlfriend or something? What does she think?"
"No I don't, and if I did it would be none of your business Berry, now shut up!"
Again a small silence followed by talking, "I used to have a boyfriend before I joined the force." She said sadly.
Santana would have dug into her about bothering to talk about such trivial information but as long as Rachel was off the topic of her personal behavior, she figured it was best to count her blessings.
"Oh yeah?" she sighed resigned to the fact that she was not going to be quiet.
"Yeah. He was great at first, we shared all of the same interests and we went to peace rallies together and went to all sorts of anti-violence campaigns. I thought it would be great to make a change from the inside you know? So I became a cop, but he saw it as a sell-out. We didn't break up right away, as a matter of fact we didn't ever officially break up at all we just… drifted apart. One day I came home and he had just moved out. I can't say I was surprised but boy did it hurt."
Why, oh why was the light still red?, "Why are you sharing this?"
"Like I said I think we should get to know each other," she said a little sadly.
Santana let her forehead flop on the steering wheel. What had she done to deserve this? She had just gotten out of her evaluation and here sat a take home version that wanted to follow her and share feelings. She cast a suspicious sideways glance towards Rachel. Was this no accident? Had Dr. Pillsbury had a hand in this? It not only seemed possible it seemed likely.
"Look I'm not a sharing kind of person okay? I don't need to know your personal history and you don't need to know mine, it's just not necessary."
"It's fine if you don't want to share," the small woman seemed to be getting more depressed with every word, "I just wanted to talk to you. I know I'm no one's favorite person and I am great with putting my foot in my mouth, so thanks for taking me out anyway."
The somewhat flat tone of her voice prompted Santana to show a little compassion even though it felt like she was letting the terrorists win, "I've had a few long term relationships, but they all ended with one or both of us being sick of it. They are a waste of time and resources and I don't see the point when all anyone is trying to do is to achieve physical satisfaction."
"That's not true! When I was with Jesse, he was more than my lover he was my confidant, the person I could share everything with. There is nothing like having someone like that to come home to."
"And there is nothing like finding that person gone."
Rachel looked hurt and Santana regretted saying that a little, but she had to understand how ridiculous she was being.
"I don't regret it, being with him."
"That's good," she said eager for a change of topic.
Rachel smiled over at her, "I think one day you will find someone that will change your whole outlook because that is what love is."
"God I hope not," she grumbled.
Much to Santana's relief, she finally pulled into the parking lot and Rachel pointed out her car, a Prius. Go figure.
With a small smile, Rachel moved to exit the car, "Thanks for the ride, and for talking," she said.
"Uh-huh. Oh, Sue was rambling about an assignment on Monday so be ready."
A genuine smile blossomed, "I am always ready."
The door shut and Santana drove off feeling irritated that the dwarf had succeeded in her bonding mission, even though Santana had tried to make it as undoable as possible. She could see where the annoying loudmouthed new girl just really wanted to make friends, at the very least with the person she had been assigned to spend so much time with. It didn't make her want to be around her more than she already had to be, but she did understand the woman a little better.
The only thing worse than being in trouble was being in trouble and not having the slightest clue why.
It was Monday morning and Puck, Mike, Sam, Rachel and Santana sat in Lieutenant Sylvester's office waiting for her to arrive, none of them had any idea what for. They had been called in extraordinarily early by a smug sounding Quinn. Santana knew that couldn't ever be good.
They were all a little nervous even though they were all quite sure they hadn't done anything wrong. Everyone had kept the drinking to a minimum and started no fights, so why had they been called in? It had to have been related to their late night excursion on Friday since there was no reason for them all to be gathered together in one place. Aside from Rachel and Santana, none of them worked the same streets. In Sam's case he didn't work the streets at all.
The knowledge that they hadn't done anything obviously terrible kept everyone calm, everyone but Rachel.
"She's probably mad we were at a strip club instead of at the range," the nervous brunette mumbled.
"It wasn't a strip club," Puck retorted, "I wish it was, but Sam and Santana find them too tacky."
"Shady is more the word. Women of questionable mental resolve," Santana corrected, "At least at the one's near here." Sam nodded his agreement.
Rachel stared at them in disbelief, "Are you crazy! She was going to put us on a special assignment and she told us to get ready and instead I followed you idiots to your den of depravity."
The needle thin thread Santana's Rachel tolerance was based on, snapped and she was about to say some truly horrible things when the door burst open and in walked Quinn followed by Sue. Both women looking like they had come back from a journey of true enlightenment and were now here to share with the masses.
Sue walked casually behind her desk and sat there like it was the throne of the planet Earth. Quinn leaned against the corner of her desk looking down at all of them with what could only be categorized as intense dislike.
"So you five were at Femme on Friday?" Sue asked unnecessarily.
No one knew who was supposed to answer for the group so Rachel was the only one to immediately say, "Yes!" she exclaimed, then realizing that not only had she been the only one to answer, she had done so enthusiastically. "I mean I went but only as a bonding experience with my fellow co-workers, one that wasn't all that effective since they were drooling over half dressed women wandering all over. Had I known it was a strip club-"
"It's not a strip club," everyone corrected in unison, all except Sue of course.
Santana was a bit surprised to have caught that Quinn had chimed in as well.
"In any case," the Lieutenant said lazily, "I am correct in assuming you were all there?" Nods came from her reluctant subordinates. "You were also present during the blackout then?" More nods.
Sue handed a file to Quinn, who took it and began to look over the contents, "According to NoriTech South, which, as I am sure you all know, is right next door to Femme. Right before the blackout a massive amount of confidential data was stolen. The thieves penetrated NoriTech's extraordinary defense system, admittedly a force greatly weakened by the blackout, by way of a tunnel straight to Femme. Meaning they could have been in the bar with you."
The group was silent, not one of them had a response to this.
"Thing is, Q and I have been sort of working with the CIA on this case. This group was a huge problem in Washington and after a heist gone bad, it was believed they moved their base of operations here. We were asked to keep a look out and this is the very thing we are supposed to be looking out for. The bad news is, they got away with some crazy high tech stuff that does something awful that I was too bored to listen to. Q tell 'em."
"It's an algorithm based program that allows hacking into literally any computer system bypassing any and all security, this includes the infinite levels of encryption on White House files. Needless to say this also includes records in the NYPD and isn't just limited to access, this thing provides total control. They can add to files, erase criminal history or make up an identity on the fly. This program is bad news walking."
Rachel raised her hand like a middle schooler who had to pee, Quinn smiled in a placating manner and pointed to the eager woman.
"If you have been communicating with the CIA, shouldn't they take over? I mean this sounds way out of our league."
Sue looked suddenly attentive, "Out of your league? Did I just hear that from Rachel Berry, who begged me for a spot on my force with the mantra of, and I quote, 'There is no assignment I can't do?'"
She blanched a little, "I meant to say why is the NYPD involved at all? They got the goods so what can we do?"
Sue leaned back in her chair, "In regards to that, I did forget to tell you the good news. In order to actually use this program, there are two other complimentary ones they would need to steal. One they failed to get on their last heist and the other is at NoriTech North, the sister building in St. Lawrence. Both buildings will be holding benefits and you will be there."
Rachel's hand was in the air again, "But Lieutenant isn't this a job for the CIA…"
"I'm gonna stop you right there. Why raise your hand like an infant if you aren't going to wait for me to pick you? That sort of thing sort of pisses me off, if you are going to interrupt me anyway you may as well just do it, don't put your hand in the air and make me think that there is a chance for me to avoid hearing the sound of your voice." Both Puck and Santana had to hide a snicker, Rachel just sank into her chair, "But to answer your ridiculous question, several reasons. The main two being the fact that one of you may have seen one if not all of the thieves at some point. That is an invaluable asset since the bar's cameras were hacked. That said, the CIA will be officially handing this, you will just be there to point out anyone familiar. The second reason is, after seeing the absurd number of Swedish agents, I pulled a few strings to have New York's finest on the job."
Puck looked around to see if anyone else was as miffed as he was, "Are you serious?"
"As a heart attack, I don't trust the Swiss and if you do, you are a bigger idiot than I know you are."
Quinn set the file back on the desk and spoke in her slow deliberate voice that Santana hated because it always made it sound like she was talking to toddlers, "Today's assignment was originally going to be basic guard duty since there was no evidence that this group was here. Now that we know they are, it's a big deal. Both North and South buildings are holding benefits one month apart, their security is on a level where this event will be the only time an outsider could slip in. The first one will take place tonight at eight. You will arrive at NoriTech South's benefit in plain clothes without weapons, you will mingle in with the crowd and see what you can see. Do not, I repeat do NOT engage with any suspects, radio me and I will relay it to the operations director. And do me a favor, make sure you really truly and honestly have the right person before you call me."
Mike spoke up tentatively, "It's a men's club next to a geek factory, I would be more surprised if there weren't any familiar faces."
"Correct," Quinn said sharply, "but all NoriTech staff have been thoroughly investigated so rule them out, we are looking for guests. Everyone at this party should either work there or be from out of town your options will be limited. I doubt we get anything from this, but if you help crack this case it would be a huge career booster."
Rachel seemed quite pleased at that, Santana rolled her eyes.
"So our only responsibility tonight is to mingle at a party and look out for club goers?" Sam asked.
Quinn's eyes snapped to him, "No, your job is to pretend to mingle to help the Central Intelligence Agency locate, what is two programs away from being, the most powerful terrorist organization on Earth."
"Drama queen," Puck muttered, Sam sniggered.
Santana yawned, "And for this we had to get up and come here at 5 am?"
Again the Lieutenant seemed to be drifting off, but jumped right back in the conversation at that question, "You have to go and join our resident men in black. Even though you won't be a part of their mission, it is important you know what they will be doing. So in about an hour you are going to be briefed nonstop until you die of boredom, as I almost did, or six o'clock rolls around when you will get dressed for the party."
There was a chorus of groans from the five doomed men and women of the NYPD.
After what felt like an infinite lecture from dozens of identical looking agents, they were finally allowed to leave, get dressed up and head to NoriTech South in their own vehicles. Rachel had tried to suggest they ride together again, but Santana had convinced her that it would seem too suspicious, and it would have been when her car pulled up with Rachel's strangled corpse in the front seat.
The debriefing was as Sue had said, intensely boring, meaning Santana had checked out half way through. Not that it mattered, the whole thing was formalities and furthermore it was clear that the CIA found them to be more in the way than anything, so she sauntered up to the door with the full intent of enjoying the party and not a damn thing else.
Unfortunately Rachel wasn't that far behind her and caught up to Santana with her motor mouth set to full throttle.
"I do dream of making the grade to detective, do you think this is what it's like? Oh, do you like my dress? I picked it up today, I don't really like green that much but it does look good on me. What's with your outfit, a leather jacket and jeans? Really?"
"They're designer," she managed to say in the lull that existed only because Rachel took a breath.
"You look nice and all but also a bit, I dunno butch I guess."
Santana was trying not to lose her temper and blow their cover but this woman was making it hard, "Butch? Fuck you I look hot and you look poor in the worst possible way."
"There is no reason to get testy, I just think you have a wardrobe that could do with a sundress or two. Maybe sometime we can go shopping and I can show you what would look good on you."
"I would rather eat glass Berry," she snapped.
The crowd was thick and she tried her best to lose Rachel in it but the woman was on her like a tick, there was just no way to shake her. Resigned she made her way to the buffet table to get something to eat and, hey maybe Rachel would too, food goes in, words don't come out.
"Ugh, so much meat how can you stand it? I am a vegetarian on her way to full blown Vegan."
"Interesting," she said filling her plate with ham, crackers and cheese.
"Have you seen Quinn? We need to make sure we have a beat on her for when-"
Santana turned around and leaned close, "If one of these people is the person we are looking for, your constant blathering about our mission will send them away don't you think?" she whispered tersely.
She covered her mouth and looked around suspiciously before she caught up to Santana who had taken her pause as a cue to bolt away. "Wait, we really do need to find her first," she whispered to her partner, which was no small task seeing as how Santana was taller and moving at a good clip ahead of her.
The far wall of the building at the top of three small steps was very thinly populated making it a perfect vantage point for her to pretend to do what she was here for and for Rachel to keep blurting out their mission with only the slightest chance they be overheard. She leaned heavily against the wall and began to eat her cracker sandwiches and realizing that it was her first meal of the day.
"Listen, the odds of us seeing anyone familiar here are pretty much nil. Why? Because only an idiot would strike the same place twice over a three day period."
Rachel thought about that, "I suppose."
"Besides this whole thing stinks."
"How do you mean?"
"What in the hell is this place doing with programs that can get through White House security."
That annoying know it all expression made an appearance on her face and Santana immediately regretted saying anything, "Weren't you listening to Agent Braun? It doesn't hack it, it just pushes it to the side. Almost like freezing the computer's many defense systems, changes what it wants, then activates them again. It's like it teleports inside the computer while stopping time for the computer itself and also giving out signals as though everything were functional, otherwise, obviously, you would know they were hacking you if the computer froze."
"No I didn't listen to Agent Braun and after you asked me that question I stopped listening to you."
The smaller woman huffed and pushed herself against the same wall, "Seriously where is Quinn?"
"Wow! You have such a girl crush on her!"
Santana had been kidding, but the look of horror and indignation on Rachel's face made her think she struck a nerve.
"I do not!" she yelled far too loudly.
A few people turned to look and Santana busied herself with her crackers trying to look as uninvolved with Rachel as possible.
"Take it back Santana!" she whispered fiercely.
"Why? You clearly have an obsession with her, it's cute really," she didn't really think that, but the rainbow of colors Rachel's face turned made it too much fun to stop.
"I just need to know her location because as it says, in our handbook, on steak out missions if the leader of the operation isn't visible then we are to know exactly where he or she is," she whispered.
"Right," Sarcasm dripped from that one word, "We do have radios you know."
"But Sergeant Fabray told us only to radio if we got a visual on a suspect."
"Sergeant Fabray now is it? What happened to Quinn?"
Rachel growled angrily and stormed off, surprised Santana watched her march away. If she had known teasing her like that would get her to leave, she would have done it ages ago.
An hour into their surveillance operation, however, she almost missed having the chatty woman to talk to. Almost. Mingling with the guests was pointless since all they wanted to do was talk technology and she was well out of her depth in that department. Sam seemed to be making a lot of new friends though. Rachel was sulking in a far off corner, but was quite obviously watching the crowd and occasionally shooting her scalding glances.
In the midst of her ever growing boredom and overall impatience with the assignment she saw a flash of blonde in the crowd. At first she only really looked to see if it was Quinn, so she could possibly set up Rachel for more embarrassment but when she saw who it was, her heart skipped a beat. It was the woman from the bar. She was both elated and panicked, she had really wanted to talk to the woman after the show. On the other hand her being here meant she could possibly be the very person every agent and officer in this room was looking for. Before jumping to any conclusions she moved carefully up to the woman, who was currently talking to a random businessman, and tapped her on the shoulder. Santana didn't say sappy shit like, 'You are even more breathtaking up close.' but if she were the type, she really would have. She probably would have added something about how her silky blue dress brought out her eyes, but again, too sappy.
The woman spun around and smiled widely when she saw Santana, as if she had been waiting for her, "Hi there!" she chirped.
Santana found herself at a loss for words, somewhere in between her expectant attitude and the gemlike shine in her eyes her speech center lost all of its social interaction notes, "Hello."
"You were at Femme the other night, right?"
"Yes I was. How did you know that?" she asked a bit shocked.
"I dance there sometimes. I work here and the pay is decent, but you make so much more dancing in a day there than a week here."
"The way you dance I'm not surprised," Santana said.
With an effort she pulled her eyes away from those dazzling eyes and down to the ID badge hanging from her neck, it read Britney Ecreip. She frowned, what the hell kind of name was that? But the badge was legit, it even had the imprinted holographic seal they were told to check for time and time again so Santana felt that, all necessary precautions taken, it was quite safe to hit on this woman.
"So how do you pronounce your last name."
In a weird move she grabbed her tag and looked at it closely, she scrunched up her nose, clearly thinking then dropped it saying, "No idea really."
Santana had to laugh, because that had to have been a joke, "Well answer this one. How do you remember me from the club?"
"Because you were the hottest girl there," she said with a smile.
Suddenly this whole ridiculous set up seemed worthwhile. "Santana Lopez," she said extending her hand, Britney took it gently with a look in her eyes that made Santana want to invite her somewhere private.
"So Santana what brings you here?"
"I'm a cop," she said simply.
Britney's beautiful smile widened, "Really? That's sexy."
Santana was making a serious effort not to act silly at her complements, "What is it that you do here?"
She shrugged, "Nothing important, that's why I work at Femme sometimes. I'm apparently not even smart enough to pretend to be a computer programmer."
"Who told you that?"
"Friends of mine," she said vaguely.
"I think you're smart enough to be whatever you want."
Britney beamed at her and she couldn't help but feel like a better person because of it, then she heard her phone ring. Irritated she yanked it out of her coat pocket and saw the caller ID read Berry. She clicked the Silence button and put it back in her pocket.
"You sure you don't want to get that?"
"Positive. So how interested would you be in meeting in a more private setting?"
"You mean like a date? I would love to."
Santana's next words were cut off by a buzz in her pocket, now furious she pulled it out to see a text message on the screen:
Quit flirting we have a job to do! -Berry
She turned her phone off.
Britney swiped a pen off a man who was standing near her without even turning around, so he didn't even notice, and wrote her number on Santana's palm, "I do have to go though, this is a party for everyone, but me," she pouted. "Call me and tell me when you're going to pick me up. I should tell you though I'm a bit of a night person," she said and gave Santana another one of her smiles before she turned and practically dissolved into the sea of people.
As Britney left Rachel fazed in behind her, "What the hell Santana? We have a job to do!" she snapped quietly.
"I think I achieved all I planned to for tonight," Santana said with a sloppy grin.
Brittany Pierce pranced happily into a dilapidated building a block from NoriTech South. After climbing what she felt was an enormous number of stairs she arrived at a faded red door. She opened it to find the apartment was filled with computer equipment, wires, and television monitors that covered one whole wall. It was already a small apartment but with all the equipment and people, the room was cramped and hot. The sound of her entering found her greeted by the nervous face of her friend Tina who had been watching the monitors. Lauren, who was hunched over her laptop at the far side of the room, heard her enter, but seemed unperturbed as she sat looking intently at the screen, her fingers flying concert pianist style over the keys.
Once she recognized her, Tina gave her a warm smile. As she closed the door behind her someone rushed out of the bedroom.
The pale man looked at her warily, but like Tina, relaxed when he recognized her, "Jesus Britt how many times do we have to tell you to knock before you just open the door?" he sighed.
"How many times do I have to tell you to lock it," Lauren said offhandedly.
Brittany recognized the man and was suddenly explosively happy, "Kurt!" she shrieked and dashed to hug him.
He returned it warmly then pulled away and looked over her dress, "Wow you guys really needed me to show up sooner."
"You should have seen what she wore to strip in," Tina chuckled.
Kurt winced, "I can only imagine."
"How long have you been in town?" Brittany asked almost bouncing with joy.
"I've been in New York for a week, but I only arrived here a few minutes ago. As we all know getting in touch with Lauren is about as easy as catching Carmen Sandiego."
Brittany didn't get it at all so she hugged him again, "I'm so glad you're okay."
"Me? You got it way worse," Tina shot him a quick, 'Don't bring that up' look over their friends shoulder so he veered off that topic, "It's good to be back in any case." Kurt leaned over and looked at Brittany's ID tag and closed his eyes with a pained expression, "Who's idea was it to let her name herself?"
Tina raised her hand, "Lauren's the one who's good at naming people and she was busy at the time. I figured it would be better if Brittany picked it so she can remember it."
He looked at Brittany with a skeptical glance, "Remember it? The first name is the same! Never mind this last part. Can you even read your own fake name?"
"The first name is not the same, it's spelled differently and I can read it, it says Britney… and my last name backwards," she said smiling with slight pride in how clever her code name was.
"Please don't tell me you introduced yourself like that," he said looking wide eyed and worried.
"No, I'm not stupid," she huffed.
Kurt was keeping suspiciously quiet.
"So," she said turning to Lauren, "How did I do?"
"Great, somehow, as per usual," Lauren replied, "Tina got into their surveillance feed and kept an eye on you, we thought you were busted for sure about eight times, then you started flirting with that woman. "
"Oh that was Santana, she's a cop and very pretty," Brittany said happily.
Tina and Kurt looked at her like she was insane and even Lauren turned her head, though her fingers kept on typing.
"They have undercover cops?" Kurt mumbled feeling a chill, "We haven't been watching the civilians! What the hell? That doesn't make any sense why would they bother to involve the local cops?"
Tina turned to the wall of monitors and began searching them, "How many? Do you know?"
Brittany shrugged not liking how panicked the situation was becoming, she hated panic, she never knew the right way to react, "I don't know if she was undercover, she just said she was a cop."
Kurt looked at Tina, "It is possible that she is just a guest, that would make way more sense than the CIA sharing us with the NYPD," he said slowly.
"It's not like it matters, my leech is in place and I have been copying a steady stream of data for an hour now. They missed their opportunity to know what the hell is going on," Lauren said smugly.
"How long until we're ready to get packed up and get out of this hole?" Tina asked, eyes still glued to the monitors.
Lauren rolled her eyes, "And haul all this back to our other equally cramped hole? What's your hurry? We haven't been traced. You can't rush genius. I have to decode this thing, simultaneously block it from shutting me out, while blocking all the tracers and back-hacking, plus answer your paranoid questions."
"Then answer my paranoid question," Tina snapped.
"At least half an hour."
Kurt rubbed his forehead, "We really should have used the van for this mission."
"The old one? The one that was not only ID'ed in Washington, but has bullet holes in it? Yeah no way anyone will notice that," Tina laughed.
Kurt sighed, "In New York it's not as unlikely as you think."
Brittany shuffled uncomfortably, "I don't want to be in the old van," she said quietly placing her hand on her chest, memories making old wounds hurt.
Seeing this, Kurt rubbed her back consolingly, "I'm sorry I brought it up. It doesn't matter, this is better in any case. Vans are clichéd anyway."
She smiled weakly at him and sat down in one of the few chairs not covered in wires. Watching her, Kurt slid in next to Tina and asked in a whisper, "How has she held up?"
"Better than I thought she would," Tina said quietly.
"What about Artie?"
"No change, he still can't walk and I'm pretty sure he never will again. The only doctors we trust to see him, say it's permanent. It hasn't stopped him from being his usual silly self, but I feel like he is making himself keep a smile on his face for us."
"Where is he now?"
"In one of our safe houses not too far from here. We'll visit him soon so you'll see him."
Kurt nodded and looked over his shoulder at Brittany, he knew what she was thinking about from the cheerless look that seemed etched on her face. Their last job had gone so horribly wrong and she had gotten the brunt of it, it pained him to watch someone who was as sweet as Brittany go the way he knew she was going. At the end of this, their last mission together, he was quite sure she would never be the same.