coffee & collision
Yeah, sure, maybe Lima Heights Adjacent wasn't the shittiest part of town or anything. Maybe her dad was a doctor - a real one, not one of those teeth cleaning ones - and she didn't necessarily need a job to afford her bling or furs. Maybe she didn't have the shittiest home life like she led people to believe. But there was one thing that pushed Santana Lopez to get a job at the Lima Bean for the summer: Brittany and the fact that the blond was everywhere.
Seriously. Everywhere. The few pictures that Santana did have in her room were of her and Brittany, or just Brittany, and that one of her and the glee club…with Brittany. If she picked up her phone to text anyone, she realized Brittany was her only real friend. If she left the house, she saw Brittany anywhere and everywhere just because those were their old spots. Before Artie came along, that is. So, Santana decided she could both stay home all summer and silently die, or she could find something, anything to do.
This led her to her current problem. She does not look hot in these stupid light brown aprons and she has to actually like, be friendly to people. Well, that was what Santana was told, but she figured the tip jar was empty for a reason.
"Yuck, are you sure you want that?" Santana asks the man on the other side of the counter in a red polo shirt that is two sizes too small, and Santana could bet he was wearing loafers.
"Excuse me?" the Bro asks. Santana snickers to herself for being so fucking clever. He looks like a Bro.
"Nothing," she says with a shrug as she punches his order into the register, "I'm sure your girlfriend will love this steamed apple juice."
"It's for me," Bro bites out.
Santana cannot hold back her snickering as she nods vigorously and feigns a serious expression, waving her hand around in front of her face. "Even better," she comments, smiling, "That'll be three fifty."
The Bro made sure to send Santana a death glare before handing over the exact change and storming off to wait for his drink. Santana quickly leans over the counter and claps her hands in victory. Loafers!
"Are you quite done?" Santana hears from in front of the register. Oh, shit.
"Oh shit, Berry?" Santana asks as her expression turns pained and she looks at her next customer. Yep, Berry.
Rachel Berry. The bane of Santana Lopez's existence. The bane of everyone's existence. Ugh.
"Ugh, what do you want?" Santana snaps as her lips form a grimace.
"Some tactful and polite customer service would be nice," Rachel says as she refuses to meet Santana's eyes, scanning the menu, "but since this is you that we're dealing with, I'll settle with no small talk and my usual. A grande soy chai tea latte, please."
Santana scoffs and makes no move to put Rachel's order in. She's the last one in line, anyway, and it's not as if 10 A.M. was rush hour at the Lima Bean. "What crawled up your ass and died, Berry? Besides your personality, that is," Santana deadpans.
"Your morals," Rachel shoots back without hesitation before pulling her hand from her sweater pocket and setting the exact amount on the counter and turning to head over to the wait station, never meeting Santana's eyes.
"Oh, what the hell?" Santana mumbles in complete confusion as she puts in Rachel's order and throws the money into the register. Wasn't summer supposed to be when people didn't act like douches? Whatever. Santana shrugs and shakes all thoughts of the brunette out of her head as another customer walks up. It was her first day and she wasn't about to let Rachel fucking Berry ruin her good mood. Especially since Socks with Sandals just walked up to the register.
"Let me guess, steamed apple juice?"
It was only the next day when Santana figures out she has a problem.
"Back again, midget?" she questions as she files her nails behind the register.
"I come here every day," Rachel says absently as she scans the menu behind Santana's head and digs through her pink sweatshirt pocket. "The usual, or do I need to remind you of what it was?"
"Enlighten me," Santana sneers.
With a roll of her eyes, Rachel reads it off the menu, "Grande soy chai tea latte. Here's the exact change," she adds as she sets some crumpled up dollar bills on the counter and a quarter that rolls so far that Santana has to catch it before it drops.
When she lifts her head back up to snarl an insult at the diva, she's gone, once again not having waited for Santana to even ring the order up. Seriously, what was up with Berry?
She was just about to yell over to the midget when a customer rudely clears their throat in front of her. With a roll of her eyes, Santana swings her gaze to register and - shit.
"Brittany," Santana greets as she forces herself to smile and swallow down the lump in her throat. She guesses Artie is right there too but Santana has this motto where if you ignore something for long enough, it just might disappear.
"Why didn't you tell me you were working here, silly?" Brittany chastises with a genuine grin on her face.
Santana does her best to continue smiling as she nonchalantly shrugs, lying, "It must have just slipped my mind, Britts. Didn't want to bother you with this lame news and shit," she finishes lamely.
Brittany can sense Santana is off; really, anyone within the walls of that coffee house could tell if they were paying attention. But this is Brittany, and this is Santana, and so the inevitable wall immediately goes up at the corner of fuck and this, right before all communication shuts down.
"So," Santana drags out, "what can I get for you…two?"
"I'll have my usual," Brittany says as she bounces on the balls of her feet and looks down to Artie, "What about you?"
Santana looks down at the register and hits the buttons for a grande iced caramel macchiato and keeps her eyes trained on the register as she watches Brittany watch Artie in her peripherals.
"I think I'll have a skinny caramel macchiato, actually babe," Artie says as he casts a smile up to Brittany.
Brittany smiles back and him before turning to smile at Santana, who looks up to meet her eyes, "He said-"
"I heard, B. That'll be seven twenty," Santana says as she looks down at Artie expectantly.
Santana raises an eyebrow and purses her lips together as Artie makes no move to take out his wallet, and Brittany rifles through her purse before handing Santana a twenty-dollar bill. Scoffing, Santana shakes her head and puts it in the register, getting Brittany's change for her.
"Here, B, have a good day," Santana smiles gently at her best friend. Ex-best friend. Ugh. Who even knows anymore?
"You too, San! Call me later, okay?" Brittany says obliviously as she wheels Artie towards the other counter.
Santana and Artie lock eyes and exchange disgusted looks before Santana calls back, "Sure thing, B." Yeah, no, that's not gonna happen.
Santana drops her head and rubs her hand along the back of her neck before turning her head to the side and looking over towards the waiting area for drinks. Damn her incapacity to avoid Brittany. However, it's not Brittany's eye that she catches - since the blond is too busy having a contest of who can blow their straw wrapper further - but Rachel Berry's. Rachel fucking Berry who is sitting in the corner of the restaurant and watching her over the rim of her cardboard coffee cup. Smirking.
Santana feels the ring on her finger scratch along the back of her neck as she lowers her hand and raises her eyebrows at the brunette across the café. That bitch was smirking at her pain!
Rachel shakes her head and glances back down at the book that she has lying flat on the table in front of her. Santana wants nothing more than to walk over there and slap that stupid smirk off her face. Who the hell did she think she was? Laughing at Santana's situation. Sure, she knew Berry didn't like her, but she never thought she was such a -
"Excuse me, I'm ready to order," says an older man in a business suit, rudely interrupting Santana's thoughts.
It takes Santana approximately two minutes to get him to storm off in a huff, leaving a five-dollar bill on the counter while mumbling something about not bothering to get him change, and Santana smiles. "My first tip!"
Friday rolls around, and with it comes the first of Lima's seasonal summer thunderstorms. Santana leans against the counter of the Lima Bean, absent-mindedly reading the back of one of the jazz CDs on display at the counter.
Normally Santana didn't like all this smooth listening shit that they played at coffee shops, but she was slowly getting used to it. It was calming at least, especially with the rain falling outside and the few customers inside.
Santana made no move to stop reading the back of the CD as she heard a rolling backpack come through the door. As she was silently wondering if she should release her own smooth jazz CD, a few drops of water fall onto the plastic coating on the CD and roll down to Santana's fingers.
"Watch it," Santana snaps as she wipes the CD on her apron and puts it back in the display before looking up and rolling her eyes. "You look like a wet dog."
"Thank you for informing me, Santana. I had no idea," Rachel says indifferently as she scans the menu.
"Okay, seriously, what is wrong with you, Berry?" Santana asks as she leans her forearms on the counter and tries to get Rachel to look at her. Shit, why did she have to look like such a hot ass wet dog? Fucking Berry.
"Isn't it bad enough that I have to deal with your constant verbal assaults at school, Santana? Now I have to deal with it at my favorite coffee shop as well?" Finally, Rachel meets Santana's eyes, and Santana kinda wishes she hadn't. Yuck. Now she felt all guilty.
"It's not like you've been little miss sunshine to me either," Santana retorts, "Especially the other day when you were being a little bitch in the corner and snickering at me over the whole Brittany thing."
Rachel slowly raises an eyebrow and keeps her eyes locked on Santana. "Do you honestly not know the difference between a snicker and a sympathetic smile?" she asks as if she pities Santana. Her! Rachel Berry pitying Santana. What the hell?
Santana glowers as she watches Rachel put the same amount on the counter as she always does. "Do you need me to-?"
"Yes," Santana bites out, "I need you to tell me what you want. I try to cleanse my memory of anything you say within a five minute time span, Berry, so I'll never, ever remember what your 'usual' is," Santana finishes as she air quotes.
Rachel's gaze burns right through Santana and she almost squirms under the gaze. Almost. "Perhaps I should request seeing a manager so I can actually get some friendly service," Rachel bites out.
Part of Santana, a small part, worries over these words. She needs to keep this job, she's already gotten one complaint, and it's only her first week. The other part of her, a significantly larger part, wants to see if Rachel's large head will fit in the ice crusher.
"I need this job, Berry," Santana warns, "but that doesn't mean I'm going to kiss your ass to keep it."
"And I need this place, Santana," Rachel warns back, her tone just as menacing as Santana's as she leans forward and gets more water on the counter from her dripping hair, "and I refuse to be treated like a vermin by you when you're the one who is supposed to be serving me. This is nothing more than a customer employee relationship, so treat it as such and leave your personal quandaries and opinions of me at home."
Santana sets her jaw firmly as she eyes Rachel. "Why is this place so important to you? I'm shocked that you even leave your house in the first place."
"That's none of your business, Santana," Rachel replies calmly as the anger in her tone disappears as if it were never there, "All I ask is that you remember my order and treat me with the decency that I deserve. You do not need to speak to me, by all means, I will not mind. If you can manage that, you'll get a daily tip from me and continuous business. Can we make this work?"
Santana rolls her eyes and, against her own better judgment, she meets Rachel's steady gaze and asks in a sickeningly sweet tone, "What can I get for you today?"
Rachel uses one hand to push her wet, matted bangs from her eyes as she practices indifference towards the girl on the other side of the counter. "A grande soy chai tea latte, please."
Santana watches Rachel set more crumpled up dollars and a quarter on the counter before she makes her way down the counter to pick up her drink. Santana idly wonders if Finn broke up with the midget and that's why she seems so cold and indifferent. Still, there was something way off with Berry. From the time they had had their last glee meeting to the first time Rachel walked through the door of the Lima Bean on Santana's first day, something had happened to her.
Santana didn't work weekends.
"You lucked out on that one," her dad had said to her Friday night. Now that it was Saturday morning, Santana didn't feel so lucky. After waking up at nine A.M., she had nothing to do. There was no Cheerio's practice until August because coach Sylvester was away at some extended cannon seminar in Vancouver. No glee rehearsals because Mr. Schue was away doing his three month Broadway stint. And no friends because, well, she was a bit of a bitch.
As Santana scratches a chip of black nail polish off her cell phone keyboard, she eyes the highlighted name on the small screen. Sure, they'd had somewhat of a falling out their entire junior year but she thinks that the blow-up then subsequent bonding moment they had in that hotel room in New York was enough to make them friends again, right? Whatever. Santana pushed send and waited for Quinn to pick up.
"Hello, Santana," Quinn greets from the other side of the phone call.
"Hey, Q. I was wondering if you wanted to hang out today or something."
"Mm, sorry San. I'm already having coffee with someone today. Why don't you call Brittany?"
Santana grimaces before she mumbles, "She's busy or something…well, maybe another day then."
"Hey, wait, S. Are you okay? I haven't heard from you since school got out and I haven't seen you around with Brittany," Quinn says with hesitation in her voice.
"If you haven't noticed she's always with Artie. He is her boyfriend," Santana bites out with an over-exaggerated sigh, "It's fine, Q. Thanks anyway," she says before snapping her phone closed. Well, shit.
For the next couple of hours Santana grumbled around the house, looked up cats online, and eventually threw on her camouflage jacket and made her way out into the real world. Why her feet carried her to her work, she didn't know. Maybe because she knew it was too warm outside for Brittany to want coffee.
As Santana makes her way inside the Lima Bean and shakes the rain off her coat, the first thing her gaze lands on is the corner table near the back and by the windows - aka Rachel's usual spot. Today is no exception. The brunette is sitting and talking animatedly to someone sitting opposite of her. Someone with short blond hair.
Holy sweet hell. Rachel is who Quinn was meeting for coffee? Since when did they become friends?
Not one to be left out of the loop, Santana orders a white chocolate mocha and keeps her gaze fixed on the girls' table as she waits. Finally, with her drink in hand she prances over to the table and grins at Quinn.
Rachel pauses mid-sentence and rolls her eyes. Quinn's about to open her mouth and ask Rachel what was wrong when she spots the familiar camo in her peripheral. Santana keeps her shit-eating grin on as she greets her friend. "Quinn! Funny running into you here. I had no idea that it was Rachel that you were meeting for coffee."
Santana doesn't miss the questioning look Quinn throws Rachel as the brunette refuses to meet Santana's eyes. "Yeah, we try to meet up here at least once a week now. What brings you here?"
Santana looks bewildered at Quinn's response. "Since when are you and the midget here friends?"
Rachel finally joins the conversation. "Since we agreed that our petty differences and fight over Finn wasn't worth this guerilla war that we called on each other. And, unlike you, Santana, Quinn and I managed to be civil enough for long enough to be friends."
"Well good for you midget, looks like you can teach an ugly dog new tricks," Santana bites back.
"Okay, what am I missing here?" Quinn asks, turning her frustrated eyes onto Santana, "And why are you even here, Santana?"
"She works here," Rachel says as she takes a sip of her latte. That's when Santana notices the book that Rachel always seems to have on her in front of her. How to Write a Play for Dummies. She also notices the tattered notebook that Rachel was using as a coaster.
Quinn's comment to Rachel interrupts her thought process, however. "She does? Why didn't you tell me that you worked here, Santana?"
"Because you didn't ask," Santana replies absently, "Well, I see I interrupted your date so I'll leave you two to it."
As she briskly makes her way to the café door she hears Quinn ask Rachel, "Is she still giving you a hard time?"
"Some things will never change."
"I have two questions for you, Furby, and both require an answer, and if you answer honestly I'll knock a buck off your drink tomorrow because this has been driving me insane all weekend," Santana says as she pulls her apron off and sits across the table from Rachel.
"I have neither need nor inclination to answer any questions that you might have for me, Santana," Rachel responds as she idly flips a page in her book. It was a stormy Monday and it had been a stormy weekend; consequently, the weather had matched Santana's mood.
"I'm not kidding. I need to know when the hell you and Q became friends."
"I do believe I answered this for you on Friday, Santana."
"I do believe you gave me some vague crap answer and didn't explain how you guys went from me talking her out of sabotaging you in New York to you sitting together all buddy-buddy like for coffee every week."
That got Rachel's attention. Santana bit back a smirk as she saw Rachel try to cover up her surprise. "Quinn never mentioned that you had anything to do with her not pushing through with her plan of sabotage at nationals."
Santana scoffs and rolls her eyes. "Of course not. Please, I'm the one who talked her out of ratting your ass out to Mr. Schue for sneaking off with Kurt and I was the one who suggested the haircut to take her mind off of her craziness."
Rachel's eyebrows rise. "And to what personal gain?"
"To be nice." Silence. Santana briefly thinks that she heard a cricket. "Fine. I didn't want anything screwing up our chances at winning and for some reason I thought you being taken out of the competition by Schuester would do that. That is obviously a decision I regret since you and that moron Finn made us lose anyway - damn it, Rachel. You're not answering my questions!"
"You haven't given me much of a chance," Rachel remarks as her gaze has returned to the book on the table in front of her. "Also, you haven't asked any questions."
Santana fights the overwhelming urge to growl aloud. She checks the clock to make sure her break hasn't timed out and then turns back to Rachel.
"Are you sure Quinn isn't just using you to get back to Finn? She's done it before. Also, are you writing a play?"
"How long exactly do you have for your break?" Rachel asks as she finally closes the book in front of her and looks at Santana.
"Why are you wasting such a flimsy amount of time asking me questions that you could have just asked Quinn? Who, need I remind you, is your actual friend."
Santana bites her tongue. That was an excellent question. "One, Quinn isn't one to air her dirty laundry and I'm going to assume that she considers you dirty laundry. And two, you have a bigger mouth so I figured I could just ask you and you'd tell me," she says.
Rachel's lips are parted and she stares at Santana in repugnance. "And you wonder why you have no actual friends, Santana? Your attitude towards people is utterly atrocious and that shines through in the way that you choose to speak to them. You're vile, cruel, bitter, and blunt to the point of disrespect. If I were Brittany, or anyone for that matter, I would have also done everything in my power to escape your constant harassment. In fact, I do try to do that, daily. If you think that was a low blow then I urge you to think of everything you've said to be since we met in the 7th grade," Rachel finishes with a huff. She takes in a deep breath and releases.
Santana's mouth hangs open as the fury she was feeling subsides briefly. "We've known each other since the 7th grade?"
The phrase "glaring daggers" was an understatement for what Rachel was shooting Santana with; Rachel's glare could have slit Santana's throat.
Before Santana could think of an insulting enough rebuttal, Rachel had gathered up her few belongings and left Santana sitting alone at the table.
Never had anyone called Santana out as thoroughly and meanly as Rachel just had. Santana didn't know how to respond.
"Good morning, Santana," a very perky Rachel greets the next morning at 8 A.M.
Santana lifts her chin from the palm of her hand and pushes herself off the counter. "Berry. What do you want?"
Rachel's eyebrows rise slightly and she blinks in amusement. "It looks like someone didn't get enough sleep last night."
Santana scoffs as she shakes her head, waking herself up some more. "Do you like, not remember what you said to me before you stormed out yesterday?"
Rachel lifts her eyes from her sweater pocket as she rifles for her money. She quickly looks behind her to make sure that she's the only one in line before turning back to Santana. "I actually wanted to speak with you about that." Santana slowly raises an eyebrow but doesn't interrupt. "I'm sorry. It takes a lot to push me over the edge, and you manage to do that daily, but I still should not have exploded on you like that in public. Or at all."
Santana rolls her eyes at the act of humanity on Rachel's part. Her fingers fly over the cash register and she writes Rachel's name on a medium-sized cup. "You have the exact amount, I'm guessing." It's not that Santana didn't forgive Rachel; on the contrary, she was a bit humbled by it. No one usually cared enough to apologize to her.
Rachel stares down Santana for a moment before she sighs and lays her money on the counter. Her attitude tells Santana that Rachel thinks her apology - that she apparently planned - had been ignored.
"I'm taking a buck off," Santana announces as she scoops up all but one dollar off the counter.
This earns her a reluctant smile from Rachel. "I didn't answer your questions."
"I also can't remember the last time someone actually gave a shit enough to apologize to me."
Rachel worries her bottom lip between her teeth for a moment before someone in line behind her clears their throat. While Santana turns to hand Rachel's cup to the boy behind the coffee machine, Rachel drops the crumpled dollar into the tip jar and makes her way over to her table.
Santana only notices because it's the only dollar in her jar for the entire day. Her lack of tips was making Santana think that maybe people didn't really like her as much as she previously thought.
"San, can I talk to you?"
Santana looks up from restocking ugly coffee mugs and right into Brittany's wide eyes. Were they bluer than they used to be?
"Sure, B. You'll need to talk while I work though."
"That's fine," Brittany says, "I just want to know if it's always going to be like this between us."
Santana's hands still as she straightens up and turns to fully face Brittany. Over the blond's shoulder, Santana catches Rachel's eye. Rachel's chewing on the corner of her lip and sending Santana a sympathetic look. For once, Santana's actually grateful. She looks back at an expectant Brittany.
"Yeah B, I think it is. I love you and you're with someone else. I'm trying to move on but I can't - I'm not good with being around you right now," Santana explains while trying to avoid Brittany's gaze.
"So, you're going to throw away our friendship because I can't be with you right now?" Brittany asks angrily. "Don't you think that's a little selfish?"
"Yeah," Santana says, "I do."
"Excuse me, Brittany?" Rachel interrupts just as Brittany opens her mouth to reply. For a brief second Santana thinks Rachel's voice came out of Brittany's mouth. That was disgusting.
Regardless, Brittany turns and looks down at Rachel, immediately smiling. "Hi, Rachel! Do you work here, too?"
"No, I just frequent it daily. However, I would like to discuss something with you over at my table if you don't mind. I got Quinn's opinion and now I would like yours."
Brittany looks back at Santana uncertainly, but when the blond isn't met with Santana's gaze, she turns back to Rachel and nods. "Sure."
After they walk off, Santana lets out a shaky breath and surreptitiously wipes her eyes.
Much to Santana's disappointment, Rachel doesn't return the next day. She wasn't sure if she was disappointed because she missed the loud-mouthed diva's presence at the same table every day, or if she was just insanely curious about what Rachel had said to Brittany to keep her away from Santana. And why. Either way, the thought of missing Berry in any shape or form made Santana queasy.
"Shit, man," Cory, the guy who works the coffee machine with Santana, says that Friday.
"Wha'?" Santana questions, looking up from filing her nails.
"We're out of those stick stir-er things."
Santana blinks before what Cory said registers. "Oh. The stirrers for the coffee?"
Just as Santana is about to grudgingly make her way to the "Employees Only" area - so says the neon yellow sign on the door - Rachel Berry walks through the café's entrance. Santana notices immediately.
"I'll run to the store and get some," Santana eagerly offers as she tosses her apron onto the counter and grabs her jacket from the back room.
As she makes her way around the counter, Cory remarks, "Really? Awesome man; you're the best." Santana grimaces as she catches a whiff of the cheap weed Cory had smoked right before he came into work. Clearly he wouldn't give a shit if Santana wanted to "run an errand" for work, despite them having three boxes of coffee stirrers in the back.
"I know," Santana says as she steps from behind the counter and grabs a confused Rachel by the arm.
"Excuse me, Santana, but just because you're leaving in the middle of your shift does not mean that I don't want my coffee."
"We're out of coffee," Santana snaps as she practically pulls Rachel through the door and onto the street. "Besides, I need to talk to you."
"Are you going to beat me up? Is that why you're pulling me out of a public location -"
"And onto an even more crowded street? Just walk with me, Berry," Santana urges, "Just to the grocery store on the corner. I won't butt into your play writing time."
"I never said that I was writing a play," Rachel bites out.
"Sorry," Santana says facetiously. She throws a cautious gaze towards Rachel's form in-step next to her. Rachel tightens her pink hoodie around herself as she ignores Santana's gaze.
"I'm surprised you came with me," Santana comments as they make their way along the sidewalk. It's cloudy but Santana figured the chance of rain was low.
"You dragged me out of the door; I had no choice. I'm assuming you want to talk to me about what happened with Brittany the other day."
"Yeah," Santana says without hesitation.
"While I don't feel as if I'm the only one in glee club who knows about yours and Brittany's - how should we say - interesting history, I feel as if I've glimpsed into your personal struggles on the subject of said blond." Santana wrinkles her nose and shoots Rachel a look signaling her to get to the point. "I can see that it hurts you to be around her since apparently you cannot have her. You looked especially pained on Monday so I decided to intervene against my better judgment."
"What was your better judgment?"
"That I should just sip my coffee and enjoy watching you go through the pain that you've so mercilessly mocked me for for years," Rachel answers.
"God," Santana laughs, "Have you always hated me this obviously?"
They walk in silence for a half of a block before Rachel mumbles, "I don't hate you. You've just been quite the bully to me for the entire time that I've known you."
"Yeah well, people can change," Santana says, coupling it with an eye roll. "Anyway, thanks for what you did with the Brittany thing. I was kind of losing my shit."
"You're welcome," Rachel returns.
The girls buy a box of coffee stirrers from the local grocery store and head back to the Lima Bean in silence. Once Santana walks through the door behind Rachel, Cory throws her apron at her and tells her to get back behind the register. Santana turns to thank Rachel for walking with her just as the door shuts behind Rachel's retreating form as she leaves the café.
Santana throws her arms up in frustration as she lets out a heavy breath. Great. Now she'd have to track Rachel down over the weekend to say thanks. She wondered if Preggo would still meet Rachel for coffee that Friday since Rachel had ran out of their meeting spot.
"What did you do?" Quinn questions angrily as she storms up to the counter once it's her turn in line.
"You haven't even ordered yet; you can't already be complaining about my service," Santana deadpans.
"I'm serious, Santana. I've been here for an hour waiting and I finally got through to Rachel and she said that she was here earlier but left because of personal reasons. You seem like a very big personal reason in her book lately," Quinn seethes.
Santana's expression remains stoic as she cocks an eyebrow. "It's Berry, Quinn. A personal reason could have been that a sequin fell off her cell phone."
"So you're saying you have no idea why she left and isn't meeting me? Even though you work her and took her order and saw her leave," Quinn asks.
"She didn't order." Crap.
"Ha! I knew it. What the hell did you do to her now, Santana?"
"I didn't do anything, Quinnifer. Why do you automatically assume it's my fault?" Santana bites back, lowering her voice when their argument starts getting attention from customers.
"That is not my name and I hate when you call me that. Quinn is not short for Quinnifer and that isn't the point. Why can't you just leave her alone, Santana?"
"All I asked her was why she helped me out Wednesday when Brittany came in! Jesus, Q," Santana snarls, ignoring Quinn's wince, "I didn't upset her so I don't know why she bailed on you. Of course, if I were her I wouldn't trust you enough to sit down for an hour with you."
"I can redeem myself, Santana. And Rachel's not that bad when she doesn't consider you competition for something," Quinn replies. She turns and makes sure no one is in line behind her.
"So, now that she has Finn and you got a haircut you two can be friends?"
Quinn furrows her brow and shakes her head. "Finn and Rachel broke up."
"…within a month of starting to date again?" Santana asks curiously.
Quinn starts rummaging through her purse as her eyebrows rise and she nods. "Finn, ironically enough, decided that there wasn't anything left between them about two or so weeks ago. Which, in idiot speak, means once he had Rachel, the thrill of the chase was over, and so was their relationship. Rachel's still pretty bitter about it." She pulls out a five-dollar bill and lays it on the counter. "Sorry for being a bitch. I just assumed -"
"It's fine," Santana says as she picks up the money. "What do you want?"
"Just a black iced tea. Can you try to take it easy on her? She comes here every day because it's the only place that she knows Finn won't look for her," Quinn asks - almost pleads. Santana notices something in Quinn's eyes that hadn't been there a month ago when she talked about Rachel.
"I'll see you around, Q."
It's a week before Rachel comes back into the Lima Bean. The atmosphere of the café is already a chill one - it's a café after all - but the instant Rachel walks in that morning it's as if a blanket of calm settles over the little coffee shop. Or over Santana. Whatever.
"Had me worried you switched to Starbucks," Santana says in as passive of a tone as she can muster.
Rachel gives her a half-smile as she pulls her wallet from her pink rolling backpack. "No, I just had to put a week into catching up with my ballet and vocal lessons."
"Quinn wasn't happy about you standing her up for your date," Santana says as she punches in Rachel's usual order and puts the bill into the cash register.
Rachel only says, "Keep the change," as she wanders over to her usual table.
Huh. She didn't correct me, Santana thought, I wonder…
Keeping her phone under the counter, Santana swiftly texts Quinn, only having to look down at the screen once.
Within ten minutes, Quinn is briskly walking through the café door. Santana watches her eyes intently seek out Rachel, until she spots the brunette in the corner. Quinn immediately turns a heated glare onto Santana, and so Santana waves.
"What is your deal, Santana? Finn isn't here harassing Rachel."
Santana leans on the counter with her forearms supporting her weight. "No, but would you have come if I told you I just wanted to ask you a question?"
"You could have just asked me over text."
"I wanted to see your eyes," Santana replies smoothly with a self-confident grin. "So tell me, Quinn, how long have you and Rachel had something going on?"
Quinn falters. "Excuse me?"
"You heard me. How long have you two -"
"Oh, I heard you. There is nothing going on between me and Rachel. Is that what you think?"
"I think you're capable of a lot of dirty shit, Fabray, and I know that when you sink your claws into something it's hard to let it go. Kind of like winning prom queen and having Finn," Santana says.
"Since I'm here let's clear something up: I'm not plotting against Rachel. We're friends now. I'm not dating her, using her, or tormenting her in any way. Maybe one day when you get a friend, Santana, you'll understand. God, let this go. Since when did you start caring about her, anyway?" Quinn finishes as she abruptly turns on her heel and storms out of the café.
Santana rolls her eyes and let's out a ragged breath. So much for snooping into Quinn's life and trying to dig up shit to blackmail her with.
Santana unfortunately chances a look over to Rachel's table and is met with Rachel's best disappointed look - reserved for the noblest Lima losers in her life, undoubtedly. Whatever. It's not like Santana gave a shit about Rachel Berry anyway.
"Can you tell Quinn that I'm sorry the next time you see her?" Santana asks Rachel as she sits down across from her at her usual spot.
"And why can't you apologize yourself?"
Santana rolls her eyes and takes off her apron. "She won't answer my calls."
Santana steadily eyes the top of Rachel's head as Rachel keeps her head down, reading the book on the table in front of her. Santana does everything in her power to force down her anger, because she knows the second she bitches Rachel out for being rude that Rachel will just leave.
For some reason, Santana doesn't want that.
"I have a shorter break for lunch today and all of the other tables are full."
Santana watches the rise and fall of Rachel's shoulders and smiles. She's going to take that as a "yes" to her unasked question.
Santana shifts in her chair and props her boot-clad feet up on the chair next to Rachel.
Rachel's eyebrow twitches and Santana catches the quick movement of Rachel's eyes from beneath her bangs. Santana laughs low in her chest as she pulls her cell phone out of her bra and starts up Angry Birds.
Santana doesn't bother to turn down the volume. Being less than two feet away from Rachel Berry made it even more fun.
"What in the name of all that is Barbra are you doing, Santana?" Rachel asks in a high-pitched voice as her gaze finally snaps up to Santana's.
"Playing Angry Birds," is Santana's calm reply.
"Can you please turn the volume down?"
"No, I need to hear the sound effects because I like it when the birds explode."
Rachel's head cocks subtly to the side. "When the birds explode? What birds are you referring to and what are you doing to them to make them explode?"
"The angry birds. And I'm launching them at bastard pigs from a giant slingshot."
Rachel's eyes fill with horror as if a switch has been flipped in her brain. "E-excuse me?" Rachel leans forward and grabs Santana's phone from her hands. Santana merely watches in mild amusement.
Rachel's eyebrows scrunch together as she studies the small screen before lifting a finger and swiping it across. A loud "wheeeeeee" is heard before a quiet "ow" and Rachel drops the phone onto the table between them. "This is barbaric."
"This is Angry Birds." Santana eyes Rachel's troubled expression before rolling her eyes. "It's a game, Berry. They're just trying to get their eggs back from the bastard pigs."
Rachel eyes her as Santana picks her phone up and shakes her head. "I apologize for dropping your phone. However, you should apologize for murdering undoubtedly hundreds of animated birds daily."
Santana shakes her head again with a laugh. She bites her lip and looks up at Rachel with more amusement in her eyes than there would be with anyone else saying that to her. "I should get back to work. It seems pretty busy in here."
Rachel almost looks surprised. Santana is inwardly proud; she got Rachel to give her ten minutes of her time without it ending in a fight or with Rachel ignoring her the entire time.
"Oh, all right then."
"I'll see you later, Cory," Santana says as she pulls on her jacket. Five o' clock on a Thursday and Santana's dead tired from working an extra shift. Santana picks up her free coffee - black - from the counter and makes her way outside into the darkening night.
"Wait up," Santana hears from behind her. She pauses and turns, holding open the door for the voice behind her. "Thanks," Rachel says as she walks through the door and stands next to Santana.
"I thought you stayed until they kicked you out at closing, Berry," Santana says as she looks at a couple walking along the sidewalk behind Rachel.
"Normally, yes. However, I was hoping you - well, I was wondering if -" Rachel pauses and rolls her eyes, seemingly at herself, before taking a deep breath. "I was wondering if I could get your opinion on something."
Santana's eyes were intense, and Rachel offhandedly wonders if they're always like that.
"On what? And why not ask Quinn or Finn or someone who you're actually friends with?" Santana regrets her sharp tone as soon as the words leave her lips, but she's tired and Rachel doesn't seem fazed anyway.
"That's exactly it. I want the opinion of someone who isn't biased by my friendship. Also, you're the most judgmental person I know -"
"That's true," Santana says with a smug smile.
"-So I assumed I could get an honest review from you."
Santana lets out a mildly frustrated breath out of slight impatience as she watches Rachel pull what looks like a script out of her notebook. Rachel keeps her eyes trained on the papers as she hands it over to Santana; Santana is suddenly very aware that Rachel is standing staggeringly close to her. So she takes the script from Rachel's hands a little more forcefully than she intends to.
"So, you want me read the play that you haven't been working on for the past month?"
Rachel rolls her eyes but lightly smiles. "I would appreciate it, yes. I like to think that you and I have formed sort of an attachment, a fondness, if you will."
"Is this your way of saying you like me, Berry?" Santana asks. She shifts her weight uneasily and feels the weight of the sidewalk underneath her feet as she waits for Rachel's response.
"I like you better than when we parted ways at the end of the school year," Rachel says after a moment of thought.
"I'll take it," Santana says with a shrug of her shoulders. "I'll have this back to you-"
"Take your time with it."
Santana does take her time reading the play. Well, it seems like a play at least. It looks like what Schuester handed out to them months before when he had them do Rocky Horror, so Santana assumes it's pretty legit.
Predictably enough, the main character is Rachel Berry. As herself. The main guy seems to be some weird cross between Finn and someone who isn't a complete asshole but still has a heart. Santana assumes the girl Rachel befriends in the coffee shop is Quinn, since she's described as a blond-haired girl dressed frequently in red.
The only problem Santana has with the play is that the barista behind the counter isn't her. Seriously? Rachel spends a month writing a play in the coffee shop that Santana works in and doesn't even put her in the friggan play?
"S'is bullshit," Santana says while chewing on the cap of her red pen.
"This is bullshit, Berry," Santana says as she gets off work and sits down across from Rachel at her table. Santana told Rachel she had finished reading her play when the girl had come in for her daily coffee, and Rachel had waited patiently the entire day.
Santana is straddling the chair with her chin resting on the back. She notices that Rachel won't meet her eyes and Santana sighs. "Not the play. It's actually good. But I'm not in it." Rachel sharply raises her eyes but Santana continues. "I mean, seriously? You write a play about your life while being a regular customer at a café and you don't -"
"Santana you're in the play."
Santana pauses. She lifts up her purse and slaps the script down onto the small table between them. "Where? I figured out you, obviously, Quinn, Finn, Brittany, and even Kurt, but no me."
Rachel looks thoughtful as she studies the play in front of her. Santana slowly starts to glare as Rachel slowly smiles. "Where exactly did you see Finn in this play, Santana?"
"Uh, oh I don't know; maybe the guy you meet and fall for?"
"Why would I choose to write Finn into a play where I, as the main character, find happiness? Finn has not brought me happiness."
"So I heard," Santana says before taking a sip of her free coffee, "Sorry about that, by the way. His boobs are bigger than yours anyway, and he's got a big head; he's not worth being upset over."
Santana thinks that Rachel is used to her blunt attitude by now since she only shakes her head and gently lifts up a corner of the play while seemingly deep in thought.
"But I mean you do realize you gave your play to someone who has only ever been forced to read that shit in school, right? Still, I liked it, Berry. You're a good writer and the plot was nice and-"
"Is Quinn paying you to do this?"
Santana snaps her mouth shut. "What?"
"I took quite the risk asking you to read the play because, well I explained why, but the fact that you're back here today telling me that you actually liked it lends to the thinking that Quinn had some influence in this," Rachel says.
Santana's eye twitches. "Okay for someone who storms out of the choir room every time her 'talent isn't recognized', you sure don't know how to take honest recognition well."
Rachel looks skeptical. "Quinn said to expect a fair criticism from you about it. I assumed that meant she had spoken to you about it."
"No, it means Quinn knows I'm not the giant bitch that everyone makes me out to be."
Rachel is quiet again. Santana watches Rachel as if she can see the wheels turning inside of the girl's mind. Why isn't she this quiet in school, Santana wonders, I'd like her more if she were.
"What made you think the main love interest was modeled after Finn?"
"Probably because you described him as this brooding dude with long, dark, messy hair and the ability to make you smile when no one else can, or some sappy shit like that," Santana says with an eye roll. "Have you not been listening to yourself talk for the past two years?"
"You say that like you have," Rachel says as she cocks an eyebrow.
"You don't give anyone a choice, Berry; you talk too damn loud all of the time."
"So what have I been saying then?"
"That you're in love with Finn. To the scary obsessive point where if anyone tries to talk to you about it you barrel over them and leave in a huff."
Rachel smirks. "That sounds familiar." Santana's expression remains blank. "You're the exact same way about Brittany. If anyone talks to you about your situation you just-"
"We aren't fucking talking about me, Berry, so drop it."
Santana abruptly pushes herself up from the chair and grabs her purse. "Next time you need a favor from someone, make sure you ask someone who gives a shit," she snaps before storming out of the Lima Bean.
Santana spent the entire night resolving never to speak to Rachel Berry again, and if she was fired for that so be it. It was an easy enough plan, she thought, until Santana got word that she didn't work that Friday.
"Well, you lucked out," her dad had said to her that morning before he left for work.
Fan-fucking-tastic, Santana thought. Now because she didn't work, she once again had nothing to do. The only problem was now it wasn't Brittany who was plaguing her thoughts; it was Rachel fucking Berry.
Santana caves and walks into her work at 10:30 A.M that same day. The first thing she notices is Rachel in her usual spot. She flips her hair over her shoulder and makes her way over to Rachel with the intent of bitching her out again for - well, for something. She just hasn't thought of it yet.
That is until she actually gets to her table and Rachel looks up from her writing with wide-eyes. "S-Santana? What are you doing here? I heard you had the day off."
"Can it, troll. I've decided that I'm never going to speak to you again. Also, any progress we made as friends is gone. Where's Quinnifer?"
Rachel blinks as she tries to process all of what Santana said. "I think you should-"
"I think you should find another café to live in, Berry."
"Would you please just sit down and -"
"You couldn't pay me to sit with you."
"What if I do?"
Santana pauses. After a moment of tension between the two girls, Santana grudgingly sits down.
"I'm not talking about Brittany."
"And I'm not talking about Finn."
"Fine. Where's Quinn?"
Rachel shrugs. "She says she was feeling sick so she had to cancel on our Friday meeting. Perhaps you'd like to join me for coffee. Since you're not working and all."
Santana briefly thinks about the goal she made the night before about never speaking to Rachel again before nodding. "All right, let me just get a coffee."
"No! No, I can get it for you," Rachel quickly cuts in, putting her hand on Santana's shoulder and standing up. "You take it black, right? All right, I'll be right back."
Santana adopts a bewildered expression as Rachel rushes by in a pink blur. "What the hell?" she mumbles to herself. After a moment, she turns around in the hard wooden chair to see if maybe Rachel was using the excuse of getting coffee for Santana to escape the girl's company. It would be a smart move, after all.
However, she doesn't see Rachel running through the café's doors. In fact, she sees Rachel coming back to the table with her coffee and a brokenhearted expression. Mostly because Santana also sees Brittany in the corner, sitting on Artie's lap, looking gorgeous and happy and shit.
Santana turns around to face the table with sad eyes as Rachel sits down across from her, mirroring her expression. "I'm sorry. I tried to keep you from noticing."
"Why is it that you're always the one trying to protect me from Brittany?" Santana asks, genuinely curious.
Rachel purses her lips as she hands Santana her coffee, nodding at the whispered thanks from the girl across from her. "Because no one else seems to be doing that. Not even you," Rachel says bluntly.
"Why do you think I got a job here?" Santana mumbles, rolling her eyes.
Rachel actually laughs. "So, you got a job at basically the only good coffee house in Lima? Shouldn't you have gone for a grocery store stocker, or someone who doesn't have to interact with people daily?"
Santana was two seconds away from glaring at Rachel over the rim of her cup before she pauses. She sets down her cup and looks at Rachel hard. "Why didn't I think of that?"
"Perhaps you were too occupied with the free coffee aspect of this job?" Rachel asks, a small smile gracing her features.
Santana rolls her eyes but allows herself to smile. "I guess it was a pretty stupid idea, huh?"
Rachel looks at her seriously, almost in confusion, and shakes her head. "How was it a stupid idea? You actually chose a far better route to take than I did when it comes to getting over heartbreak."
"You mean you sitting in here every day and writing a play, right?"
Rachel nods once before taking a sip of her coffee. "I had hoped to not only take my mind off Finn, but to be able to put my heart into something that wasn't Finn. Very similar to what you did."
Santana's intrigued by the emotion that crosses Rachel's eyes as she talks about Finn now. "And did it work?"
Rachel cocks her head a bit. "Well, you read the play."
Santana waits in silence before she shrugs. "Is that supposed to answer my question or something?"
Rachel keeps Santana's gaze for a few moments before she lets out a breath of a laugh and smiles. "Yes, Santana. It worked. Finn wasn't in the play, although you thought he was."
Santana thinks back on the play and on the conversation that they had about it before Santana stormed off the other day. "So," she starts, "the guy in your story, the one you crush on and 'build a bond over coffee' with after a 'matter of months' isn't Finn?"
Rachel shakes her head.
"Was he modeled after someone we know?"
"Someone in glee club?"
Santana reclines back in her seat and nurses her coffee cup with her hands. She can't for the life of her think of someone that she's missed. No, she's spent far too much time either bickering with Rachel or glaring at Rachel this summer to have missed her developing a crush on someone from glee. In fact, Santana's sure that Rachel and Santana have spent more time arguing with each other over the summer than hanging out with anyone else. She smirks a bit and takes a sip of coffee.
As she's thinking, Santana catches Rachel eye over the rim of her cup. Rachel's watching her and the little brunette has this smirk on her lips that makes Santana hone in on her face. Unlike when Santana had thought Rachel had been smirking at her before, weeks ago, this was an actual smirk. Santana's eyes squint as she studies the ever-widening smirk on Rachel's lips.
"No, this is some rigged shit or something," Santana accuses, finally breaking the silence and leaning forward in her chair, "There hasn't been some mystery guy in here with you all summer. It's been either me or Quinn and I already know it's not Quinn." Santana folds her arms across her chest in victory. She was so smarter than Rachel. God, as if the little midget could out-smart her.
"So, what you're saying," Rachel reasons as she leans her forearms on the table and boldly catches Santana's gaze in a way that makes Santana question if Rachel was ever intimidated by her, "is that there were only two people that I really had contact with this summer." She waits for Santana to nod before continuing. "And that has been you and Quinn. Yet, you say it's not Quinn because we've established that I portrayed Quinn as my friend in red."
Santana nods and rolls her eyes. "Get to the part where you tell me how smart I am for figuring out that you made up the dude."
"That's not true," Rachel says quickly. Her eyebrows are raised and her smile might have even been infectious if Santana wasn't so pissed about being told she was wrong. "Back to reasoning this out."
Santana sighs and doesn't understand why she's letting Rachel talk so much. She did enjoy that play though, and she's nothing if not nosey, so she kind of has to find out who this person is. It's eating away at her at this point. Don't ask her why.
Suddenly, Santana notices Rachel is packing her stuff up. Santana watches Rachel put her play, her books, and her cell phone into her rolling backpack. "Wait, where in the hell do you think you're going?"
"I'm running away before you finally put the pieces together," Rachel says plainly, giving Santana a look that shows what she just said should have been completely obvious.
"Figure what out?" Santana questions as she throws her arms up in confusion. "Wait! You're really not going to tell me who it is? You can't just leave me hanging, Berry!" Santana says louder than intended.
Rachel laughs as she shrugs into her sweatshirt and wheels hers backpack out of the café. "If it's not Quinn, and it's not Finn," Santana says more to herself than to Rachel's retreating figure, "then that - Holy sweet - Berry!" Santana shouts. It was her! It was her? Oh hell nah. Rachel was so not about to get away with telling Santana she has a crush on her then bailing on her.
Santana quickly jumps up, almost knocking her coffee over, and takes off after Rachel, not even sparing a second thought to Brittany and Artie in the corner.
"Berry! I swear to god if you don't stop running-," Santana yells as she follows Rachel's retreating figure across the sidewalk. Rachel crosses the street just as the 'Don't Walk' signal lights up. Santana was just about to catch her, but was unfortunately stuck on the other side of the street. Very much to her surprise, though - almost as surprising as her running after Rachel in the first place - Rachel stops at the stoplight across the street and turns to Santana. She smiles and waits.
Once the light turns green for her, Santana crosses the street at a walking pace rather than a run. Her expression is one of curiosity as she slowly approaches the girl across the street. She stops in front of Rachel and they face each other as people walk around them, going wherever it is that people went at that time of day.
Rachel smiles wryly up at Santana and Santana merely shakes her head, offering Rachel a ghost of a smile.