The next morning she woke in bed to find Brittany fast asleep, she was kind of glad because she didn't want to be seen limping to the bathroom for a shower. The previous night had been worse than the time Sylvester had sent them to a weeklong training camp, 'accidentally' hit the drill instructor with her car and took his place. She had no idea where Brittany got all her stamina from, but she supposed it was part of what made her a top agent.
After a hot shower and a brisk walk around the house to try and regain some normalcy in her stride, she set off for work and arrived to find Rachel waiting for her at her desk. Since she had saved Brittany, Santana had been far more tolerant of her than she usually would be. Seeing her made her want to turn around and find something else to do, the newfound respect meant she didn't.
"What's up Rachel?"
"We've been assigned as backup for an event at NoriTech South."
"Oh my God, Sue is not trying to get us to spot people again is she?"
"Not this time, Paul Savoy will be there to do some investigative work and we will be assuring his safety. This is his last day and it's just perimeter work."
"I thought Sue was going simple."
"I used my exceptional power to annoy people I talk to in convincing her that three was simple enough," she said somehow keeping a look of dignity on her face.
"You that worried about Quinn? I said it would be fine."
"I know, this isn't really about safety, Quinn and I had a bit of a fight and this is sort of the only way I think she'll let me talk to her."
"She was married to Finn and she never mentioned it once! I had to find a picture of them together in her attic, before she even brought it up and she isn't even apologetic about it! Like it was just something I should have already known! I mean did you know she had been married to him?" she blurted angrily.
Rachel stared blankly at her, "You did?"
"Of course everyone knows that, they were married for like two years or something."
She turned to the desk across from her, "Puck who was Quinn married to?"
He had his head down on his desk, clearly nursing another hangover, "Finn. Why?"
"Because Rachel didn't know."
"Does she know I slept with her too?"
Santana shrugged and turned back to her partner, "Do you?" her face said she hadn't, "Don't let her past bother you, it is seriously in the past."
"I just wish I had known."
"What would that have changed?"
"Then apologize for being the ass I know you were about it and move on."
She looked a bit dejected, "I… I wish she understood how I feel about this, I mean they are still friends now…"
Santana was a little pleased to know that she wasn't the only person who harbored those kinds of feelings, not that she would ever admit it, "Trust me she was over Finn a long while before they got divorced, I think she was more emotionally attached to Puck and she barely likes him," Santana said, guiding her to the garage.
"I suppose I shouldn't have made such a big deal out of it," she said, clearly thinking over what she had been told.
The car ride was spent with Santana explaining all the ways Finn and Quinn weren't even slightly likely to get back together. When they finally arrived for their special assignment at the front doors of NoriTech, Rachel seemed more upbeat and rather expectant when Quinn approached them, Savoy in tow. Santana eyed him with intense dislike but he didn't seem to notice, he was looking around nervously, as a hunted man should. Rachel waited diligently for Quinn to address her, but instead she turned to Santana, who was totally surprised.
"I'm not sure why the Lieutenant sent you here but I assure you this job is not complicated. You are to stay here and watch for any activity, if you see any, radio in. If anything happens inside, stay where you are unless I call you, understood?"
"I guess, Rachel you get that?" she asked, purposefully putting the focus on the other woman who mumbled a weak 'Yes' under Quinn's fiery gaze.
As the Sergeant walked away, Santana glanced down at her partner, "You must have said something really stupid."
She looked away, "There was some name calling."
"Do you like being single?"
"She won't let me say I'm sorry."
"That's classic Quinn, just let her cool off and she'll be back."
Rachel looked at her inquiringly, "Tell me honestly, you have never slept with her, right?"
"Fuck no!" she shouted, disgusted by the question.
"I just need to be sure because you two seem to know each other quite well sometimes."
"I don't know what she thinks she knows about me, but it's probably all lies."
"She thinks that before Brittany you were about as doggish as Puck."
"…okay that part and nothing else."
Rachel laughed a little and Santana couldn't help but chuckle too.
The day was wasted at the steps of NoriTech and after a while Santana suggested they pop into Femme, but Rachel refused on account of Quinn's orders. Orders Santana told her, sparing no detail, what she thought of them. As the night fell, the wretched grip of boredom even compelled them to play the most argumentative game of I Spy ever.
"In what way is that green?" Santana snapped, earning her curious glances from passersby.
"It is technically aqua-marine, but it falls under the category of green," she said observing the car she had chosen as her subject.
"Aqua; water, water; clear. marine; ocean, ocean; blue. Clear blue."
"It's more green than blue."
"But it's still blue! Whatever, new rule, primary colors only!"
"How about we switch to adjectives?"
"No because then you will describe something as 'flouncy' and I will be forced to punch you in the face."
"Well we are next to Femme."
It took Santana a moment to get that but right before she could congratulate Rachel on saying something amusing for the first time since they had known each other, her phone rang. She checked the number to find it only read Private and naturally assumed it was Lauren.
"Tell me Brittany is with you," came Kurt's tense voice.
"The last time I saw her was at my house, I'm at work," she could hear him curse loudly and in the background Tina was speaking rapidly to someone.
"Santana?" more than the voice, the clicking sound of fingers relentlessly typing told her it was Lauren.
"What's going on?" she asked, feeling bad news was on the way.
"You need to find her quick, she isn't answering her phone anymore and there is no way to stop her."
"Someone called her and told her Artie was in immediate danger from someone on your force," Santana would have interrupted but she had temporarily lost the ability to form words. "This is clearly a setup, whoever did this is trying to get her killed because they sent her into NoriTech South after the personally assigned police detail of our dear ex director. And you're going to have to move fast because this person said they would help her get in at seven."
Santana glanced at her phone, "It's seven ten now!" She turned and looked at the building as if she could somehow see this all happening, but the building was calm as always, which seemed impossible since suddenly her life was spiraling down the drain.
Rachel stepped closer, looking concerned, "Is everything alright?"
Ignoring her, she stepped back taking a deep breath. "Are you sure? How do you know?" she asked, trying to remain calm and find out if there was some way this could not be happening.
"After she showed up with a cop as a girlfriend, I started to monitor her phone calls, I just got around to checking her log for today and I found this. The person is freakishly good about hiding their tracks, the only way to avoid me tracing the call is to know my manual override codes or be a stellar hacker."
"Are they here with her?" she asked, now moving at a quick pace towards the building.
"I don't know, the voice was, of course, disguised and the best Tina can do is discern that it's male. My guess is Savoy has set a trap; he'll let her in, have her kill a cop and then, whether she is killed in the escape attempt or not, no one will ever believe a thing she says. She will be a terrorist and a cop killer and by the time Zizes is up, it will be far too late to try and suppress the media shit storm that will follow."
Every bad scenario that could ever be, flew through her mind; she hung up and took off running for the door.
From her expression and body posture, Rachel knew Santana had just been told something serious, and when she ran for the building, she knew something had gone quite wrong. Anything that had Santana moving like that was bad and she would need her help, but the fear that had taken root the last time reared its ugly head. There were all kinds of good reasons to stay put, like how Quinn had told them to stay there and how she wasn't really sure there was any real danger at all; maybe Santana just really had to go to the bathroom.
Standing alone and watching her partner disappear through the doors, she remembered how it had ended last time and how it could have been so much worse, but most of all she remembered that she had sworn to never let her go through that alone again. Rachel took a calming breath before she went in, her hand resting loosely on her gun.
Santana had run headlong into a building whose layout she didn't know and she quickly realized the folly in this. She ran around pointlessly for several minutes, checking every room without a lock and scaring the life out of several employees before she stopped and cursed loudly for forgetting she had a radio.
Almost yanking the device off of her belt, she held in the talk button, "Sergeant Fabray?" she waited a beat before she tried again, "Quinn answer me!"
Silence was her only reply and after a full sixty seconds had passed, she cursed again spinning in a confused circle. She had no idea where to go. Since Savoy had been here to look for evidence it would follow that he would be where the crime took place but she had no idea where it was that the program was actually stored. Her panic was stopping her deductive reasoning and she knew she was overlooking something obvious, so she held still for a moment and looked around calmly.
There were a few scattered employees looking at her with interest, most looked like clerical staff but one was wearing an ID badge like the one she saw on Brittany the second time they had met. Then it clicked and the solution was so simple she almost smacked herself in the head; ask someone.
She ran to the man who had the badge, causing him to stagger backwards in surprise, "Do you know where Paul Savoy is? He would have been with a blonde officer to investigate the break-in."
"Uh…" he stammered, still trying to understand his situation, "I don't know him but if he was here to investigate the theft, he would most likely be on the third floor." Without wasting a moment, she headed for the stairwell at the end of the hall but his voice stopped her, "If you are trying to get in any of the rooms up there, you will need an access card!"
Frustration flared in her and she stormed back to him, "Do you have one?"
"Of course but-"
"Hand it over."
He seemed quite reluctant, but thinking better of arguing with an armed officer in a hurry, he dug into his front coat pocket for the thick plastic card and handed it over. Santana snatched it and ran as fast as she could through the stairwell and up the stairs.
The third floor seemed deserted, which was lucky given how she tackled the stairwell door open. Her heart was beating hard like it was trying to pump molasses through her veins, and her hands were trembling every time she swiped the card in front of a door's lock. She swiftly opened and checked the first three doors and began to think that it was possible that Brittany had the sense not to come. A hope that was shattered violently as she opened the fourth door.
It was the worst case scenario plus two. Quinn lay unconscious on the floor by the far wall in an empty dark room full of desks and computers. She didn't appear to be visibly injured which was good, the awful part was that Brittany stood next to her with Quinn's gun in her hand ready to shoot.
"Wait! Stop!" she yelled moving closer.
Santana drew her gun and trained on Brittany's head and she knew as an officer she should have had her finger ready on the trigger, but she couldn't even feel that part of her hand. Not that it mattered, she was pretty sure they both knew she wasn't going to shoot.
Brittany didn't even flinch, she just stared hard at the woman on the floor, "She's going to kill Artie," she said in a cold hard voice.
"No she isn't, I promise Quinn doesn't even know about Artie."
"How can you be sure?" she said so softly Santana almost missed it.
"Because I know her, I have for years and that just isn't her style. I talked to Lauren and she said that the person who talked to you is trying to set you up. Right now you are walking into another one of that bastards traps, so please put the gun down Brittany, I'm begging you."
She still wouldn't take her eyes off the unconscious woman, "When Lauren first met you she wanted to shoot you. She's not always right."
"If you do this I can't help you anymore, we will both be totally screwed and everything we planned will be for nothing," her voice cracked with the despair.
Brittany didn't move, she just stared at the unconscious woman before her with the gun lowered halfway between being at her side and pointed at Quinn's head.
Then the situation leapt from bad to worse when Rachel flew in behind Santana, her gun was aimed at Brittany and it was clear she wasn't having the same reluctance as Santana. Her gun was steady, the hammer already cocked back.
Instinctively Santana turned her gun on Rachel and found in this case her finger was firmly on the trigger, "Rachel. Don't."
She didn't even acknowledge that Santana had spoken, it was clear between the two women that the only courtesy Rachel was going to give was not shooting her girlfriend on sight. Turning back to Brittany, her gun still trained on Rachel she tried again, "Britt put the gun down."
"What if she really does kill him?"
"Do you trust me at all? Even a little? Because if you do, then you have to believe me when I say I swear that she won't murder Artie."
"You swear?" she asked, looking at Santana for the first time.
She nodded and lowered her gun off of Rachel as she approached Brittany and gently removed Quinn's gun from her hands and set it down. Rachel never moved, her usually soft brown eyes were hard as she watched Brittany like a hawk, even after she was unarmed. Santana grabbed Brittany's hand and led her out of the room knowing there was nothing that she could say to her partner at the moment that would make anything okay.
Once they were out of sight, Rachel rushed to Quinn's side almost tripping over herself in the effort. Her panic and anger over the whole situation was making her every movement clumsy. Her fear for her lover's life was alleviated when she found that not only was she breathing, but she hadn't even been hurt. Confused, she sat in the dark next to Quinn wondering what in the world to do next, she settled for calling an ambulance and decided to work from there.
Santana ran with Brittany being dragged along behind her, she used the card she had been given to leave as quickly as possible through the back exits. Once they had navigated through enough alleys for Santana to feel safe enough to stop, she did and let out the fury that had been building with every step they had taken since they left Quinn and Rachel.
"What the FUCK Brittany!"
"I didn't do anything."
"Didn't do anything? You assaulted an officer with intent to kill!"
"I didn't salt her, she was like that when I got there," she said looking a little offended.
"You mean she was knocked out before you arrived?"
"Yes, the guy on the phone said he was another ex agent who knew about Savoy and wanted to warn me about him using other people to get to us. When I got here that woman was already lying on the floor."
"Why didn't you tell anyone about this call? Lauren had to tap your phone to get the information."
Brittany frowned, "I told her not to do that. I didn't tell anyone because I knew they would try and stop me."
"Of course they would and do you know why? Because it was a trap! You almost murdered an innocent woman based on a stranger's info! I mean how did you even get in there?"
"Through Femme like last time."
Santana looked incredulous, "They didn't close that off?"
"No, maybe they thought it was easier to get there after work that way, and after that I just went through all the doors that unlocked."
"Someone remotely unlocked them for you as you went through the building?"
She nodded, "And in the last room I found the sleeping woman that I was told was going to kill Artie and her gun was lying right by her."
"This is definitely Savoy, he is the only person besides Quinn that was in the building that could have ordered that kind of thing, plus he had the motive to do it. He was the one that called you."
"Is he going to kill Artie?"
"No! No one is going to fucking kill Artie!" she shouted his name, making her anger burn hotter.
Brittany flinched, "I didn't shoot her, so it's fine."
"It's not fine! My partner, a person I promised you wouldn't be a problem to, JUST saw you about to shoot her girlfriend and our boss! IT'S NOT FUCKING FINE! You promised me you wouldn't do this!"
"I promised I wouldn't go after Savoy."
"How do you not see this is just as bad?"
She seemed truly apologetic, "I'm not trying to hurt you. I just want my friends to be safe, especially Artie, I owe him so much."
"You have to go Brittany," she said softly, now too drained to yell, "Rachel is probably half way to Sue's office by now. I'll see what happens, but I doubt I'll be able to talk my way out of this."
Her blue eyes were suddenly frightened, "If you're in trouble you could come with me, Lauren could hide us both."
"Not together. Everybody separates remember? Anyway I owe it to Rachel to face whatever comes," she said, already resigned to the inevitable backlash of her actions.
"You don't have to," her eyes were bright, helpless and shining with unshed tears, Santana loved them and resented the hold they had on her.
"Yeah, I do. Please do one more thing for me and walk away. Just go to Lauren, pick a new state and be happy there."
"I thought we were moving in together."
"Britt I'm tired of begging. Go," she said wearily.
She didn't leave but she did allow Santana to walk away.
By the time she returned to NoriTech, Rachel had already left in an ambulance with Quinn, but she had apparently kept the details of what had happened to herself. Puck, Finn and Mike were already on the scene, as were what seemed to be every other cop on the force. When Puck saw her, he rushed over looking amused.
"Santana tell me you found the guy."
"Savoy, idiot. Isn't that who you went after?"
It seemed highly unlikely that in light of recent events Rachel would have covered for her, but on the other hand who else would it have been, "Yeah no luck," she said simply.
Finn approached his face full of concern, "She looked really out of it when they took her away," he said distractedly to Puck, glancing off in the direction Santana could only assume the ambulance had gone.
"Dude chill, it was chloroform she's fine."
"But why would he do that?" Finn asked no one in particular.
"Who?" Santana asked feeling like she was missing something big.
Puck raised a confused eyebrow, "You get a dose too? He's talking about why Savoy would bring Quinn into a secluded room and knock her out for, besides, you know, the obvious stuff… sorry…" he added, seeing how Finn reacted when he said it.
"Rachel told you that?"
He shook his head, "Quinn did, she was conscious when they took her. She didn't even want to take the ambulance, but Sue made her."
Santana felt an uneasy comfort in the knowledge that Rachel hadn't already squealed on her. She had to assume it was because Quinn had told her who had really done her harm. It seemed quite unlikely that she would let it go entirely though, she knew Rachel well enough to know this wasn't the end of the incident.
Paul Savoy turned himself in two days later saying that everything had been a misunderstanding and proceeded to cloak himself in lawyers. No one on the force believed a word of it and neither did the courts as he was discharged from his positions and given jail time that his lawyers were able to reduce to time served. An amusing outcome to the incident was that after Savoy was removed from his position, he was replaced with a well spoken woman who had apparently been trying to prove his shady dealings for some time; her name was Heide Wyss. Sue was livid.
It had been a whole week since the Brittany-Quinn incident and Rachel still hadn't spoken to Santana about it. Actually she hadn't spoken to Santana at all; not one word. They went on patrol together in silence and worked into the late hours not exchanging a word. Rachel wasn't hostile or cold towards her, she merely acted as if she didn't exist.
Quinn had been released from the hospital almost immediately and a few days later it was apparent that she and Rachel had made up over Finn, so she could only assume the silent treatment was due to the fact that she had thoroughly broken her promise. She could have pushed the issue and tried to speak to Rachel but she just felt that if someone who loved talking like Rachel loved talking wouldn't open her mouth even in anger about what happened, it was best to leave it.
When it came to Brittany, Santana was still conflicted, every time she felt she had a grasp on how bad the situation could get it got a little worse and she had a sneaking suspicion that, even now with Savoy out of the way, things could still get worse. She missed her like crazy and seeing her belongings still scattered around her house made her feel depressed in the worst way but she still hadn't made up her mind about contacting her. So much had already been jeopardized and she was extremely fortunate not to currently be in a prison cell. Her instincts were telling her to let it go for her own good, something inside her knew that getting involved with her again would mean ending up somewhere she couldn't ever get back from and it scared her. She had no proof other than her gut, but she knew it was true. Brittany was a poison she was dying to take.
On a lazy Friday night, Santana sat as she had months before with her phone in her hand trying to decide whether to make the call she knew she shouldn't. She looked at Brittany's number and snapped her phone shut; open, shut, open, shut.
The rhythmic clack of her phone was interrupted by a knock at her door. Surprised that anyone would visit her at midnight, she got up and opened the door not knowing who to expect, but hoping silently that it was Brittany. She opened it and found the only person that ever seemed to appear on her doorstep besides the blonde; Rachel.
"Can I come in?" she asked, her tone was serious and her face was unreadable.
Still a bit thrown, Santana stepped out of the way as Rachel walked in, "So what changed to make you talk to me again?"
She didn't answer at first, she just walked in and took a seat in the living room and waited for Santana. When she sat in the chair opposite her she finally spoke again, "After what happened. When Quinn told me how she got like that, I was still incredibly angry that you broke your promise, and I wanted to prove once and for all that Brittany was a fraud. So for the past week I've been at the city records building selling all my free time to Mercedes so I could get her to request more files for me to investigate. I went through everything in the main one sent to the Lieutenant but I had to do some deeper digging and I found nothing but proof that Brittany is everything she claims to be. Everything about what happened to her and the people involved reeks and there are obvious bribes going from hand to hand and illegal communications…I kept digging and finally I came across something else that linked some things together and changed everything. Brittany was set up and Savoy is a bad man, but that's not all there is to this."
Santana had been listening intently and was startled when Rachel suddenly stood and handed her a small black flash drive, "What is this?"
"Everything you need to know," she stopped clearly thinking hard about something, "I admit I was quite upset with you after what happened but I got over that fairly quickly as I discovered the rest of this. I really stopped talking because I was too busy arguing with myself about what to do with this information. The first option is to turn it in and hope maybe someone can do something about it, provided that the courts don't do what they did with Savoy, which is nothing. Or I could give it to you, as I suspect you have more knowledge about what's been happening than you let on, and let you handle it. The third option, for you at least, is to take what I have here and turn it in but I think you have even less faith in the courts than even I do now."
"Rachel I'm glad you found some proof but you are being really cryptic and weird right now."
She gave a humorless laugh, "I know. I feel like giving you this information is a horrible thing to do to someone you call a friend… I mean I like to think we are friends."
"You suck sometimes, but yeah we're friends. So can you cut me some slack and tell me what's so bad."
"It's all there, what happened in Washington and even phone records regarding Brittany getting shot. I think every inch of it is horrible and I am handing it off to you. I would like to say it's because I trust your judgment as a great cop, and I do, but it's more like I'm doing it because I think I know how you'll handle it," she began to walk towards the door. "All you need to see is in a folder with your name on it," before she left she turned and said, "Tell Brittany if she ever points a gun at Quinn again, for any reason, I will not hesitate to shoot her."
They exchanged a serious glance before Rachel walked across the threshold, closing the door behind her.
Santana looked at the flash drive and then sideways at another one that sat unobtrusively on top of her bookshelf.
The feeling that things were about to go too far intensified, she had no idea what possessed her to steal the Zi drive from the safe house other than the fleeting thought that if something ever happened to Lauren, she could use it to keep Brittany safe. Now looking at what Rachel had given her and the way the other woman had been acting, she had to assume that whatever she was about to see was going to make her take matters into her own hands, hands that had a mini version of the world's most powerful hacking program.
Feeling she was reading way too much into everything, she pulled out her laptop and proceeded to open the file. It was full of documents, newspaper images, photos and videos and the more she looked at, the angrier she got. Not just at what she was seeing but at Rachel for putting her on the fast track down a path she hadn't wanted to take.
Artie wasn't a man who dreamed, at least not in the literal sense. When he slept, it was always peaceful and quiet, but every once in a while, now for instance, there would be a sound that would penetrate his mind and spark a dream.
In this one he could see a dragon on a mountain top clanging a gong with its talon, it was weird because that was the whole dream and even as the image faded and his eyes opened the sound continued.
The sound was coming from the foot of his bed; it was a gun clanging against the metal frame.
He looked up and saw that the person tapping it casually against his bed was Santana, she had a look that was somehow cruel, calm and pleasant all at once.
"You're awake, good," she said taking a seat on his dresser.
"How did you get in here?"
She smiled at that, "Lauren let me in. This place has automatic locks, cameras on every floor and a spiffy intercom system, all of them got turned off when I showed her what I found."
"And what might that be?" he asked sitting up.
"Some data about you. There are lots of things really. Like I found when your parents died when you were fifteen, they left you a good sum of money and the technological company NoriTech, but it bombed with you at the wheel. You shut it down and put it on the side, joined the CIA and then years later you sell it and NoriTech is back on the map. What's more, it doesn't just show up, it expands by building another one up north, now why is that?"
"I used to own them when I was a teen. I sold the rights. The owner expanded, no big deal."
"Yeah except you sold them to a man called Rusty Tailor, not only is that name silly, well I suppose equally as silly as Artie Abrams, but his initials are R.T. and given how everyone in your circle is at least fifty percent narcissistic, I'm going to go ahead and assume R.T. equals Artie."
"Are you serious? R.T.? That's supposed to be proof of something?"
Santana raised her eyebrows, "Not really, it's just weird that good old Rusty opens both buildings, claiming they will be the home of a revolutionary new program six months before Zizes is stolen… and ends up at NoriTech."
"Listen Santana I don't know who told you this but-"
Her eyes flashed in a way that frightened him, "That's not even why I'm here with my Desert Eagle," she waved her gun at him, "I don't give a shit about your stupid company or your many under the table, highly illegal, doings. I know it was you who called Brittany and told her to walk into that damn stupid trap you and Savoy had set up. I know it was you who informed him when and how Brittany was going to come for him in his hotel and most importantly I know it wasn't Savoy who shot her in Washington. It was you."
He stared back at her looking astonished, "How do you know all that?"
"Interesting, you aren't even going to try and deny it?"
"There is clearly no point. Yes, it was me."
"Why?" she said in a tone that was more like a growl.
He shuffled himself back so he could lean against the backboard of his bed, seeming to be casually resigned to having this conversation even knowing the likely conclusion. In reality, Santana was well aware that his right hand was starting a slow and careful journey towards the edge of his bed.
"It was Zizes obviously. Paul came to me and we discussed what to do about it for months. We were going to have to get Laruen bumped from agent to the most wanted list in order to be allowed access to her tech wing and confiscate her data. However, there is no matching Lauren's technical genius and Tina is one in a million when it comes to her audio and video skills, she and Lauren together are non-replaceable. Kurt wasn't important enough to anyone to be a suitable alleged mastermind, so it left Brittany. She would get all the blame for attempting to break into a top secret bioweapons facility and would be too dead to counter the claims, the others would serve time but their skills would still be available to us."
Santana felt her lip curling, "So you shot her because she was the most expendable?"
"In a nutshell. She was supposed to have died in the attempt and Lauren and the others were supposed to run and we would catch them later. Instead, one of Savoy's men was too much of an idiot to know he wasn't supposed to shoot me and was too bad of a shot to hit Brittany at a distance, so I had to do it."
She was quiet for a while, more to control her temper than anything, "You were her boyfriend for years, didn't you ever care for her?"
"Yes, of course I did. But that time was over, I shot and I missed, but it was still good shooting given that I had just taken a bullet to the spine."
Her teeth were grinding again and she forced herself to stop, she wouldn't let him get to her. She wanted answers and he was only giving them to buy time for his still wandering hand, to make it to whatever weapon he was so carefully reaching for, but it was difficult not to just shoot him outright. "I would suggest you watch what you say," she said darkly. "So your friends saved you and nursed you back to health and you still plotted to kill Brittany?"
"I told her to leave Savoy be. I told her countless times to drop it but she wouldn't, so when she went after him, I got Lauren to tell me the plan and passed it on. Besides the whole bioweapon theft attempt was still on the books and we did still need a scapegoat. The top brass were not going to be happy until someone was turned in, if she got caught trying to murder him we would have been golden."
"But after that she did leave him alone."
"Yes but he was pretty pissed that she had attempted to kill him, so I came up with a plan for him to get her out of his hair. I had him request a police officer from your precinct in the hopes that if she somehow escaped like she is so good at doing, that you would be upset enough by the death of a comrade, you would either turn her in or end her. I used Lauren's codes to disable her tracker and I totally disabled the building's security literally leading her to her prey and locked her in but somehow she wriggled past all of it. I do not understand how she failed with a kill gift wrapped in front of her. She has always just kind of stumbled through life but this was her bumbling at its best."
She cocked the hammer back on her gun, "Don't test me. I will shoot a crippled man in the shoulder just to make myself feel better. Now what I want to know is why you stayed with them after your Washington plan failed."
"Oh," he laughed genuinely, "Because Lauren never told us about splitting the damn thing up, so it was nowhere near as effective when we got it. It was lucky because Savoy was ready to write the whole thing off as a lost cause but I convinced him I could get Lauren to put it back together."
"And you helped your team infiltrate your own building and steal the data back so she would recompile it?"
"Why bother? Just give it back."
"They aren't as easy to trick as Brittany is. If I just had it, they would have known who was behind it all. Even with NoriTech, I had to do so much planning. Normally the security is insane there but if I got rid of it all, they would be too suspicious and if it was too heavy they wouldn't take the risk, so I scheduled the benefits where security would be the perfect amount for them to go in. That's why we never exposed Brittany to the agents on duty, we needed her to be able to move freely."
Santana had heard about all she had wanted to hear, when she had first understood who was pulling the strings she felt ill. Not because of what happened but because of what she knew she was going to do about it, she understood Rachel's trepidation and only wished her partner knew just how personal this was for her. Rachel had found that Artie was behind the attempt to murder Quinn and had seen the security footage of Artie shooting Brittany. There was no way she could have known this went so much deeper for her than that.
In that moment, Artie interpreted her moment of contemplation as inattentiveness and darted his hand underneath the mattress. Santana watched far longer than she knew was safe; some reckless, proud side of her wanted this, wanted to give him a head start and still crush him. It all happened so slowly it was almost amusing; the look of rushed panic on his face, the budding beads of sweat that almost instantly started running down his face, his clenched teeth, all signs of an effort to get her before she could even know what had happened. It was so satisfying to watch, she didn't react immediately, not when she saw the butt of a sawed off shotgun, not when it was pulled free and swung wildly in his grasp, not even when the barrel was pointed at her.
It was when his eyes found hers and a smile of triumph graced his lips that she pulled the trigger, blowing a hole in his shoulder. With their lifeline cut, the muscles in his arm died and the gun fell from the bed to the floor with a crash. He didn't give her the pleasure of screaming, he merely held his shoulder, clamped his jaw and allowed himself a whining groan as his only outlet of pain. The entire time his eyes stayed trained on her, they held no anger, just steely resignation.
She stood and stared into the face of the man she couldn't comprehend and moved forward, knowing there was no turning back from this.
Santana began to walk slowly to the head of the bed, dragging the barrel of her gun along his legs as she went, "I didn't tell everyone what you did," she said lazily, "You see, what bothers me Artie isn't that you betrayed maybe the only person in the world who never deserved it. Actually I'm a bit glad about that part because it means that I get the girl, the thing that bugs me, is that I can never tell her. It would break her to know what you did, and I mean really break her. So I'm going to have to kill you and keep what a slimy shitbag you are to myself, while she will keep you in her heart as this noble man that she loved. Hell still loves, probably more than me. And you will live on in her untouched and I will guard the memory of your fake self with everything I have because unlike you, I love her. Lauren and the others agreed not to tell her, which is good news for them," she considered him for a moment then lowered her weapon. "Why do any of this at all?" she asked in an offhanded way, as if this was one mystery she couldn't let go.
He gave a quavering smile, "That program can do anything, change bank balances even tip the stock market-" he paused to suppress another scream, sweat pouring from him as he closed his eyes and shook. "It's fame, fortune and prosperity that fits in the palm of your hand and she was using it to pick locks."
She pressed the gun to his temple causing his glasses to sit skewed on his face, he was trembling, with pain or fear she didn't know, either way the response pleased her. With all that had happened, being so close to concluded, she decided to take a moment and use him to say something aloud she could never tell another living soul.
"Since you have answered me so honestly I'll tell you a little something, I have the Zi program, I'm sure you know what that is," the way his eyes widened told her he did, "and I will use it to get rid of Savoy and every single one of his men and absolutely anyone else who even looks like they might be getting close to who she really is. Sure Zizes could hide us but I don't want to take chances."
Not daring to move his head he said, "Zi isn't that kind of program, even Zizes can't kill people."
"Of course it can. It controls money and with money you can get to anyone."
"And how does this make you any better than me?"
"It doesn't. Actually in a lot of ways it makes me worse. You are right, as much as it pains me to admit it, Brittany does sort of just walk through life without a care in the world, and it really would be good enough if people like you didn't try and kill her. She is an angel and I have to become a demon to protect her. I think I realized that on some level a long time ago and tried to avoid it, but it's too late now. She's stuck with me."
"We were a great team once but it was time to move on, I don't regret trying to reach for a dream," he said sadly knowing their conversation had come to an end.
"Good because I don't regret this," she said as she stood back and unloaded every bulled in her gun into his head.
When the last remnants of sound from the gun died she just stood there looking at the mess she had made and knew there was a sadistic smile on her face. She had enjoyed that immensely. Still feeling almost euphoric about putting an end to him, she walked into the bathroom and washed the pieces of Artie off of her. After she was able to make herself appear not to have unloaded seven rounds into a man's head she walked out of the building, her grin widening as a wrecking ball was being transported to his apartment.
Artie's apartment had been built only a year prior, yet the city somehow had a demolition order for that very day. Coincidentally every other occupant of the complex had all been bought out of their homes, meaning the only occupied room was Artie's and since he was dead it really didn't matter. Of course this had nothing to do with Santana, she had promised Lauren she would take him somewhere secluded, rough him up a bit, and leave him alive and alone to fend for himself without the help of Lauren or her divine program. This occurrence was completely by accident...
Santana wobbled slightly as she expertly balanced several plates in her hands and on her arms to the table of waiting guests who all were already drinking. She had invited Sam, Puck, Finn, Mike, Rachel and even Quinn and Mercedes at Rachel's insistence. Matt had even come in from out of town and was even now laughing with Rachel over their shared experiences in being her partner.
It was a get together they would do every once in a while to break the monotony of always hanging out at Femme or, for those in relationships, to just hang out with the usual suspects, though this was Rachel's first one and the only one that had included Santana and Quinn at the same time.
She offered the plates to the others, who grabbed them like they had never eaten before. Since there was only one left after that barrage, she took her plate and sat in the only available seat next to Quinn. There was another spot next to Mercedes, but she wasn't ready for that brand of hostility at the moment. Quinn was a much easier sparring partner.
"You do know there is another open seat right?" Quinn said the moment Santana sat down.
"Yes because this is my house all of these seats are open to me, if you want one that's open to you go hop in your car. While you're in there you can drive yourself home too," she said smoothly before she tucked into her food.
"Quinn," Rachel warned from the other side of the two women, noting their hostility even in the midst of her conversation.
"We were just talking about her nice chairs, hon," she said coolly giving Santana a withering look.
Matt snorted, "Hon? Really?"
"Oh these two are dating now," Puck offered to his confused friend.
"Say what? Man I left too soon."
"Don't worry we only found out last week cause Rachel is a loud one."
Rachel's face went brick red, "Puck!"
Santana had to laugh, it had been rather amusing for a medium sized crowd of people to hear what was going on in the Sergeant's office only to see Rachel emerge a few minutes later trying to play it off. The whole precinct knew about it before anyone finished their first cup of coffee. Santana had spent the day reciting the 'No never at work' line she had been fed. Though in classic Rachel fashion, she decided to hold her head up and own it, so she went from endlessly embarrassed to intense personal pride… and back to embarrassed when reminded that about twenty people heard her reach climax.
"The real point here is, this one has a mystery girl she's all serious about," he said pointing to Santana.
Matt choked on his food a little, "This Santana?"
"Nah man, Carlos Santana."
"I'm right here," she grumbled.
"I have a girlfriend too," Sam said raising his hand proudly.
Mercedes sighed heavily, "Damn."
"Dude nobody cares. We are talking about chick plus chick," Puck said as if he was explaining why breathing was a necessary function.
"I care man, that's really cool, what's she like?" Finn asked.
"No! I don't want to switch to Sam's imaginary binary girlfriend. We are grilling Santana on her mystery woman!" Puck roared dramatically.
"Are you sure Sam isn't the only one with a fake girlfriend?" Mike teased and immediately apologized to Sam who looked miserable.
"She isn't fake, I've met her," Rachel said.
"Matt you really missed out because being her partner got way better," Puck whispered loud enough for everyone to hear, "Rachel got to not only see her super hot girlfriend, she also got to see the claw marks Santana was sporting from fooling around."
"Seriously? That you remember but when I tell you to bring over buns for hotdogs, suddenly your brain is mush!" Santana snapped.
Finn rubbed his forehead, "Do we not have any other topics?"
Santana was going to suggest switching to Quinn's ever questionable choice in partners when her phone buzzed with a text message. She pulled it out and read the message; Good Luck –Private
Standing immediately, she moved quickly to the front door and pulled it open to see Brittany standing at the end of her driveway with a small suitcase, watching a car pull away. She pulled the door closed and as she hoped, the sound got her attention. With her t-shit and bleached jeans she looked like an abandoned hitchhiker, her expression both excited and afraid as she picked up her suitcase and approached almost cautiously.
"I'm really sorry to just show up like this and I know you're probably still mad but Lauren just shoved me out here with my stuff."
"You were really going to leave New York?"
She shook her head, "I found an apartment in the city. I was going to wait for you to call me, or until I couldn't stand not seeing you anymore."
"Good 'cause I told Lauren to bring you here," she said smiling.
"But today was our last day together, the mission is over. For some reason Lauren didn't rent the apartment I told her I wanted and that means after I leave here I don't have anywhere to stay."
Santana walked up to her and held her face gently, "I know, I asked her to bring you to me because I want you to stay," she said.
The smile she loved so much spread across Brittany's face and she was pulled into a backbreaking hug, "I'm so glad you forgave me because I'm really tired of people being mad at me."
Santana laughed, "Come on in we're having chips, hotdogs with no buns, chili with soda and or beer. Oh and tofu burgers because Rachel is gross."
"Is that okay? For your friends to see me?" she asked backing up a little.
Santana grabbed her hand and pulled her inside, "You're going to be living with me from now on, so it better be."
"But... wont they remember me from Femme?"
She thought about that for a moment, "If they do I'll take care of it," she said lightly.
The table of slightly drunk people fell silent as the blonde followed Santana into the dining room and sat next to her and Mercedes.
"Hi," she said brightly, "I'm Brittany." Santana gave her an odd look and she worried she had said something wrong, but then she shook her head clearly moving on.
"This is my non-imaginary girlfriend."
"People can have imaginary girlfriends?" she asked.
"He does," Puck said pointing to Sam.
"Oh," Brittany said interestedly, "What does she pretend to be like?"
Sam was about to try and get to the bottom of that inquiry but Santana cut him off, "Alright so back to the topic of Berry's nooner."
"Santana!" Rachel flared.
Brittany got along amazingly well with everyone, even Mercedes who rarely warmed up to anyone on the first meeting, and Rachel who had been rather cold at first but was won over by her relentless warmth and friendliness. The night wore on and as the late hours of the night came after drinking games, talking/arguing, and impromptu karaoke, the last of Santana's visitors were shuffling out the door. Mike and Puck left in a cab, it was how they had arrived because they had correctly predicted they would be too drunk to drive home. Quinn headed straight for her car while Rachel lingered at the door with Santana.
"You took care of it right?" she said, her voice was quiet.
"And then some, Quinn'll be fine," Santana replied.
"I'm sorry I put you in that position," she said apologetically.
"I think I would have put myself there one way or the other."
"It was just bad of me not to handle it myself."
"Don't think about it too much."
She started towards the car and then stopped turning to look imploringly at Santana, "I'm just worried about what doing what I did makes me."
"It makes you a little more like me," she replied with a sad smile.
Rachel looked back at her not knowing how to take that, but was called back to reality when Quinn urged her to hurry. She waved briefly and left more unsure of herself than ever.
Santana made her way to the bedroom where Brittany was sitting, looking about as downbeat as Rachel just had.
"What's the matter?" she asked sitting next to her.
"We all said goodbye today… but Lauren said Artie had already gone into hiding so I didn't even get to say goodbye to him."
She had been ready for this, but it still made her teeth grind, "I'm sure he's fine."
"I don't know San. I went to his apartment to try and find him but his building was missing."
"Maybe he took it with him? It was nice."
"That's true," she said thoughtfully.
"So now that I've got you alone I have to know; why didn't you change your name? Lauren did explain to you what hiding was all about right."
"She did but I told her that if she couldn't protect me and let me keep my real name then Zizes wasn't a very good program."
A half smile crept over Santana's face, "Brittany did you manipulate her into letting you keep it?"
"It was the only way, she was going to name me Gabriella Holt," she said with a sour face.
"I get liking your own name, but why not just change it for safety?"
She turned to Santana with her bright eyes, "I don't want you calling someone else's name when you want me."
Santana barked a laugh, "Are you serious?" she said yanking Brittany onto the bed beneath her, "That is so ridiculous and adorable."
She looked down at the woman she loved, at the woman she was willing to live in the darkness of immorality for. Brittany was now the only part of her that was good and she would keep it that way, no matter how many people she had to get rid of to do it. Lauren had made everyone split up and run to different corners of the earth, running from the people who they were all too noble to just be rid of. Santana had lost all such nobility after Artie, Savoy had been in a car crash after an 18 wheeler pushed his Lincoln off a narrow bridge. Already there were thirteen missing agents and a few extended family members who decided to dig too deep. A user friendly atom bomb indeed. Santana found it almost comical how rarely she had to do more than transfer funds to get anything done, when Zi was capable of so much more. It was an amazing power to wield and it made her feel almost god-like, until Brittany mentioned Artie.
Behind her bright blue eyes he lurked as he always would, taunting her as the one thing she wanted to get rid of the most and couldn't. It was quite ironic really. He was there as a glaring reminder of what she had become. She knew it would be difficult at times to have to share Brittany with such an unrealistic memory of a man she never really knew but she would because it was what had to be done. It didn't stop her from wanting to be the one to push him from her memory, to make him such a distant thing, she would hardly ever think of him.
"Where are you?" Brittany asked snapping Santana out of her thoughts.
"I'm right here."
"No, just now you were really far away."
Santana smiled and kissed her, "I promise. I'm always going to be right here."
But it's not over, more to this tale exists.
Leave a review if you feel so inclined. I would be very grateful.