TW for mentions of rape and sexual abuse.
September 24, 2015
"Santana, what are you doing?"
Her entire body jumps and it's only then that she realizes that she's been sitting there, stock still and frozen, since the congresswoman left. Her entire body feels strange, completely disconnected from her mind, but it's like Quinn's touch wakes her up, bringing her around faster than she would like.
Her lips start to tingle in a way that's familiar and strange all at once and she has to fight the urge to touch her fingers to her lips just to check if they still feel the same.
It's easier when Quinn grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her.
"Santana, it's 5:30 in the morning. Didn't you sleep yet?" A sigh leaves Quinn in knowing disappointment but all Santana cares about is the fact that she doesn't know what she's supposed to do with her body. Sure, it's awake now but it's like she's been rewired. Nothing works right. "You need to sleep more or you're going to burn out. I know you say that's bullshit but it's true."
Her mouth forms around words that never leave her lips. Quinn watches her and Santana recognizes her expression as one of worry and concern.
"Did anything happen last night?" She asks and Santana feels a rush of panic at those words before Quinn continues. "With the Governor? Did you go and see him?"
Instantly, the panic is gone. The words feel like a trigger, her mind snapping back into focus at the reminder of her purpose, her responsibility. Her lips still tingle and her limbs still feel heavy but the question is the key that unlocks all the anger Santana still holds within her.
"Yes, I did," she answers and her voice doesn't sound like her voice. It's softer and she notices that her throat aches a little. "I fixed it. It's fine. He'll do better today."
Her hands search through the still open folder in front of her to find their schedule. Quinn reaches forward to stop her and all Santana can think about, when she looks down and finds Quinn's hand resting against the leather, is a softer, paler hand doing the same thing mere hours before.
"Santana—" Quinn starts and her voice sounds like she's about to say something that might change everything.
She can't let that happen, so she shakes her head and pries her hand away as panic rises from her core up to her throat. "It's fine," she repeats as she gathers her things quickly. "He'll be fine. Just trust me."
She hears Quinn call her name again before the door slams behind her.
She gets to her hotel room and splashes ice cold water on her face before rolling up her sleeves and letting the water run over her wrists to wake herself up. It's an old trick someone taught her when she was younger and, just like normal, she feels her body regulating at the feel of it.
Just like normal, it makes her think of a time she wishes was long forgotten.
She looks at herself in the mirror and it's strange because she feels like she should look different, like the last twelve hours should have changed her but she looks exactly the same. Her damp hands reach up to her face and she touches the black bags now visible beneath her eyes with curiosity. They're tender and swollen and, as she presses her fingertips to the skin, she thinks about her mother and the delicate crows' feet that used to form in the corners of her eyes from where she used to laugh all the time.
Santana doesn't have crows' feet.
Moisture drips down her cheek and her eyes flutter as she reaches for a towel and wipes the dampness from her face. She pulls her shirt from the waistband of her skirt with one hand as the other begins to unfasten the buttons.
Like usual, Sugar's left her a freshly laundered outfit in a dry cleaning bag on the back of the bathroom door and her suitcase lays open on the counter beside her ready for her to reach inside to find fresh underwear and stockings. She strips herself naked quickly and tosses everything into a laundry bag before looking back at herself in the mirror.
She still looks exactly the same. Her hands brush over her stomach before quickly cupping her breasts. She lifts her chin defiantly before becoming preoccupied with her face once more. Her hands brace against the counter as she leans in, studying herself carefully before her hand reaches up and traces the outline of her mouth.
Her lips are still tingling and after four years she can't remember if that's normal or not.
She tells herself it is as she stubbornly walks into the shower. She has a plane to catch in ninety minutes and she needs to hurry. The sudden soothing rush of the water running over her muscles soothes her even more. The warmth of it makes her sigh in a mix of relief and pleasure.
She doesn't know what she's thinking when her hand reaches up to her mouth again, or even more so when it drifts back down her body, cupping her breasts before disappearing between her legs.
Her eyes close as the sensation takes over but it doesn't matter.
The water washes away the truth.
A 7:30am take off is nothing new but neither is standing on the tarmac of a runway at 6:45 in the morning.
It's a strange thing to be familiar with but the usual chauffeur-driven car picks her up outside of the hotel and doesn't stop until she's standing beside Will's custom-refurbished jet at Burlington International Airport. Sugar stands waiting for her, carrying her purse and briefcase and she can tell that Will isn't here, just from the atmosphere when she gets on the plane.
There are people laughing and a few of the interns are sleeping underneath their long-since laundered suit jackets. As she moves down the plane, beyond the curtain, to the senior staff area, she finds Quinn on the phone, leaning casually over the back of a chair to watch Puck, Mike, and Lauren pour over the screen of the computer in front of them. The row of five TV screens set into the walls shows the usual channels: C-SPAN, MSNBC, CNN, Fox News, and BBC World. The lingering smell of fresh coffee fills her nostrils and, as she makes her way past the others and to her usual seat in the farthest corner away from everyone else, she finds herself craving the taste of it.
A fresh cup of it is placed in front of her a few seconds later and Santana takes it with unspoken gratitude before Sugar takes the folder from where it's tucked beneath her arm. She opens it to wordlessly hand Santana random papers from inside. She eyes them briefly, as Sugar outlines the schedule and relays the morning messages. She mutters her thanks before Sugar returns to her seat.
When everyone quickly bustles back to their seats and the noise level suddenly drops, Santana sucks in a breath of trepidation. She hears the brakes squeak on the tarmac outside and then the flight attendants welcome him on board. Her eyes remain on the papers in front of her, elbow resting coolly on the armrest beside her as she hears him greeting random members of the team. She feels warm eyes burning into her but Santana doesn't look up until Will's dropping into the seat opposite her with a sigh.
She remains stoic, the backs of her fingers pressed to her mouth as she peers over her glasses at him. He isn't looking at her, so she looks back down at her papers while the attendants take his coat and offer him a drink. His suit jacket is placed on the hook he paid a ridiculous amount of money to have set into the wall behind his custom-made orthopedic seat. He sighs and loosens his collar as a bottle of water is put before him.
She waits for a shitty comment, for him to tell her to sit somewhere else or worse. It would be just like him, to wait until they're in front of the entire staff and on a fucking private jet before he fired her. He'd take so much pleasure in watching her take the dreaded walk of embarrassing shame back onto the tarmac.
The thought of it bitterly makes her want him to actually do it.
She knows he'd love it.
She doesn't know if she's shocked or not when he doesn't. He's always been equal amounts a cruel asshole and a spineless fool.
"What do we have today?" he asks and she barely pays him any recognition but he does the same thing as the attendant brings him the morning papers.
Instead, she glances at him before reaching forward to the table in front of her and picking up the schedule that Sugar just brought her.
He takes it wordlessly.
They say nothing the entire flight.
He's well behaved all day, much to the surprise of the staff but not Santana's.
It makes her feel easier and safer, knowing that she has the upper hand.
The rally in Boston goes exactly as planned and he says exactly what he's supposed to after Santana clears the speeches that Mike writes for him and he actually reads them before getting to the podium. He gets more applause than he's received in a while and handles all the awkward questions that the press asks him with grace and ease.
Santana does her job and that's all she can really expect of herself today. She knows she can do this in her sleep—sometimes she thinks that maybe she does—and she's glad for that because she needs all the brainpower she has to try and forget the past twenty-four hours.
She moves on instinct to get everything done and at the end of the day, everything is back on track and Will hasn't shouted at her.
Still, flashes of too-blonde hair and rose-pink lips fill her brain when she isn't paying attention. It makes her throat go dry and her heart beat hard in her chest. Her palms sweat and Quinn looks at her strangely more than once and more than once Santana snaps at her.
When Will dismisses everyone that evening so that he can go to dinner with the Mayor of Boston—an old friend from his time in Congress—Santana disappears to her hotel room faster than anyone else. She asks to remain undisturbed so she can get on with her work but the minute that her back hits the back of the door, all she feels is panic. She opens the mini bar for the first time in a long time but the minute that she twists the cap on the bottle, the smell of scotch fills her senses and the memories rush back to her.
She rushes into the bathroom, upending the contents of the bottle into the sink until no drop is left. It makes her feel better and she looks at herself in the mirror to see if anything's different yet but she's still the same.
That's what she hates the most.
All these years—all this trying—and she's still exactly the same.
Her eyes flutter in exhaustion before she strips herself naked.
The shower is hot and wonderful, but it's not as wonderful as the hand drifting down her body or the memories in her head.
There's something about Washington, DC that makes her feel safe. There's an endless relief that fills her body, muscle memory of a decade that seeps through her system like warm soup on a freezing cold day.
It's strange because it was hot the first day she arrived here. Her ratty t-shirt had stuck to her back and the holes in the knees of her jeans didn't help at all. That day was the first day she went to the diner and got ice-cold lemonade. It had felt like freedom. It was the first time in forever that everything had felt okay.
She's not sure why it reminds her of soup.
She feels calm the minute they touch down at Dulles and stays calm all through their morning meetings and all through the prep for Will's speech. Winning over DC is still one of her top priorities and, for once, Will listens to her when she explains why it's so important for him as a governor.
She's worryingly calm, all the way until Lauren looks up from her computer and announces that Representative Pierce is in the city too.
The panic that washes over her body makes her numb enough that she doesn't hear Will's tirade of abuse at the mention of her. Her heart beats too fast and her skin is damp with sweat even though the room is freezing. She sits quietly until Will snaps at her.
It's his first blip since that night in Vermont and she looks up at him slowly until he clears his throat and smiles at her. He claps a hand to her shoulder and asks her where she disappeared to, making a comment about how perhaps he's over-working her and that maybe they should take a break to gather themselves.
He dismisses them and disappears into his hotel room without a word. Quinn unsurely asks her if everything's okay and Santana shakes the moment off like it's nothing.
Still, after she excuses herself to her room and searches fruitlessly on her computer to find out where Pierce is going to be, she can't help but feel the unsettled sensation in her stomach.
She ignores it.
Will fucks up the speech and Santana's weirdly unsurprised.
He mixes up his information and accidentally says something racist about immigration and Santana has no reaction whatsoever. She sits on a stool at the side of the stage with her arms crossed and watches as everyone rushes around to figure out how they're going to do damage control. The fact that they know what they're doing without her even having to instruct them says more than enough. She disinterestedly checks twitter to see what they're already saying and silently hands notes off to Sugar to circulate to everyone else.
She mentally prepares herself for all eventualities and doesn't say anything when Will storms off the stage past her. She doesn't say anything in the lobby before he gets in the car either. She remains completely silent, making notes as Quinn and Sugar make calls on either side of her.
To say that she's prepared for the massive blow up that Will has the minute that he walks into their conference room is an understatement. She's non-reactive—completely soundless—as he yells at her and threatens to fire her again. He tells her she's incompetent, useless, and that he never should have hired her in the first place. Everyone around them is quiet, waiting for her usual response but it never comes.
She quietly removes Quinn's hand from the waistband of her skirt and offers her a smile before getting up. She closes her folder and tucks it inside the briefcase that Sugar brings to her. She gestures for her coat and ignores Will still standing there steaming at the ears as Puck helps her to put it on. It's not until she's hooking her purse onto her arm and taking back the briefcase from Sugar that he even really reacts.
"Where do you think you're going?!" he spits and she loves that she can hear the panic in his voice. He shuffles sideways as she tries to walk towards the door and blocks it before she can get there. She stops and sighs before looking up at him.
"Sir, if I am so useless and incompetent then surely it's better that I leave now and allow you find someone better suitable to do my job," she tells him, her voice level and venomously sweet. His face drops and she has to bite her tongue not to laugh.
He grabs her arm and shakes his head. "You're not going anywhere."
She stares over his shoulder and remains calm as she speaks. "Sir, I think it's better that I leave now so that you can find someone more capable to do this job than me and ensure the success of your campaign—"
"You're not going anywhere. You're mine and I will be the one to tell you when you can leave," he hisses before darting his eyes around the room to the shocked eyes looking back at him. "Everyone get back to work," he snaps when he sees them. "Now."
They all jump to it but Santana remains standing there silently. When she's sure that no one else is listening, she leans into him and smiles.
"I am not yours," she tells him quietly and calmly in the same sickly sweet voice she'd used before. "I will leave whenever the hell I want to so either you find yourself some manners and take some responsibility or I walk out the door right now. Understood?"
His face drops and, with just the slightest nod, she sees him agree. She shakes his hand off and continues toward the door before he catches up to her.
"Where—where are you going?" he asks her hurriedly.
She looks at him and shrugs.
She gets a cab across the city and asks to be seated at the bar of one of her old favorite restaurants.
She orders a glass of wine and looks at the menu. She feels better than she has in days until she a hand presses against her back and sends a jolt of shock up her spine.
When she turns to her left and finds too-blonde hair and crystal-clear blue eyes, she's almost not surprised. Her mouth falls open regardless because suddenly all she can remember is seeing those eyes so much closer and clearer not two days ago. She's too busy feeling the strangest mix of relief and familiar overwhelming panic that she barely notices the timid look on the woman's face.
"Congresswoman," she utters almost soundlessly and something swoops within her when the woman in front of her instantly gives her a kind smile and shifts her hand lower on her back.
"Call me Brittany," she reminds her quickly and quietly, like a lifelong habit. Her blue eyes flicker over Santana's face looking for something that makes Santana feel uncomfortable and at ease at the same time. "What are you doing here? Are you okay?"
The concern makes Santana feel strange, like her entire chest could gladly open up and flutter free everything held close inside it. It's terrifying and she stiffens instantly when she realizes it. "I'm fine," she says. "I'm just getting dinner. You?"
Brittany glances behind her. "I was supposed to be meeting someone for dinner but I got the wrong restaurant," she explains quickly. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Santana nods and looks away to catch the attention of the waitress instead of staring into those blue eyes. "I'm fine," she reiterates sharply, tapping her glass in silent request when the waitress comes close enough. "I'm meeting someone too."
The lie comes easily but Congresswoman Pierce still looks at her dubiously. Her lips purse and she takes one more searching look over Santana's features before checking the clock above the bar.
"I have to go," she says a second later and Santana hates how blue eyes shamelessly flutter back over her face and get stuck staring helplessly at her lips. She looks away to stop her before glancing back to find her still staring.
It's almost satisfying, the way that her cheeks are pink and she looks embarrassed.
"Sorry," she whispers when a car horn blasts outside the restaurant. Santana's not entirely sure what she's apologizing for. Pierce's fingernails scratch where they still rest against Santana's back before they let go entirely. "Bye, Santana."
Santana opens her mouth to speak, but before she can get the words out, the woman's already gone.
Later, after Quinn has visited her room to tell her how hard Will worked with them that evening, and how nervous he looked, Santana's settled into the chair in front of her hotel desk when her phone vibrates across the dark wood.
She picks it up curiously only to find a text from an unknown number.
Have a better day tomorrow, it says and Santana feels her chest pang before she shakes her head and convinces herself that it's nothing.
Still, she thinks about it, right up until she falls asleep.
Everything's okay and Will is working hard until he accidentally messes up another speech in Des Moines.
Santana just sighs and waits and doesn't do anything more than get up and try to walk out the door again when he gives her a tirade of abuse. It annoys him more than it makes him angry and she impassively watches him tell her it's her "last chance" before he stomps away and leaves her there.
When some of the interns behind her try to laugh, she turns to them sharply and tells them to get on with their work. It does what she intended and they all look at her terrified.
She feels completely in control and it's so thrilling and calming at the same time. She feels like herself for the first time in days.
It doesn't last long.
Not when, only a couple of hours later, her phone rings.
She answers it without thinking.
"Hello?" she says without checking who it is.
There's a grunt, then some rustling before—
"So them Raiders, huh?"
She's confused instantly. It takes her a minute to figure out whose voice she's hearing and when she does, her eyes widen and her stomach drops.
She looks around her curiously before narrowing her eyes. "Congresswoman?" she asks tentatively. She gets up without thinking, stepping over to her door to make sure it's locked before stepping over to the windows to close the blinds.
When the woman on the end of the line nervously giggles, Santana almost hangs up. It catches her off-guard and she takes a steady breath to calm herself.
"Hi," the woman says quietly. "How are you?"
Santana's mouth drops and she lets out a sudden sound of disbelief and indignation. "I'm—" She starts before trailing off. "Congresswoman, you shouldn't be calling me."
"Probably not," she says and Santana hates that she can almost see her smiling. "But I'm in Oakland and I was watching CNN and I just wanted to know if you're okay." Santana's ready to spit out a reply before the congresswoman quickly carries on. "But then I started calling you and then they started talking about the Oakland Raiders and how they're playing really bad and I sort of forgot I was calling you and it caught me off guard when you answered. I didn't think you'd be up this late but anyway…" There's a brief pause where she audibly takes a breath. "How are you? I hope you're doing okay."
Santana shakes her head in utter befuddlement.
"I'm—I'm fine, Congresswoman," she mumbles softly.
A happy little sound floats across the phone line. "Good," the woman says before giggling. "And I wish you'd call me Brittany. I mean, I thought we were way past greeting each other formally."
That makes Santana's stomach drop and she tries to push all memories of why she might think that out of her brain.
"It makes me feel more comfortable," she explains carefully.
An amused sigh fills her ear and she hates that she can almost feel it. "Fine then, Miss Lopez. We'll have it your way."
Santana shakes her head and continues to look around the room. All she can think about is bugged phones and wire-tapping, surveillance devices and being on the front page of The National Enquirer.
"Congresswoman, I really don't understand why you're calling me," she says so quietly she might as well be whispering. "Was there something about the campaign you wanted to discuss or—"
"Oh, God, no," the woman snorts. "I'm up to my eyeballs in campaign stuff. It's the last thing I want to talk about right now. I just—I saw what happened today and I figured you might want to talk about it. It must be frustrating when stuff like that happens."
Santana paces the floor, her eyes finding the ugly hotel carpet as she tries to figure out if she's angry, offended, terrified or touched. It possibly might be a mix of all four.
"It isn't your fault, you know?" the woman goes on. "I'm sure that there are people out there who try to convince you that it is but—"
The words make Santana panic for two many opposing and irregular reasons. Her brow furrows and she cuts the woman off before she can say anything else that might actually change everything.
"Congresswoman, you shouldn't be calling me," she says sharply and before she can think about it she's hitting the red button and hanging up.
The suddenness of her actions makes her gasp and for a split second she panics that she's done the wrong thing. She guesses that not many people hang up on a congresswoman, especially campaign managers from Ohio. There's a part of her that wonders if Brittany will tell people, if she'll let them know how unprofessional she's been, but as she really thinks about it, she guesses that probably won't happen because that would mean something else entirely.
When her phone buzzes in her hands, she jumps about four feet in the air.
Have a good day tomorrow, Miss Lopez, is what the text message says.
She tries to ignore it.
She's almost successful.
That's until it happens again the next night.
Her phone buzzes in her hand as she's working at her desk in the empty Des Moines headquarters and she doesn't even look before she answers.
"Hello," she says like normal after ten o'clock because usually the only people who call her now are those who actually know her.
"Arizona is weird."
The voice catches her attention then catches her off guard, and she breathes out unsteadily before resting her head in her hands.
"Congresswoman," she warns softly but the woman is already talking a mile a minute.
"Like—really weird," she mumbles and she sounds tired and confused and possibly a little overwhelmed. "Like I always wondered why I'd never really visited Arizona before but now that I've been here I can totally see why. I mean—why do we even campaign here? In a state that's voted almost consistently Republican since 1952 and somehow manages to pass the dumbest laws in existence, it seems pointless my liberal ass being here. I don't think anyone can convince these people that they're normal."
Despite the circumstances, Santana feels a soft smile tug at the corner of her lips as she listens to the woman aimlessly go on.
"I mean, don't get me wrong—the Grand Canyon is a great place to visit and one of the most beautiful natural wonders of the world but—this place is just freaking weird," she giggles slightly and Santana shakes her head to remove the grin that's slowly slipping onto her face. "Can't we skip coming here altogether and just give their vote to the Republicans on a technicality or something?"
Santana lifts her head and speaks without thinking. "Maybe you should author a bill for the House about it," she suggests diplomatically. "Although I'm sure a lot of people would have a lot to say about it."
"That's true, however I might just do it anyway," she says stubbornly and Santana finds herself chuckling quietly and remembering how it had felt to sit beside this woman, drinking and talking for hours. She's not sure how she'd describe it.
Easy, would be her first adjective.
Cathartic, would possibly be her second.
The realization makes the laughing trail away and the line goes quiet for long moments before Santana gathers the courage to speak again. She hates that she can almost hear and remember the smile on Representative Pierce's face.
"You shouldn't be calling me," she states as definitively as she can. "It's neither appropriate nor fair for you to be calling me when we're on opposing campaigns. I also think that it's inappropriate for you and I to be talking about anything other than campaign matters and if you would like to do that then I can make sure my assistant gets your number and you can make an appointment through her. Do you understand?"
There's barely a pause before—
"Sure," the congresswoman agrees easily, before quickly continuing. "But do you not get how ass-backward this state is? Like, they've pretty much legalized racial profiling? These people care more about their cactuses than they do about half the people that live here—unless those people are like really old and white and then they can have whatever they want. Unless they're gay then they don't deserve anything—"
"Congresswoman," Santana warns sharply.
"What?" There's a pause and then— "Oh, right. Fuck. Sorry."
The line goes dead a second later and Santana stares at the phone in her hands, not sure whether she should be relieved or disappointed.
When she doesn't receive a phone call the next day, Santana soon realizes that she's more relieved than anything else.
She settles into bed easily, phone void of anything but the usual email from Sugar confirming their first appointment the following morning.
All she thinks about is what she has to do tomorrow morning and all she cares about is what could go wrong.
It takes hours for her to fall asleep.
She feels more normal than she has in weeks.
The silence lasts two days.
They're the two busiest days they've had in months and Will messes up in every single appointment he has both days. He offends two Congressmen and one very prim school principal but he says nothing when he sees Santana after. He just looks at her before walking straight past her.
She's livid—practically exuding steam from her ears—and when Lauren comes to her, and presents her with a fucking internet meme of all things, is when her phone decides to ring. She takes it from her pocket without thinking, ignoring how Lauren slopes out of her room at the same moment she barks her own name down the phone in greeting.
"Oh," the familiar voice says timidly back before making the most annoyingly adorable noise of hesitance that Santana's ever heard. "Uhhhhh. Okay. Now's not a good time. You sound busy…"
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Santana barks mirthlessly in reply. The anger is instant… except it isn't really because she feels like a volcano, erupting and spewing out fire in a way that almost helps. "Are you fucking kidding me right now? What part of stop fucking calling me did you not understand? Would you like me to say it in one of the however fucking many languages you speak or will you ignore that too?!"
When she gets no reply, Santana decides to just carry on instead. It feels too good not to.
"Jesus Christ, Brittany," she says, letting the name slip thoughtlessly past her lips. "Whatever tactic this is you're trying to pull? It isn't fucking working. You are not a threat to this campaign. You are not a threat to me. Whatever the fuck it is that you want from me, you're not getting it. I am off limits. It isn't working, okay? I am not going to be worried about some fucking hippie hipster who thinks that she can turn up in the last five minutes and win. I have worked hard for this and you're not taking it away so stop calling me, okay? Stop calling."
She's aware that she's shouting, aware that someone's probably heard that little rant but right now she doesn't care because if one more thing goes wrong today she might just put her fist through something or throw her fucking TV out the window.
And she has no idea why she's just standing here, panting with anger, waiting for Pierce's reply but she is and she doesn't care.
She doesn't care, right up until Pierce opens her fucking ridiculous mouth that Santana still finds herself thinking about. The woman giggles and suddenly that is all she can care about.
"How was your day?" Brittany asks gently. "Do you want to talk about it?"
It frustrates Santana and drives her absolutely crazy and she groans out her irritation before slamming her thumb against the red button.
The phone flies in a perfect arc as she throws it across the room and all Santana can think about is that damn giggle.
It's almost like the woman is enjoying irritating her. She somehow manages to call her throughout all three of her usual daily morning meetings, like she somehow has access to her schedule so that she can call her at all the most completely inopportune moments. It doesn't help that Santana picks up every single time.
And how many wrong numbers can she claim to receive before people stop believing her? Then again, what does it matter when her staff are so engrossed in trying to turn Will's reputation around that they can barely notice anything else?
No one gives her a second look when she excuses herself to take a phone call and she closes her hotel room door behind her quickly as the phone continues to vibrate in her hand for about the twentieth time. She hits the answer button so aggressively that she thinks she might have cracked the screen.
"Listen, you need to stop calling me," she hisses down the phone. "Just fucking stop, okay?"
And then there's that goddamn giggle again.
"How 'bout I stop calling when you stop picking up?"
"Ugh," Santana scoffs at the arrogance. "Fuck you," she spits as she hangs up.
The phone starts ringing mere seconds later and she can't stop thinking about how brazen and shameless Brittany is as she answers it and presses it to her ear.
A smug laugh fills her ear and Santana feels the rage spread through her body like wildfire at the sound of it.
"Ha," Representative Pierce chuckles. "Gotcha."
Santana's cheeks redden and her mouth drops open. She quickly grits her teeth and she honestly doesn't know whether she wants to laugh or scream. Words fail her completely and the congresswoman must be able to tell that because she just keeps giggling.
"God dammit," Santana hisses helplessly.
The woman just keeps giggling.
"Goodbye, Miss Lopez," she says and just like that, she hangs up.
Santana's waiting for it, the next time she calls.
She waits for three rings before answering and tries to stay as calm as possible.
"Hello, Congresswoman," she says eventually.
There's a brief pause.
"Hello, Miss Lopez," she replies and, again with the giggle. Santana takes a deep breath to steady herself because it's only just the slightest bit intimidating. "You picked up," the woman comments.
"Congresswoman," she starts before petering off, unsure of herself. She pushes her hair back off her face and sighs out an uneven breath. "Listen, I want to apologize for the way that I spoke to you the other day but you've got to understand what I'm trying to say. Congresswoman—"
"Brittany," the woman interjects kindly and Santana feels herself laughing before she quickly responds.
"Brittany," she says, just because maybe then she'll fucking listen. "You gotta stop calling this number, okay?" She waits for any arguments before moving quickly on with her reasoning. "It's for your own good, okay? I know that you think that what I did was the worse that anyone could possibly do but—I promise you—if anyone found out that you keep calling me just because…" Santana trails off hoping that the congresswoman understands what she means by that and takes a deep breath before continuing. "Your career would be over before you'd even know it and, as much as you're the enemy right now and as little as I like to admit it, you're doing some fucking amazing things for people in this country who really need it and I'd hate to see all of it get ruined. There will always be another campaign but what you're doing beyond that is some right here, right now shit that needs to happen and there are people out there—really fucking shitty people—who want to ruin that just because it'll make good newsprint. I would hate to put all that stuff in jeopardy because some asshole traced your calls and got the wrong idea. You have to be careful. Do you understand?"
There's a brief pause and an airy chuckle before—
"Yeah," the woman says softly. "I understand."
Santana frowns and can't help the corners of her mouth from turning up in relief. "You—You understand?"
The woman chuckles again. "How could anyone misunderstand that beautifully eloquent speech?" she teases kindly. "I will stop calling this number."
"Yeah?" Santana asks and suddenly she's not entirely sure how she feels about that.
Brittany giggles again. "Yeah, of course," she says. "I'll stop bothering you and find some right here, right now shit to do."
Santana finds a laugh escaping her as her cheeks flush in embarrassment. Her eyes drift close and she chuckles awkwardly before speaking. "I meant all that, you know?" she says softly. "It would be a shame to let someone ruin that for a misunderstanding."
The line is uncomfortably quiet before Brittany quietly speaks.
"It would," she agrees and Santana can almost hear the want to question or argue in the timidity of her voice. She wants to say something but before she can, the woman is cutting off any thought she might have. "Anyway, I should let you go," she says softly. "I hope to see you as soon as humanly possible, Miss Lopez."
Santana feels her entire body blush at the honest in her words.
"Goodbye, Santana," she whispers and it's almost like she knows what effect she's having.
Santana swallows thickly and closes her eyes to fight away all the images in her head.
"Goodbye, Brittany," she says.
Her eyes stay closed and the images don't go away until long, long after Congresswoman Pierce has hung up.
True to her word, the next day, Santana doesn't receive anything from Congresswoman Pierce.
She finds herself feeling strangely disappointed and takes it out on everyone around her.
She forces everyone to rewrite speeches over and over again until they're as perfect as they can be and makes Will stand before her and answer tough, timed questions ready for important meetings they have tomorrow. He doesn't even argue with her, and that's how she knows that everyone can tell that she's pissed off. He just turns to her between appointments in his Londonderry hotel room and waits for the next question that she comes up with while sitting in the corner of the room making sure he doesn't fuck up.
The only person that looks at her funny is Quinn who sits in the other corner, taking notes and glancing up at her every so often. She doesn't say anything but she doesn't really need to. Santana ignores her anyway.
"We're going to go over the education stuff again after your lunch with the town council," she tells him as he gets up. "Then we're going to go through social security, women's issues, and foreign policy this afternoon after we've visited the high school."
"But—" Will starts and she sees Quinn look up, ready for a fight, when Santana quickly interjects.
"No buts," she says disinterestedly as she stands up and slips everything back inside of her briefcase. "We're not stopping until you can crap out answers in your sleep. You're not fucking up again. You're not saying anything tomorrow that's going to set us back, okay? If you don't know the answer, that's why we pay Mike to come up with these wonderful non-answers that can tide us over until you can give a real answer at the next available opportunity. Understood?"
Will looks at her before glancing at Quinn. He grins at her until Quinn looks away with a roll of her eyes, and readjusts his jacket on his shoulders before nodding.
"Understood," he agrees and she doesn't understand why he looks so happy but she doesn't really care.
"And get a salad for lunch," she tells him pointedly as she walks out the door. "And don't drink anything carbonated. You look bloated."
She can hear him laughing all the way to the elevator.
Still, when he returns two hours later, he doesn't smell of anything other than salad dressing and she takes that as a victory.
He sits himself down in his chair and grabs a bottle of water before taking the notes that Santana hands him. He studies them quietly as she makes phone calls and it almost makes her want to laugh, how the teacher has become the student.
Whatever. At least he's trying.
And when he doesn't fuck up any answers the entire afternoon and actually brings stuff to the table that somehow manages to impress all of them, Santana finds her mood starting to shift.
But there's still some part of her conditioned to expect a shitty comment at the end of the day, and it leaves her on tenterhooks right up until Will smiles at her as they're settling in for take off back to Des Moines.
"You've worked hard today," he tells her and as much she simultaneously hates and enjoys the dull excitement of his praise, there's an even bigger part of her that wants to just smirk at him and agree.
Heading back into their Des Moines hotel room is so familiar that the routine is robotic. The people at the front desk greet them by name and no one questions what's happening when they all head up to their spare operations room to debrief the day.
"Okay," Santana says as she glances down at the preliminary outline for tomorrow that Sugar hands her. "We're heading to Waterloo for the morning tomorrow and then we have the big meetings in the afternoon in Dakota City. Remember that Hudson, Whittier and Suarez are here for the same meetings tomorrow too. We've got to stand out in everything we do."
"Pierce, too," Puck interjects softly from her side and Santana feels her heart jump before she glances at him questioningly.
"Pierce is here too?" she asks him quietly. He nods as he glances down at his own copy of the outline. Her eyes quickly dart to her own copy to find where he's looking but there's nothing there. "Where are you getting this information?" she asks him quietly. "It's not in here."
Puck looks up at her like he didn't even realize she was talking to him. "Oh, I know," he says like it was obvious. "But Lauren and I were checking the news sites in the car on the way back from the jet and apparently she originally didn't think she'd be able to make the meetings but she freed up her schedule."
Santana glances back down at the outline and tries to fight away the need to smile. Instead, she turns to Sugar and hands her back the outline. "Amend tomorrow's outline," she tells her softly. "And make sure that the Governor has his notes ready for tomorrow."
It takes her forever to fall asleep and, when she does, it's with her cellphone on the pillow next to her.
She wakes up earlier than necessary and showers for longer than she really needs to. She's the first one in the operations room and Sugar sounds surprised when she calls her to find out where she is and Santana tells her. She arrives there ten minutes later with Santana's coffee and an updated version of their schedule.
She hands it over wordlessly as Santana begins giving her instructions and asking her all the random questions she's thought of since she woke up. Sugar answers them promptly and happily, a smile on her face as she scribbles quietly into the huge notebook that Santana had given her on her first day.
"What's the status on transport for today?" she asks as Sugar clicks her tongue and lifts up the coffee that Santana almost just knocked over for the third time in five minutes.
"The buses are outside the hotel," Sugar tells her, instantly starting to tidy her desk in a way that no one else would know how to do. "Our ETA in Waterloo is nine. I just called for a status update on the Governor. They said he and Emma were almost ready. The rest of the senior staff is already on the bus so we should really wrap things up here and head back over there."
Santana nods and takes the coffee from Sugar before draining it quickly and tossing it in the trash. "I just needed to get some notes," Santana explains before gathering everything up into her arms. "Let's go. We can do messages on the way."
Santana's glad that she gets on the bus before Will does.
She gets inside and instantly dumps all her stuff on her usual table in front of the TVs where Quinn, Puck and the others appear to have settled. They groan at her intrusion and she doesn't say anything until they begin to move to the other table.
"You should know better," she smirks as Quinn smoothes out the pages of her now creased notebook. They continue to groan until Lauren gives up and makes her way to the front like usual. "Everyone get ready for a briefing when the Governor arrives."
It takes him only five more minutes to settle into the couch across from her table. They pull away from the hotel a few seconds later and Santana's glad that they're already ahead of schedule. She feels weirdly alert and actually smiles when Sugar brings her a coffee from the kitchen at the back where all the assistants and secretaries usually linger.
"Good work, guys," she says calling for their attention. "I'm hoping everyone's got their new schedule for today. It's going to be a tight one and we're not having any fuck ups. If you fuck up today then you are fired." Everyone shoots looks to each other before Santana rolls her eyes and groans. "I am kidding but I swear to God. Fuck up and I'll kill you. I'll have a round-up now. Puck and Lauren. Go."
Lauren just glances up from her computer before thrusting a sheet of paper at Puck who takes it silently. "Suarez gave a shitty interview in Waterloo last night. Whittier was awesome as usual during a town call in Iowa City. We've got nothing about Hudson that we didn't know yesterday but Pierce went to a town hall meeting in Cedar Rapids last night and gave a speech… She did really well with the local farmers and apparently knows more about corn production than any other woman I've ever known."
When a few members of the staff snigger in amusement, Santana purses her lips and sighs. "Quinn," she moves on quickly. "How're we doing?"
Santana hears Quinn sigh in annoyance before she opens up the folder in front of her. "Pretty good," she says noncommittally. "We got some positive comments from a few blogs last night regarding speeches and comments that the governor has made this week. Everyone seems impressed and right now I'd say that we're on track to get over the few blips we've had."
Santana frowns at her answer but nods anyway and adjusts her glasses on her nose. "Good," she says. "But don't forget we're on our A-game today people. No mistakes. We will be compared and scrutinized for everything because somehow, the fact that every single democratic candidate has been invited to the smallest place on earth for a meeting with key Iowan Democrats, has become a way of judging everyone's progress by pitting everyone against each other to see how well they can impress some very old and unimportant men." Everyone snorts with laughter while Santana sighs. "Please remember: fuck ups equal death. Everyone get to work."
The local middle school of Dakota City, Iowa is probably not the biggest or best venue to be holding something like this. It probably has max capacity of half the people who are currently filling it's very small auditorium but no one seems to be worried about that. It feels like the entire population of this town has come to see them.
It's a slow day. The questions have been asked a million times before and answered just as many. Will could probably actually crap these answers out in his sleep and that, more than anything, is why she's glad for the entire meeting. It allows Will to practice. She watches as he returns back into that comfortable ease he used to have before the stakes got bigger and everything was easier. He comes off stage and there are no words that need to be said as he heads over to the gaggle of press.
There's only one bathroom in this building so it's not surprising that she runs into the Congresswoman on her way to wash her hands. She's on the phone, as usual and Santana finds herself smiling kindly as the woman holds the door open for her.
There's just the slightest thrill when the woman walks back inside the empty room and leans against the sink beside her.
"I have to go, Angie," she says and then Santana catches her smile out of the corner of her eye at whatever the person on the other end of the line says. "No… No it wasn't. I swear. I have to go… Yeah, yeah, whatever. Bye."
She hangs up with a sigh and turns to Santana with a smile. She takes in the sight of Santana with ease before speaking.
"You look like you're having a good day," she states like that's something she would know.
Santana rolls her eyes and glances at her ruefully. "I wouldn't say it's been good," she says. "Non-eventful, maybe."
The congresswoman raises her brow and the grin that tugs her lips is coy and playful. "I'm hurt."
The glance Santana gives her is supposed to be warning, reproachful, but the minute that she catches the Congresswoman's eyes gazing back at her, it's like everything starts running slower, a cosmic dial turned just to make the moment last longer. Their eyes run over each other and it feels different.
A million words rush to Santana's lips but she doesn't want to say them.
She can't say them—especially here—and that's what makes the moment disintegrate before her.
She gives the woman her kindest smile and heads for the door.
"It's always a pleasure, Congresswoman," she says in such a way that has Brittany narrowing her eyes and questioning the sincerity. Santana feels exceptionally pleased with herself when there's no witty retort and the congresswoman just watches her silently.
"Have a good day, Miss Lopez," she calls out as Santana exits.
It feels good to be the first one to leave.
She replays the moment all day.
She feels proud of herself for finally getting Brittany to behave.
It aids her mood that Will behaves and does well. He does so well that he sleeps the entire bus journey back to Des Moines and doesn't say a word. The rest of the team finish up the day quietly while he rests and Santana actually feels like everyone's pulled their weight.
Santana waits until the bus has emptied of everyone else before she rests her hand on Will's shoulder and gently jostles him awake.
"Your car's waiting," she says as she gathers her own things.
She falters and turns back to him carefully.
"Good job today, sir," she says and squeezes his shoulder before leaving.
For the first time in a long time, Santana is able to get back to her hotel room and fall straight to sleep if she wants to.
She makes a note to send Shelby a fruit basket because Sugar really was one of her better ideas. Of the very few assistants Santana's had, Sugar is by far the best. She follows behind her up the hallway carrying a clean outfit for the morning and a thin file of the very few things Santana needs to go through.
"I've asked the front desk to give you your normal five am wake up call," she mutters easily as Santana floats exhaustedly up the hallway. "But I can probably push that to six if you think you'll need more time. The bus won't leave from outside until seven so we're not pushed for time."
She opens Santana's door and whips around the room putting everything in its place before Santana can even take off her jacket.
"Can I get you anything for dinner?" she asks as Santana kicks off her shoes and crosses the room to find the TV remote. It's on the desk but she stops reaching for it the minute she sees what it sits in front of. Her pause catches Sugar's attention and she gasps a little before wandering over. "I forgot to mention," she says. "These arrived this afternoon. The hotel called to ask if it was protocol to accept gifts. When they told me what it was, I figured it was okay."
Santana eyes the bouquet of perfectly white lilies and isn't quite sure what to make of them. Her fingers carefully stroke the petals in wonderment as she tries to remember if she's ever received flowers before.
Maybe once, in college… Possibly twice. She thinks Shelby might have got her some flowers when she missed her Yale Law Graduation.
"There's a box, too," Sugar tells her and Santana notices the deep red box sitting beside it wrapped in a white bow. "It looks like a box of chocolates. Are you going to open it?"
Santana shakes her head and continues stroking the petals of the lilies. "In a minute," she whispers before clearing her throat. "Sugar, you've worked hard today. You should go get some rest."
She's sure that Sugar gives her a look but she doesn't pay attention to it. She mutters something about remembering to eat dinner before she leaves but Santana picks up the box and takes it over to the bed. Her fingers run over the ribbon before slowly pulling it apart. It's not nearly as soft as the lilies but it gives just as delicately. She tosses it aside before running her fingers over the red box.
She barely glances at the door before she lifts the lid open and chuckles at what she finds inside.
It's a knit hat. With a pompom on top.
And a note that she quickly takes out and opens without faltering.
From: The Hippie Hipster x, is all it says and that's enough for a smile to break across her face.
Santana grins and reaches for the hat. It's soft and warm and she's surprised to find a business card hidden underneath. It's a fancy one and Santana's surprised when the words "The Hippie Hipster" along with a phone number are embossed into the thick paper. She flips it over to find yet another message.
For security purposes only – B
Santana presses the card to her lips to hide the smile.
The same number on the card calls her not even twenty minutes later.
She answers it without thinking.
"Why the hat?" she asks before the congresswoman can say anything and she's happy to hear a chuckle across the line.
She pauses before—"I call them thinking caps actually," she explains. "I get all my best work done when I wear one." She pauses again. "And you always look cold, Miss Lopez. It was the only way I could think to warm you up."
There's a thick silence where Santana doesn't know what to say.
"Well… the only appropriate way," the congresswoman continues and Santana's cheeks burn so pink she can't speak. She's glad that the conversation moves swiftly on. "And this is a burner phone. There's no way to track it. I bought it with cash. Actually, I asked my most trusted best friend to buy it with cash for me."
Santana swallows thickly. Those words she wants to say come back again but she still doesn't manage it. There's just something about this woman that has her all tangled up in knots.
"Why'd you want to talk to me so badly?" she asks innocently.
It's the wrong question because the line goes quiet for so long that she starts to think Brittany's hung up. She's about to check when the woman sighs.
"I don't know," she mumbles and she sounds like a lost, petulant teenager. "I just wanted to talk to you."
Santana doesn't understand why she presses. "But why?"
The words have barely left her mouth before she receives the reply. "Because I like the sound of your voice," the congresswoman chuckles awkwardly and it shuts Santana up completely. Her voice is softer when she speaks next. "Because I like the sound of your voice," she repeats gently. "And I wanted to know how your day had been…"
Santana takes her own long pause and then, for the first time, she actually tells her.
As she stands amongst the governor and her colleagues, she tries not to think about the fact that she spent three hours last night talking to Congresswoman Brittany S. Pierce about nothing at all.
It's an easy feat when remembering that means she has to remember that she spoke to her for four hours the day before and three the day before that. It's even easier when she remembers that there hasn't been an hour of the day that the woman hasn't text her.
She repeats the mantra that, if they're not talking about the campaign, then she isn't doing anything wrong.
They don't really talk about anything. Brittany talks to her about nonsense and Santana feels endeared to it at the same time she hates it.
She wants Brittany to talk about real things, except she isn't sure what real things. They can't talk about the campaign and there isn't much else to talk about. Nothing at all, except the kiss they shared in Vermont.
Except she doesn't want to talk about that because all it does is make her feel sick with panic.
"Have you ever been to Georgia?" Brittany asks that evening.
Santana flicks through tomorrow's schedule and thinks. "I don't know, maybe…" she answers noncommittally. "I think we might have had a few days there a while ago but only in Atlanta."
Brittany makes a noise of interest. "My pops went to school in Atlanta."
"Your pops?" Santana asks in confusion. She switches the TV channel because there's only so much Fox News a person can take.
"My grandpa," she explains and it's clear she's eating. If there's anything that Santana's learned from these conversations, it's that Congresswoman Pierce likes her food. "All my mom's family comes from Georgia. I'm in Georgia right now."
"Business or pleasure?"
There's a pause and Santana's sure that Brittany's probably doing about forty things at once because—another thing—she's a fucking A-plus multi-tasker by the sounds of it.
"Both, I guess," she explains. "I made a promise to Pops but whenever I stay here it's like I'm twelve years old again. Mammie's got me folding laundry."
Santana chuckles and imagines a suited up Brittany folding her grandparents' clothes, before pushing her work aside so that she can concentrate. Tiny sounds of annoyance fill her ear and she has a theory that teenage Brittany Pierce was a troublesome thing.
"It's freaking hot here too," she comments idly. There's a huff then—"You should totally come to Real Georgia," she says. "Like, Atlanta's a huge city but there are so many pretty little towns. You could pick peaches and eat pie."
Santana imagines it briefly enough that her imagination doesn't run wild.
"I like big cities," she says petulantly.
Brittany giggles. "Of course you do."
"Cities are the most exciting places a lot of us go," she says in a tone that she's come to know will instantly goad Brittany into arguing. "Not all of us got to spend their childhood running around the globe."
"That's unfair," Brittany's tone changes playfully. "I'm sure your public school was very exciting and tried it's best."
Santana scoffs and lets her answer slip without thinking. "I didn't go to public school."
The line goes silent as Brittany doesn't say anything. It's like she's waiting for Santana to elaborate. She does. Reluctantly. Foolishly.
"I went to catholic school," she scoffs and instantly hates how Brittany gasps in excitement over the phone.
Santana's never known a person to get so excited when afforded stupid trivia about her life but then… she guesses she never really had anyone she was willing to tell.
She's never really had anyone that actually wanted to know.
"Did you have a uniform?" she attempts to whisper inconspicuously.
Santana rolls her eyes and bites back her smile. "Yes. It was purple."
"I bet you looked cute," Brittany idly comments.
Santana stops and thinks back to that uniform and the memories she gets when she thinks of it.
Her stomach plummets and she squeezes her eyes shut tight to block out the rest and everything that followed it. She thinks of big cities. Of diners and summer days and hot, hot soup.
"I looked okay."
She still isn't.
I like that suit
Santana reads the text and forces her face to stay as stoic and stern as it usually is.
The response is almost instantly.
Alright, Jackie Kennedy. How much do they pay you?
Santana does chuckle at that. She glances around her and makes sure that nobody saw. Will is too busy speaking to the school board of whatever town they're in now.
She would never admit how much she loves the clandestine nature of it all. It's the first time she's ever done anything like this and it feels good as much as it makes her feel wrong.
What are you wearing tonight?
The forwardness is something that Santana's slowly getting used to.
Just wanted to make sure we didn't clash.
It's a lie and Santana knows it's a lie. There's no way that Brittany will be close enough to her that they'll ever have to worry about clashing. There's probably very little possibility that Brittany will even see her in person this evening. She's more likely to see her on the evening news.
It still thrills her, after all these days and hundred of messages, how quickly Brittany messages her back.
It makes her feel like she's important.
Rude. Fine. I just wanted to know which color to look out for.
Her breath is shallow. Her heart is pounding.
She receives no response and there's the tiniest part of her that hopes the feeling is mutual.
Brittany wears purple and texts her the entire evening.
It makes it incredibly hard to concentrate on her actual job, especially when she knows that Brittany is in the same vicinity.
I think that lady from the Iowa Democrats likes your boss.
Santana smirks because duh that woman has been thirsty for Will since their first event in the state.
I bet you can see her old lady boner from space.
Santana bites her lip and then makes the choice to put her phone on silent. She can still feel it vibrating in her pocket as Will absolutely nails his speech. It makes her feel better because there's no way she's at the top of her game but, at the same time, she's never felt calmer and more at ease. It's strange. It's like the distraction makes it easier for her brain to work.
Her stomach still plummets when Will pulls her aside as they're leaving. She pulls back her shoulders and waits for the tirade of abuse.
"Great work tonight," he says and her mouth drops in confusion. Will seems to notice her shock and smiles at her kindly. "You were completely on point with everything. I felt like I could rely on you again, Santana. Good job."
She doesn't know what to say as he gets in his car quietly. There are nineteen unread messages from Brittany on her phone when she checks and each one makes her shake her head in amusement. It's impossible for her to feel guilty for them when they're helping her so much.
She gets back to her hotel room and falls back onto the bed.
Her eyes are just fluttering closed when her phone vibrates across the mattress.
jsyk… you looked beautiful tonight.
She falls asleep staring at the words and trying to figure out what it is that they make her feel.
The happiness lasts what feels like all of five minutes.
Her eyes are springing open what feels like mere seconds after drifting off to the sound of her phone ringing loudly beside her.
At first, she wonders when she remembered to put it back on loud.
Secondly, she panics at what the hell someone could be calling her at 3:35 in the morning for.
That panic only increases when she realizes that the person calling is Quinn.
"I'm coming over," she says and hangs up before Santana can even curse her out.
There's a newspaper in her hand when she arrives.
"Don't you own any pajamas?" is the first thing she says and Santana looks down at the same outfit she was wearing last night, loosened and unfastened in her sleep.
"Pajamas are for normal people who sleep normal hours," she quips quickly. "What's so important that you had to wake me up before my alarm?"
Quinn thrusts the paper at her.
"This was messengered to me," Quinn says and then swallows thickly. Santana's panic swiftly surges at the subtle change in her voice. "I don't know who it's from. There wasn't a note and the messenger had gone by the time I'd opened it."
Santana unfolds the pages and feels the last iota of ease lift from her body.
Exclusive: Schuester's Mistress Ex-Nanny pregnant with his baby!
"What the fuck…" she mutters uselessly. She carries the paper over to the desk and throws it down beside vase of flowers that still sits there. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
"Remember Terri?" Quinn says and Santana nods remembering the woman she'd always thought was a few apples short of a fruit basket. "She's claiming that she's been Will's mistress for the past two years and that she quit because he was planning to leave Emma. She says he broke their relationship off two months ago when she told him that she was pregnant with his baby. She has proof of pregnancy from a doctor in Columbus."
Santana reads the article quickly to search for any extra information. All she finds is some poetically waxed discussion of how delicate a lover Will Schuester is. It makes her want to vomit more than she did already.
"What else?" she says as she reaches for her laptop and her phone, surely beginning to do all the things Quinn's about to tell her she's already done.
"It's just a paper in Columbus. It isn't out online yet and who knows how long it'll take to gain traction once it's out on newsstands? It might get lost…" Quinn says even though they both know it will be the breaking news of every major news outlet within the next twelve hours. It's not a question of if but when. "I've got Puck and Lauren monitoring everything. They've already started checking for proof."
Santana says nothing else.
Her phone vibrates but she ignores it.
By the time that Will has his early morning speech for the small town of Fairfax, Iowa, nothing big has happened. She puts him in a car and lets him do the speech without telling him what's going on.
She still wants him on top form, even if they might possibly be in the last moments of a dying campaign.
She decides to catch him in the car after the meeting and tells Dave, the head of his security detail, to make sure the driver takes them somewhere secluded enough that they can talk without being heard. He gives her a look that says he'll find somewhere that they can scream instead.
She hustles Will out of the car into a cornfield and he does as she asks because she's never had to do something like this before. Shockingly, this is the first time the press has discovered how much of an asshole he is. She can tell that he's nervous and maybe just a little bit scared.
"What's happened?" he asks glancing over at the security guys who are too far away to hear.
She pulls the paper out from her folder and hands it to him. It only takes a few moments before his eyes widen and he looks up at her desperately.
"Santana, I swear to God—"
"Save it," she says and, even though her voice barely breaks through the panic of his own, he shuts up completely. "Just give me yes or no answers. Have you slept with her?"
He swallows. "Yes, but—"
"Did you know that she's pregnant?"
He shakes his head. "No, Santana," he says adamantly and it releases some of the dread in her stomach. "No. I haven't spoke to her in four months and she didn't say anything. We weren't even having an affair. I just slept with her a few times."
"But she's pregnant," Santana reminds him and he shakes his head even more adamantly. "She has proof."
"No, Santana," he says. "She can't be. Her and her ex tried for fifteen years to get pregnant and she was told that it was practically impossible for her to get pregnant. That's why she became a nanny."
Santana isn't sure what she believes, what she knows, what the hell is happening.
She pulls her phone out and dials Quinn regardless.
They fly back to Columbus in sheltered silence, ahead of the rest of the campaign for the first time since it began.
Santana always thought that something like this would cause everything to become loud and overwhelming and yet she can barely hear the breathing of Quinn beside her. The Governor sits somberly opposite them and, once they land, they all walk together to the car that takes them to the Governor's Mansion.
Emma is gardening, as usual. She stands up when she sees Will walking towards her and the innocent, confused quirk of her brow is enough to make Santana turn away.
She's always liked Emma. She's always known that, while nearly everyone else views her as flakey and insignificant, Emma Pillsbury Schuester has a fight in her that no one expects.
She hears it minutes later from where she stands in their dark wood paneled entryway. Emma screams at her husband and Santana wonders if she always knew. If she's going to be another Jackie Kennedy who lets it all go over her head, remaining blissfully and painfully ignorant.
Emma wanders past them moments later, face red and devoid of tears, and they say nothing as she disappears up the stairs.
Will follows after her and stops in front of them, hands awkwardly shoved in his pockets.
"Cancel everything on the schedule for a couple of days," he tells them.
Santana shakes her head and looks at him kindly. "Already done, Sir."
Quinn glances at her for a second but then looks back down at her watch.
"Let's… let's head back to headquarters for a while and come up with a statement for when the shit hits the fan," he carries on. "Or have you already done that, too?"
His gentle smile throws her and she nods awkwardly. "Of course, sir."
He leads them back to the car.
The story breaks ninety minutes later, just as the rest of the staff are arriving in from the plane.
That's when it gets loud.
Will locks himself in his office and removes all access to him from everyone except Santana. Sugar becomes incredibly scary as the phones begin to ring off the hook and everyone descends on her office instead.
Her phone vibrates across her desk and Santana glances at it knowing exactly who it is.
She ignores it. It feels inappropriate.
It vibrates again five minutes later. A short burst that she knows is a text message.
Hope you're doing okay. I'm here if you need me.
It takes Puck and Lauren all of fourteen hours to disprove the allegations.
Their actions might not exactly be legal but Santana doesn't give a flying fuck when the woman is lying through her ass to ruin her boss. Just a quick visit to the doctor named on the woman's pregnancy test papers and they have their own proof.
"The guy didn't need any coercing," Puck explains. "Practically barfed the truth up the minute we told him who we were. The crazy bitch blackmailed him. Said she'd accuse him of assault and improper conduct if he didn't do what she said. He thinks he has security camera footage of this happening but can't be sure. Agreed to do whatever it takes to clear his own name and the boss's."
The adrenaline Santana feels almost makes her want to black out. She can't help but feel they got lucky, that maybe next time it won't be as easy as this. That feeling only grows when she tells Will and he holds his head in his hands for long moments before announcing that he needs to talk to his wife. He leaves everything in her capable hands, telling her to get the campaign back on track while he salvages his marriage.
She has the senior staff in the conference room half an hour later and it hits Santana for about the thousandth time that they're good at this. These few people, here in this room, are good at this. She thinks that they could possibly handle anything, even if they don't believe in it.
"Quinn, best approach?" Puck asks and Santana strokes her chin with the backs of her fingers as Quinn looks down at the papers in front of her and shrugs her shoulders.
"It doesn't matter," she says and her voice is dull and void of the relief everyone else has. "Whether you leak it to US Weekly or The New York Times, he's still going to come off as the victim."
Her phone rings seconds later and she sighs before leaving the room.
She stands in the hallway and Santana watches her through the glass, as her answers seem short and abrupt. She glances over at Santana and the look in her eyes makes Santana feel worried, like there's something that she doesn't know.
She ignores it because she trusts Quinn.
She'll find out when she's ready.
They're still no closer to a plan that evening when Santana sends everyone else home and stays behind like usual.
It takes her an hour and a half to give up and take a break. She kicks her heels off and collapses onto the couch in her office before turning on the TV and grabbing the dinner Sugar had instructed her to eat.
She's halfway through a mouthful of salad when her phone starts ringing. She picks it up and doesn't speak, mostly because she's trying to chew.
"Hello?" a confused voice on the other end of the line asks.
She swallows too quickly and tries not to cough. "Hi," she struggles. "Sorry, I was eating."
A happy noise. "Anything good?"
She laughs. "You're so fucking boring."
Santana grins and takes another leisurely bite. "I'm just happy that I'm consuming some sort of vegetable."
Brittany laughs again and it's soft. Santana feels her breath catch at the sound of it before she forces her brain to think about something else entirely. It doesn't really work when the congresswoman speaks before she can.
"I didn't think you were going to answer," she says in the same soft and gentle way. Santana's breath catches again as she continues speaking. "I'm glad you did. I'm in DC and I'm so bored."
Santana can't help but smile at that. "Congressional business?" she asks.
The Congresswoman scoffs. "I wish. I had a speech with some lobbyists or something and then a dinner with some people and now I'm just bored."
"So you thought you'd call busy ol' me?"
There's a scuffle at the other end of the line and Santana thinks that Brittany's probably sitting up from lounging on her couch. She does that a lot, she thinks. Her voice always seems to sound slightly breathless, like someone would if they were lying on their back.
"Well, I thought I'd ask you for ideas on what I should do this evening?" she explains carefully. "You are, after all, a cultured and intelligent young woman who would obviously have many more ideas that me."
Santana rolls her eyes and smirks. "Read a book."
"Such as?" Brittany quickly cuts in. Santana doesn't say anything but then that soft voice returns. "I'm serious. What's your favorite book?"
The answer comes tumbling out of her mouth without even thinking about it. "Hannah Arendt's The Human Condition."
She knows it's stupid the second she says it but the way that there's a pause on the line doesn't make her feel any better.
"Weird," Brittany comments. "I had you down as more of a Harry Potter fan."
Her cheeks burn with relief and the weird way that Brittany's kindness makes her feel. She swallows thickly. "You asked," she quips. "I'm just full of surprises."
She can practically hear Brittany smiling over the phone. "You really are," she says. "So give me another one. What else do you like reading?"
Santana searches her mind and sighs. It's hard to think of anything that isn't textbooks about constitutional law. Her mind reels backwards through her life until she remembers.
"There's this poet," she says carefully. "Her name is Annie Pierce. You probably haven't heard of her but she's amazing. Brilliant. She was a big thing in the eighties and nineties. I've been reading her stuff since I was a kid and I was probably too young to understand it correctly but…"
There's a long pause but for the first time it feels strange and awkward. It feels like Brittany's waiting for something or trying to figure something out. Santana runs the conversation back through her mind before a chuckle floats across the line.
"You'll have to show me some time," Brittany comments quietly and then there's another scuffle across the line again instead… it sounds familiar to Santana's ears.
"What are you doing anyway?" she asks, changing the subject.
"Taking a bath."
Santana's stomach drops with warmth and discomfort. Her cheeks burn at her words and she feels at a loss for her own. "Are you—uh… I mean…" Brittany gives a loud, long, laugh and Santana scowls realizing what the woman is doing. "You're teasing me?!"
"No!" Brittany spits back through her amusement. "I'm not but you sounded so shocked that I bathe!"
Santana ignores her. "You're teasing me," she repeats. "You're probably washing dishes. That would be way more appropriate than calling me in the bath."
There's a long pause and, for a moment, Santana thinks that she's offended her.
"Brittany?" she asks. "Are you there?"
"What are you doing?" she asks because she has nothing else to say.
She groans as the line crackles. "I'm sending you a picture. I had to turn over."
Panic flares in Santana's stomach and she flounders. "A picture of what?"
Brittany actually giggles. "Me. In the bath."
Santana finds herself on her feet in seconds. "Congresswoman, there's no need—"
Her phone vibrates.
Brittany giggles again and Santana finds herself pulling the phone away from her ear to look as if pulled by some higher force.
She's surprised to see that the picture is innocent enough. Bare feet poking through a bath mostly filled with bubbles. It's not nearly as risqué as she could have imagined. In fact, it's more playful than anything else.
"I would never lie to you, Santana," she explains a second later. "Even to make you feel better."
The words catch her off guard.
"Thank you," she says uselessly. It earns her another one of those soft, soft sounds.
Brittany sighs. "Are we friends?"
Santana wants to say no but she can't. That's what shocks her the most.
Santana leaks it to Jacob later that night and it's made all the major outlets by the time she wakes up.
There's footage of Terri Del Monico being lead away by the police later that afternoon and Santana watches it with a relief that overwhelms her.
"This won't be the first time," Quinn tells her when Santana chuckles as the video of Terri being arrested outside her house airs again. Santana turns to her and finds an expression she can't fully read. "You know that, right? That this is just another in long list of times where you're forced to save Will Schuester's ass, right?"
The words make her pause but she shakes her head. "I thought the same at first but I think this is different. He nearly lost everything this time and I think he knows that. I think this is where everything turns around."
Quinn looks at her like she's a fool. She laughs mirthlessly and shakes her head in disappointment.
"Yeah, maybe," she relents. "Maybe he'll stop this stuff now but that doesn't excuse all the shit he's already done. It doesn't mean that there isn't more women… different proof. You're literally just waiting, Santana. You're waiting for the next fuck up. The next fix."
Santana stares at her but can't find a response. She has no argument, no evidence to the contrary. It makes her feel sick to her stomach but she doesn't know how to express it.
Quinn shakes her head and sighs.
"Whatever, Santana," she says and leaves without another word.
There are pictures of Will and Emma together on the airport tarmac in Las Vegas that afternoon.
Will does look like the victim and he plays it so well, making an unscheduled comment to the reporters that wait for him.
It annoys Santana and she mentions it to him as they prepare before the event.
"You probably shouldn't comment on all this stuff," she tells him pointedly, not looking up from her notes. "The Terri stuff. If you pay attention to it, it becomes part of the campaign and you don't need that. When you bring it up is when they start looking into stuff. Pretend it never happened."
She expects him to argue but instead he just nods and finishes signing the papers she'd put in front of him.
"Understood," he nods and stops her as she gets up to leave. She stares down at him expectantly, waiting for the but that comes next. "I know that I've said it a million times but I promise you things will be different after this."
She worries her bottom lip and furrows her brow. He sees her reluctance to believe him written across her face.
"I get it, Santana," he carries on. "I could have lost everything. Not just the campaign. Everything. And you stopped that and I'm grateful." He smiles. "You're the boss from now on."
Santana smiles but she isn't sure.
"I saw you on MSNBC this afternoon," Brittany says to her that evening when she's locked away in her hotel room. "Las Vegas, huh?"
Santana smiles and uses the brief break to grab her room service and bring it towards her. "Shockingly, there's politics in Las Vegas," she quips. "Politics that extends beyond gambling laws and legal brothels."
Brittany chuckles. "Wow, that doesn't sound as fun."
"Hey, but you'll be proud of me," she says without thinking. "I gave all my staff fifty bucks and the night off."
Brittany makes that happy noise Santana thinks she's started to seek out.
"Well, look at you," she says. "Being a good boss and shit."
Santana grins. "They worked hard this week."
"And what about you," Brittany asks. "What do you get?"
Santana looks at her salad dinner and her glass of white wine.
"I get to keep working," she answers honestly.
Brittany doesn't say anything for a long time but when she does, her voice is soft and airy.
"One day," she says. "I'll take you to Vegas and we'll have fun."
Santana smiles and changes the subject.
The next day, she starts sending Brittany pictures of all the weird shit she sees.
She starts with the awful god-loving signs along the highways and interstates of Arizona. Then she moves onto the random people and things she sees. Weird haircuts. Hillbillies. Cops waiting to pull over everyone they can.
Brittany sends her pictures in return. She receives images of the same Iowa cornfields they've all been staring at for months now. She sends her pictures of food, of books, of random nondescript items that Santana can't actually make out. She sends her oddly pretty pictures of her hands and her glasses sitting on tabletops. She sends pictures of everything she sees that aren't pictures of herself and it's ridiculously endearing.
She continues doing it the next morning and it makes Santana's day.
It's the one of the few days of the schedule that she has no interest in whatsoever.
Everyone around her is getting ready for a fundraiser in Cleveland but she's in her office finalizing what events they'll be going to next week. It's boring and Sugar should probably be doing it but Santana wants to do it. She wants to prepare the schedule, type up the notes for tomorrow and finalize fourteen versions of the same modified stump speech.
She wants to do everything that will keep her here in this office instead of at that fundraiser in Cleveland.
Instead, Sugar's been chosen to be her eyes and her ears for the evening, and she's taking it very seriously.
She's incredibly nervous.
Santana isn't worried at all.
"So I'm in Las Vegas…"
Santana smirks and keeps stapling her papers. The phone is on loudspeaker because there's no one here and they regularly sweep for bugs.
"Is that so?"
Brittany answers in a hum. "It's not as fun as I thought it would be."
"I'm sure Monaco was better," she teases.
Brittany is silent. "I don't think I've ever been to Monaco," she ponders. "Maybe when I was little but…"
"It's kind of awkward that you don't know all the places you've been to," Santana informs her, chuckling. "What are you in Vegas for?"
"A rally," Brittany tells her. "It was okay. I didn't see you in any of the pictures from your boss's fundraiser though. Did you not go?"
Santana finds her excuse quickly. "I had a lot of work to catch up on," is all she says. "The office is always empty during fundraisers so it's easier to get everything done. There's nobody to interrupt or get in the way of all the stuff I've been neglecting."
She means it innocently but she can hear the audibly thick swallow the Congresswoman takes before she awkwardly clears her throat. She still doesn't say anything and Santana finds herself smirking as she continues to swallow and clear her throat a few more times before she actually says anything.
"That—that must be nice," she stutters awkwardly. "That must mean you can do anything you want… like walk around barefoot or order two large pizzas just for yourself. You could even blast loud music or like… anything else you feel like doing…"
Her pulse races at the implications of her words. It races at what she must be thinking about right now.
"Yeah…" she breathes. "But, I mean… I'm mostly just scheduling."
It breaks the moment. Brittany clears her throat one more time and then giggles softly.
"I'm reluctant to believe that you've been neglecting your scheduling," she comments. "Word on the street is that you're a scheduling master."
The change of subject makes Santana relieved. She laughs, ready to defend the honor of her stellar work ethic.
Brittany ends up praising it anyway.
Still, when they hang up, she can't stop thinking about the way that Brittany's breathing had changed and her voice has stuttered.
Her mind tries to conjure all the things she could have thought, all the things that made her seem so overwhelmed.
She lasts about ten minutes before she's closing the blinds and dropping her skirt to the floor as she wanders to close her office door.
One hand finds her center as the other pulls apart the buttons of her shirt.
The relief makes her feel free.
The memory of Brittany's voice makes her breath catch.
The next morning, she wakes up on her office couch in her underwear, covered by the blanket Sugar had brought her once the cold started settling in.
It's early and she frowns to why she's awake when nobody's due back until at least noon.
It makes sense when her phone vibrates in warning that it's received a message.
She squints to open it as she struggles to find her glasses.
It's a picture from Brittany.
Santana swallows thickly the second she sees it because all she can see is unmistakable long, bare thigh tangled in white hotel sheets. Once she gets her glasses on, she can see the cute striped socks Brittany wears and the rest of her clothes that litter the top of the sheets amongst papers and files. She can make out plaid pajama shorts and a bundle of plain black cotton fabric that could only possibly be one thing.
She reads the message before she can let her wander mind anymore.
I hope you had as productive a night as I did x
"Fuck," she whispers.
Her eyes find the clock.
Her hand finds her center.
She clutches the phone against her chest the entire time.
Brittany sends her a picture of a vineyard in Fresno later that day and it's like nothing had happened.
Santana sighs and thinks she prefers it that way.
They've had four days of perfect campaigning when Quinn comes to her office and throws a spanner in the works.
Will's been polling better than he has done in weeks and people have commended him for his treatment of the Del Monico scandal. He answers questions beautifully and Emma's been doting on him like the perfect wife.
Santana's been starting to think that they've finally hit their stride when Quinn knocks on her office door, hours after Santana had thought everyone had gone home, and asks her if she's busy. She lets her in despite the fact that her phone is ringing, hanging up the call to give Quinn the attention she needs.
If she's honest, she's been waiting for this moment for days.
Quinn's been holding back and they both know it. They've both been waiting.
"You want me to close the door?" Quinn asks strangely.
Santana shrugs her shoulders. "Whatever you need," she comments. "What's up?"
Quinn paces between the chair opposite Santana's at her desk and the couch. After a long time, she picks the chair and sits down in it gracelessly.
It's the stiffness that makes Santana nervous. Quinn's weird and incredibly awkward but she doesn't act like this. She's not uncomfortable and that's what makes Santana's mind start to run a million miles a second.
She waits for Quinn to start speaking.
"I've been given some stuff…" she starts and all Santana can feel is panic.
Maybe it's forethought or some cosmic force telling her that this isn't good. Maybe she just inherently knows that there's probably never going to be anything close to "good news" in this campaign. She just knows that what comes next is going to change things and she isn't ready for it.
"Stuff?" she asks and instantly goes back to completing the paperwork she was before. "What kind of stuff?"
Quinn shakes her head and swallows. "Just some documents that might cause issue in the future. About the governor."
Santana nods and pushes her glasses up her nose. She tries not to let the panic show.
"I trust you to handle it," she says in lieu of questioning.
Quinn's face drops into an unreadable expression. "Santana…"
Santana glances up at her and she's lucky enough that her phone rings at that moment.
"I need to take this," she lies.
Quinn looks at her and, for a moment, Santana thinks she's going to argue and refuse to leave. There's a determination in her features that Santana doesn't like and she's surprised when that expression transforms into an understanding smile as Quinn leaves.
She dodges her for the next three days and makes it most of the way through the fourth by the time that Quinn demands to see her.
Sugar looks awkwardly between them before looking to Santana for instruction. She nods because there's no one else in the office, no phones ringing and she's just sitting here watching C-SPAN. She nods because this isn't the first time she and Quinn have done something like this and she always figures out what she needs to do in the end.
"Sugar, go home," she says softly as she takes the takeout container from her hands. Sugar looks uncertain but Santana softly squeezes her shoulder. "Go home. I'll see you in the morning."
She reluctantly leaves and Quinn wanders in and closes the door behind her. She locks it and that's when Santana starts feeling the panic again.
"I know you don't want to hear it but there's some things that you need to know," she starts before Santana can begin any ruse. "What I was saying about finding stuff the other day? It's not something that I can make disappear. It has the potential to be something enormous, Santana, entirely beyond the abilities of you, me or any of the geniuses who are wasting their time on this campaign."
Santana throws down the papers in her hands and glares at her.
"You can give me that look all you want but you know we're being wasted here," she spits and Santana just keeps glaring at her. "There are dozens of people out there that could create a country that's great but instead they're here, wasting their time on a guy who couldn't give a shit about any of them."
"Quinn," Santana warns.
Quinn cuts through her with a laugh. "And the worst thing is that you don't even see it, do you? You're too busy worrying that nobody else will want you that you're just going along with this farce he's created." Santana looks away from her then and that seems to soften Quinn entirely. "Lo, there are things I've discovered about Will Schuester that cannot stay quiet forever." She sits down and looks at Santana pleadingly as she places the folder in her hands down on the desk. "Santana, there are things in this folder that I know you would never agree with… The way that he's used people…"
Santana shakes her head and tosses the folder onto a pile of documents she knows she'll never read. The action forces a groan of frustration from Quinn's mouth and, when Santana finally glances back at her, there are tears in her eyes.
They make Santana feel scared.
When Quinn reaches for her hand and grasps it tightly, they make her feel terrified.
"Santana," she whispers. "Remember that night in Burlington? When he asked to see you after he fucked up that question on education? When you didn't come back, I went looking for you…" Santana closes her eyes because a thousand different continuations of this conversation are running through her head, each getting worse than the last. She's probably lived through a few of them. "He came onto me, Santana," she breathes. "He was in a towel and the minute I got in the door he was on me, grabbing my hands. He was drunk and he pressed me against the wall and I thought—I thought he was going to…"
She cuts off and Santana opens her eyes to find her staring into her lap. For the first time in a very long time, and for one of the very few times in their relationship, all she wants to do is grab Quinn and hold her… but she can't.
"He was cruel," she swallows. "I didn't think he was going to let me go… He told me he'd tell everyone about the abortion at Yale and…" She trails off and when she looks up, her eyes are clear and sure. "I didn't think he was going to get off me but then he did but he shouldn't have been near me in the first place. I didn't report it because I have no proof and because I wanted to be sure that he wouldn't treat anyone else the same way. I know what happens with guys like him."
Santana swells with so much anger that it makes her numb. Her hands shake as she attempts to fight off the memories and worries she's harbored all these years. She untangles her hand from Quinn's and concentrates on the burning in her eyes and the rage in her heart. Quinn looks at her in confusion and Santana shakes her head uselessly because she has no idea what she should do. All she wants to do is scream and hide.
"I need to think," she says carefully and grabs at the pockets of her jacket to find some cigarettes except she hasn't bought any in days. Quinn stares at her but Santana panics and stands up quickly, searching for her wallet. "I need to think," she repeats. "I need…"
"That's it?" Quinn spits and Santana stops and looks at her. Her cheeks are red with anger and she's glaring at Santana with so much disappointment that Santana doesn't know how to explain through all the panic. She's spent so much of their relationship attempting to protect Quinn from all the shit in her past that she doesn't know how to protect Quinn from their present.
It's been such a long time since she's had to deal with any kind of reminder that she's forgotten how to deal with it all together.
"I thought maybe you'd do something," Quinn continues bitterly. "I thought this would make you see that you're working for the fucking devil but… you're not going to do anything, are you?"
There's a part of Santana that wants to say that the things he's done are just things that happens but she knows that isn't true. She knows it isn't true but she doesn't know how to explain that she doesn't understand why she thinks that way. She knows it would be useless to even try. It would mean releasing a thousand different facts that she's held so tightly for so long that she's sure she'd probably be lost without them if she ever let them go.
"Santana, you're disgusting," she chokes breathlessly when Santana doesn't argue.
All Santana wants to say is, I know.
Instead she continues searching for her wallet.
She doesn't watch Quinn leave.
She smokes an entire packet of cigarettes on the pathetically tiny balcony of her corporate apartment, staring at the Barnes and Noble across the street.
It holds her in the present and centers her in a way that she hasn't needed in a very long time.
She thinks she'd vomit if she didn't.
She thinks she might vomit anyway because the only thing she can think to do—the only thing that she wants to do—is finally tell her best friend the truth.
The mere idea of it makes her stomach drop to her feet.
She's glad when her phone rings.
"You sound…" Brittany begins once they've said hello but she cuts herself off. "Are you okay?"
Santana smiles and hates that this person who barely knows her probably has her down better than anyone else she's ever met.
"I'm fine," she lies as easily as ever. "Have you had a good day?"
Brittany breathes over the line for long minutes. "It was okay."
That's one tiny upside.
"You wanna tell me about it?" Santana asks.
Brittany sighs understandingly. "Of course."
Santana gets Quinn her favorite coffee the next morning as well as a two ridiculously chocolaty muffins that she knows she'll love. She gets Sugar a coffee too and she looks confused when Santana drops it in front of her early the next morning.
"You okay, boss?" she asks, standing awkwardly at the door.
Santana tidies her desk, moving piles of files and clearing space so that she can concentrate fully. Someone once told her that if you've got a clear workspace you've got a clear mind.
"I'm fine," she says eventually. "Can you tell Quinn that I want to see her please?"
In an instant, Sugar's face falls. She smiles awkwardly before heading back out to her desk and returning a few seconds later. She steps inside awkwardly and holds out a piece of paper for her to take.
"She was leaving as I got in this morning," Sugar explains reluctantly. "She had a box of her things with her."
Santana frowns and takes the note as the panic ebbs back over her like an ocean tide.
I have to do the right thing, it says. Even if you won't. Be Safe, Santana.
Santana says nothing.
She just goes to the bathroom and vomits.
She doesn't come out of the bathroom until the panic dissipates and transforms into complete and overwhelming anger.
"Sugar, can you get Holly Holliday at The Washington Post for me," she spits as she walks past her desk.
Sugar nods. "What should I tell her it's about?"
Santana laughs. "She'll fucking know."
The phone flashes with the call a few minutes later.
"Where is she?" Santana demands before Holly can speak and she's marginally aware that she's running damage control right now but she's more acutely aware of the anger she's misunderstanding for panic.
Holly doesn't speak but then—
"You're gonna have to give me more to work with here, Lo," she says pleasantly.
Santana grits her teeth. "Don't call me Lo," she says. "And you know who I'm talking about. She's there, isn't she?"
When Holly laughs, Santana thinks that, if she were in the same room, she would have ripped her throat out by now.
"Still don't know who you're talking about…"
"Fabray!" she yells and half her staff is probably watching her right now but she doesn't give a fuck. "I'm sure that she's crawled back into your good graces and is already sitting back at her desk."
Santana isn't sure how much time lapses but it feels like hours before Holly speaks.
"Santana," she says eventually. "I'm not sure where you're getting your information but… as far as we're aware, Quinn still works for you and has showed no interest in resuming the position we kept open for her here."
"But she fucking left," Santana laughs and thinks she might be losing it. "Where else would she go?"
Holly sighs. "You tell me," she says. "Have fun at the debate tomorrow."
She decides not to tell Will for worry that his reaction will verify all the things she wants to pretend never happened.
She doesn't talk to him at all for fear that she'll become overwhelmed with rage and demand answers of him.
Mike handles the debate prep but Santana honestly can't find it in her to care. She's more concerned with finding Quinn and getting her to come back.
It's the only thing that preoccupies her mind until she runs right into Quinn at the performing arts center in Philadelphia before the debate.
It confuses her at first because why would she be here if she wasn't back working for Holly… but then she sees the pin that she wears on her sweater.
Pierce 2016, it says and suddenly everything makes sense.
Her face drops and she sighs as Quinn stares back resolutely. All the words she wanted to say disappear because suddenly all she feels is disappointed and annoyed that her best friend couldn't just wait, couldn't explain, couldn't listen.
She leaves before Quinn and doesn't look back.
How did you get Quinn on your campaign?
The response is almost instant and Santana's aware that she's hiding outside where no one can see but one of the security guys wouldn't let her smoke inside.
She approached us yesterday afternoon and said that she'd terminated her affiliation with your campaign. She asked if we required her services and we said yes.
Santana props herself against some metal crates and takes deep drags from her cigarette.
She told us you knew.
That makes Santana chuckle and she tosses the butt of one cigarette away as she takes out another.
Is there a problem? We can let her go if she's under contract. It's not a problem.
The cigarette hangs precariously from her mouth while she types back. As she writes, she finds that she doesn't really have it in her to care anymore.
There's no problem. It's okay. You can keep her.
Her phone vibrates once more but she doesn't read it.
Will is indifferent to Quinn defecting to the Pierce campaign and, maybe it's her mind projecting, but Santana thinks he looks a little relieved.
He instructs them to go about replacing Quinn with a new media advisor and Santana has no intentions of doing as he says because she doesn't want anyone else. He annoys her even more when he gives everyone the night off to celebrate his performance at the debate but she ignores them in favor of grabbing a bottle of whisky and heading for her hotel room.
She's drunk three glasses before she notices and the taste makes her think of Brittany and kisses and worries a hundred times less terrifying than this.
She grabs her phone and dials a number without thinking and isn't surprised when it picks up after only a few rings.
"Good evening, Santana," Shelby says softly and she doesn't mention anything about it being way past midnight.
Santana doesn't say anything and, of all the people in the world, that tells Shelby enough.
"What happened, honey?" she asks quietly.
Santana feels like a dam breaking.
"Quinn told me that the governor sexually harassed her and then she fucked off to Pierce's campaign when I freaked out," she mumbles lowly and feels so much like that eighteen year old that Shelby first met. And just like that eighteen year old who had spat out her entire past in a Georgetown classroom, Shelby doesn't do anything but wait and see if she's finished. She isn't. "She didn't even give me a chance. I just wanted to think for a while. It was—it was a lot to take in, you know? I think this is what she wanted us to do, though. I think she waited until now to tell me because she wanted to shock me enough that I'd up and leave and go to Pierce's campaign too. Why else would she wait four fucking weeks to tell me?!"
Shelby sighs and Santana imagines her in that stupid fucking library in her fancy Boston apartment. She's only been to her home once but she always thought that it was just Shelby all over.
"With all respect and love, Santana," she says carefully. "But why haven't you upped and left for Pierce's campaign? She's everything you believe in personified. She's fighting for all the same things."
"Because she's a fucking hippie!" she shouts pathetically. "Because I made a promise to the governor to help him to win!" Santana beats her glass of scotch against her chest because she doesn't understand how people don't get this. "I am not a quitter! I don't leave! I don't abandon people…"
She trails off and feels petty and broken and raw.
"She's not as good as everyone thinks she is," she lies, when Shelby just keeps listening. "She's… There are things that… And I don't know if she can go all the way with this thing and then where does that leave me."
Shelby laughs. "With you, she could. You know that right?"
Santana shakes her head and leans forward to bury her head in her hands. Her eyes sting and she fucking hates drinking on her own because this always happens.
"I'm not as great as everyone thinks I am either," she whispers pathetically.
Shelby sighs so fondly that Santana doesn't know what to do.
"You're not," she agrees. "You're better than everyone thinks you are… and I think Brittany is, too and that's what scares you. That, maybe, together you can be that person you used to say is too impossible to exist."
Santana can't argue.
She thinks that Shelby might be right.
"That doesn't change anything," she whispers, certain that the universe has made sure of that.
"Oh, honey," Shelby sighs again. "Only you get to decide that."
They get back to the office later that day.
Santana's not sure if she's alcohol hung-over or emotionally hung-over and not knowing makes her miss Quinn. She tells the governor that she intends to spend the next few days working out of her office. She explains how she wants to figure out what their next moves are now that things are looking up and he does little more than nod at her and tell her to keep him in the loop.
The staff head out for the Carolinas later that day and Santana feels relieved that the office is empty again.
She spends most of her time staring pointlessly at papers she's not even sure she's read. A million different things run through her mind and she has no idea how to solve the puzzle that they've become.
She wakes up the next morning to a picture from Brittany.
Buried beneath the mountain of pillows that cover her face, she smiles at it despite everything else.
It's almost impossible not to when the congresswoman and wannabe leader of the free world has sent her a selfie of her wearing Wellesley Alumni sweatshirt. You can't see any actual part of Brittany in the photo except for the hand that she's brazenly flipping the bird with.
It's the caption that does it for Santana.
Was gonna flip a peace sign but it felt cliché x
She buries her head in the pillow and for a few short moments, she forgets everything else.
Later, when Brittany gives a speech at Wellesley College and actually does throw out some double peace signs, Santana knows it's for her.
She grabs her phone and sends a text without thinking.
You're a dork.
It takes a while but Brittany soon texts her back.
Only for you x
What she's most thankful for is the unwanted but regular updates that Brittany keeps innocently giving her on Quinn. They're offhanded and most definitely not meant to be direct but they tell Santana all she wants to know anyway.
She never responds to them under the pretense of trying to seem angry still, but she doesn't think she was supposed to anyway.
Mostly she's just worried.
She'd forgotten how boring the early days of this campaign had been before she'd been able to convince Quinn to come along. It's like that first year working with Will in the governor's office all over again. She sticks to her desk and decides it's better to control everything from there. She's kind of sick of travelling. She's sick of never knowing where the fuck she is or what she's doing.
She hates that there's over a year left of this shit and it hasn't even really started yet.
Everyday seems to be the same thing over and over again. Another speech. Another fucking airplane hangar or school auditorium.
She thinks it might be killing her.
She wishes that it would just stop.
She regrets that wish a day later when Will appears on the front page on The New York Post.
Fortune Favors the Easy: How William Schuester lets his women sleep to the top
Sugar finds her sitting at her desk early that morning after she'd picked a copy up on her way in. It sits open in front of her and it doesn't tell her anything more than what Puck had told her much earlier that morning in a frantic phone call.
It's not information she wasn't already privy to anyway.
Santana's always known that Will had slept with his ex-assistant, Katherine "Kitty" Wilde, and that's why they'd had to let her go. She'd also known that there was something going on between him and Brenda Castle, the Head of the Ohio Board of Education. She hadn't known what it was but she'd had her suspicions. They used to work together and somehow, despite the fact that the woman was inept and completely useless, she always ended up with a promotion.
Plus, Will had promised to endorse her congressional campaign next year.
It's an expose that Santana probably could have written in her sleep.
"What do you wanna do?" Sugar asks, patiently sitting across from her with a notepad open on her knee.
Santana lazily scratches her nose and sips the second extra shot coffee that Sugar had been out and got her between her useless staring.
"Let Puck or Mike tell the governor," she sighs and then clears her throat. "And then cancel the schedule for the next couple of days. I imagine that the governor will need to spend some time with his wife today. We need to prepare a statement about this. There's no way we can avoid it. We'll have to deny it. There's no proof."
Sugar nods and Santana glances up like she's only just realized she's there.
"Would you work with Mike organizing the statement?" she asks kindly and Sugar looks shocked and terrified. "Help with language and keep me informed?"
Sugar nods and leaves without a word.
Santana continues to stare at the paper in front of her.
Puck never gets to tell the governor.
Mike tells her later that, when they arrived at the mansion, Emma already had her bags and the girls in the back of a car.
She was shockingly calm as she spoke to them and told them everything. They were on their way to Rhode Island, to Emma's parents, where they would be staying for the foreseeable future. She asked that the campaign tried to preserve their privacy while they attempted to figure everything out.
The governor however, was nowhere near as clear-headed.
When they got inside, he was on the phone to the editor of The New York Post threatening to sue for defamation. Puck had to wrestle the phone from him before he could say something that would ruin everything entirely. He'd shouted for forty minutes straight about invasion of privacy before storming to his office.
Santana's glad she missed it.
Sugar delivers their statement to the press later that morning and, considering it's such a shitty day, Santana still feels incredibly proud at her for stepping up.
She lets her sit in the senior staff meeting when they draw up an action plan of what they need to do and she gives input that's both solid and ingenious.
When they break for dinner and Santana tells her how proud she is, Sugar brushes it under the carpet. She belittles herself by mentioning that switching to so many majors has finally done her a service. Santana tells her she could be amazing.
The moment is ruined by the Governor, calling and telling them he's going to Burlington tomorrow. He tells them to inform the press that his schedule is no longer cancelled and he'll be attending all his future events.
Santana sighs and can't be bothered to argue but at least Sugar gets to make her proud for the third time today.
He arrives in Burlington to rumors that his wife has already filed for a divorce and kicked him out of the mansion.
The number of supporters for his town hall are lower than they've been in months but the amount of press there is ridiculously high. They ask him questions he can barely dodge and Santana hates that, after a week of working from the comfort of her office, this is what she's been pulled away from it for.
She expertly gives her own non-answers and acts cooler than she's done in a long time.
She hopes that it comes off as being calm and in control but she doesn't really care.
She's past giving a fuck.
She lets Puck sit in her seat on the plane and hides in the back on her phone instead.
Her phone has been buzzing off the hook in her pocket all day and she's glad to finally check all her messages.
There are requests for comments, offers of interviews from magazines, messages from Sugar that she failed to get when she needed to.
And one much needed text message from the Congresswoman.
Was your trip to Vermont as fun as the last one?
The words make Santana grin and the memory of that night gives her a tiny thrill she didn't know she needed. She bites away her smile the entire time she replies back and hopes that no one sees.
(There's just the tiniest pang of sadness when she remembers that Quinn would be the only one to care.)
Not even a little bit.
The reply is instantaneous and that thrill is something else entirely.
Wish I were there.
Later, Santana will blame her annoyance on her rebellion.
Their turnout slowly declines.
Sometimes, what used to be thousands turns into hundreds and everyone's acting like nothing is wrong. They continue to do all the same things they usually do, but it's difficult because it's becoming harder and harder to make it look like Will's shit doesn't stink. It so clearly does and there are no rose-colored glasses anymore. They move through the motions and do what they've been taught and trained to do.
They're brilliant but there's no heart anymore.
Santana knows what's happening.
They're becoming disillusioned and she doesn't know what to do.
She doesn't think there's anything she can do.
It makes her feel useless and she hates it.
She ignores Brittany's calls.
She can't look Will in the eye for reasons she's not even sure of anymore.
She hasn't spoken to her best friend in days and it feels like she's lost a fucking leg.
The media look at her like she's an idiot and she knows they blame her. She knows that she's ruining her career because she can't fix this.
She doesn't know how to fix this.
She doesn't realize how bad everything is until Will is completely torn apart at a forum attended by the other candidates.
They get questions about foreign policy and health care while Will get's questions about the article in The New York Post.
The worst part of it all is that it's the first time she's really noticed the lack of Quinn's presence and how much they need her. She sees her standing across the room with that short brunette woman that Santana's pretty sure is the Pierce Campaign Manager. She's watching but she isn't watching, the barest wash of secondhand embarrassment written across her expression as Will is absolutely shredded apart by questions that none of them know how to answer.
Except Quinn would know. Quinn could answer those questions without blinking an eye and turn Will into a saint.
And when her best friend finally looks up to watch her, they both know it.
"There's more rumors about Emma leaving Will online," Sugar tells her as they attempt to quietly find their way back to the bus. "There's pictures of Emma at her parents in Providence. She's not wearing her wedding ring."
Santana grits her teeth and curses under her breath. She pauses there in the hallway and looks around her, like her surroundings might inspire her to come up with the ultimate plan.
When nothing comes, she can only feel the panicked pounding of her heart it leaves behind.
"Get everyone back to the bus," she says eventually. "Make sure the governor gives no comments or interviews and uh… just make sure everyone's ready to leave as soon as I get back."
With a nod, Sugar leaves. Santana presses herself back against the wall for a moment before taking off in the opposite direction; towards a hallway she swears she saw a sign for a bathroom.
The relief she feels when she sees it is stolen when she sees the person coming from it. It makes her panic because she's been desperate to distance herself.
She doesn't want to become part of the scandal.
Except Brittany never gives up. She's ruthless and Santana knows that. No ignored phone calls and unanswered text messages will stop her from getting what she wants.
Santana still turns and bails anyway.
(There's some tiny part of her that knows Brittany will follow regardless.)
"Santana, wait…" she says softly and Santana's purposeful pace is no match for Brittany's long legs.
A hand wraps around her upper arm and drags her into the nearest door.
It's a storage cupboard.
What a fucking cliché, Santana thinks as the anger she's felt the past five days finally bubbles over.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?!" she hisses. "What if somebody saw?!"
Brittany gives her a look. "No one saw," she says with an uncharacteristic roll of her eyes. "Give me some credit."
Santana advances on her in an instant, finger extended to jab her pointedly in the chest. "Are you kidding me?" she spits. "I am giving you credit. Because this is you all fucking over. I don't know what you want but you're fucking desperate to get it but no more, okay? No fucking more. I'm done. I will not become another tabloid front-page news story! I will not be the person who puts the last nail in the coffin."
Brittany's already grabbed hold of the finger jabbing her in the chest by the time that Santana notices and, when she does, it softens her completely.
"I can't fucking do this anymore," she breathes and hates the way that her words break at the end. She swallows thickly and sets her jaw. "Just… leave me alone."
Brittany sighs and it's such a familiar sound to hear in person that it makes her feel dizzy. It's that familiarity that's kept her sane and she wants to grab that sigh and hold it tight. And it's like Brittany knows because before Santana can do anything else, there's a hand on her cheek and a forehead against hers. A warm nose brushes against her own just once before Brittany retreats, only seconds before strong arms wrap around her body.
It almost breaks her. Almost. She's sure it would have if it didn't make her feel held together for the first time in weeks. A hand finds her hair and tangles at the baby curls at the base of her neck. It guides her head until her face is buried in Brittany's neck and she breathes in shamelessly.
It sounds too much like a sob and Brittany just grips her tighter while somehow holding her softer. Her limbs relax and Santana lets just one hand come up to grip at the back of Brittany's jacket to keep her where she is.
When she lets go, she strokes her thumb over Santana's cheek before she fully pulls back. Her eyes are bluer than Santana ever saw and she looks back at her, silently waiting as Brittany gives her a once over.
"You okay?" she asks in this small, new voice that forces Santana to nod adamantly and breathe easier. Brittany smiles. "Good."
She looks at her for a few moments more before finally pulling back.
"Have a better day," she whispers before she leaves.
The words shake her so much, Santana wishes she'd have kissed her instead.
At the same time, she hates how much it's calmed her down.
"I need to cancel tomorrow's schedule," Will says once she's on the bus. He aims it at Puck and Sugar but she knows he's waited to say it for her benefit.
They all know it because both Puck and Sugar glance at her for direction.
She barely looks up from the notes in front of her.
"Whatever you need," she mutters.
She doesn't know how to feel that Will sighs in relief.
When Brittany calls her the next morning, she ignores it but tells herself it's because she's busy and not because she doesn't want to depend on the last person she should.
She pretends she's too busy fixing everything. She drags the entire staff into the conference room and gets them involved. She takes suggestions from all of them and loves how every single one of them knows exactly what needs to be done. She loves that she's made this from all the rubble that seems to be falling around them.
They have a half-solid plan by the time they all go home in the early hours of the next morning.
Santana stays at the office to finish up and is still there the next morning when everyone else returns.
Only when Puck calls her into an early morning meeting, does she charge the phone that died hours ago.
Will walks straight into their meeting a few hours later when he arrives back.
Puck dismisses the rest of the staff and leaves only him, Santana and Mike behind with the governor.
He's quiet for a long time.
"She wants a divorce," he mumbles, staring out of the window. "If I can't provide proof that I'm innocent, she wants a divorce."
He scratches his face and Santana feels no sympathy when his eyes glass over. She wants to smirk in his face and tell him I told you so.
She walks away instead.
They go to New Hampshire that afternoon and there's barely anyone there to greet them.
Two of the four meetings they had scheduled are cancelled by the time they land.
She does her first interview in a long time and dodges their questions about the Governor's private life as best she can.
They keep asking about Emma and his affairs and Santana knows that there's only one thing she can do to save this campaign. There's only one last shot.
She's on a plane to Rhode Island the next morning.
Emma's parents have a beach house on the coast.
When Santana gets out of the cab, all she can hear is the crashing of waves. It's more cathartic than she can deal with right now and she steps up to the porch with a sturdy determination she'd built up the entire plane journey here.
She's glad when Emma opens the door. Her stomach drops at the way Emma's expression turns from kind to disappointed. It gives her little hope but Emma pushes the door open and wordlessly lets her in anyway. She makes tea before they've even said hello and gestures for Santana to sit down at the kitchen counter without a word.
"Where are the girls?" Santana breaks the silence.
Emma gives her a patient smile. "My parents have taken them to the zoo," she explains. "They were starting to get upset by everything. They didn't understand why there were photographers here when their dad wasn't here. And then they didn't understand why daddy wasn't here either, so..."
Santana takes in her words and swallows back the words she wants to say for the ones she knows she has to.
"You could come back," she suggests tentatively. Emma's shoulders drop with disappointment but Santana struggles on, painfully stuttering even though she planned what she was going to say the whole way here. "I know that he's hurt you and that you probably feel foolish and ashamed, but we both know how hard we've all worked for this. Not just him but you and your family and all those staff members who gave up everything to be here. You could do it for them."
Emma looks at her and Santana's never felt so judged and pitied in her life. She's silent for so long that Santana almost gets up and leaves, she can't stand it.
"He always did have a way with words," she says eventually. "My mother warned me about that when I married him. She said he could probably sell stars to the sky if he tried. It's probably what made me fall for him."
Santana gives her a tight smile. "One of many things, I'm sure," she comments but Emma just keeps staring until her face changes completely.
It's curious… confused, almost.
"Santana, you're an incredibly smart young woman," she says softly, kindly. "There isn't a candidate in this country who wouldn't want your help and my husband abused your naivety to convince you to join his campaign. You could work with anyone you wanted. Do you really want to waste your career cleaning up his mess?"
The words shock Santana. It's the first time that she's heard it explicitly stated by someone who knows that Will used her emotions to get her to join his campaign. Regardless of her prior knowledge, it sends her heart into her stomach with another wave of white-hot rage.
"That may be so, Mrs. Schuester," she says and for the first time she doesn't totally feel the words she's speaking. "But I made a promise to the governor to follow through with this campaign and I have a responsibility to do that."
"Even though this could follow you around for the rest of your career?" she asks and Santana swallows back the sudden feeling of dread that overwhelms her body. When she doesn't answer, Emma sighs and gets up. "You're more loyal than I thought possible, Santana," she says. "You should be careful with that."
Santana nods and opens her mouth to speak but Emma already knows what she's going to say.
"I'll think about it," she says and it's not a promise.
She shows Santana out silently.
At the airport, her phone vibrates.
She's so preoccupied that she answers it without considering who it might be.
I miss talking to you.
She doesn't respond because the lump in her throat feels like it's choking her.
The next day goes much like the previous.
They attend meetings in Davenport and DeWitt, Iowa and almost half of them have low turnout or get cancelled completely.
Will doesn't hear from Emma but there are shameless pictures of the girls with their grandparents at the zoo that drive him mad with worry.
He ends up more on his game than ever before and it's a shame because there's no one there to see it.
He asks to do debate prep and Santana wonders what it would it would have been like if he'd always been like this.
Emma arrives for the debate in front of the mass of press that camps outside the hotel and Santana feels relief for the first time in days.
She denies the rumors and nods at Santana as she walks past, heading straight for the governor's empty dressing room where she closes the door and shuts them out.
It must be the peacock in him that makes his performance at this debate better than ever before. He answers everything correctly; perfectly enough that it almost drives Santana insane with frustration. Emma watches him uninterestedly but follows him back to the dressing room when he asks her.
Santana lets herself relax just enough to get out her instructions for the team.
She doesn't know how she feels when a familiar voice whispers her names. She turns around in confusion and manages to glare, even as she feels the desperation to hold Quinn and apologize for the rest of her life.
"Puck," she says instead. "Can you make sure that everyone has their itineraries for tomorrow. And ask Sugar to get my messages sent to my hotel room."
He nods and takes his leave with a friendly wave to Quinn. Santana rounds on her and crosses her arms.
"How can I help?" she asks in lieu of greeting.
Quinn smirks and steps closer. The hand Quinn rests on her wrist gives her pause.
"You need to come with me," she says seriously.
Santana follows without question.
She takes her to a hotel room at the top floor of the hotel. It's a suite and she frowns in confusion as Quinn opens the door for her and urges her inside.
She hears two voices, one too familiar and another not so much. Her panic sets in before she's even seen them.
She stalls completely the moment she does.
"Santana," Quinn says as she clicks the door behind them. "This is Congresswoman Brittany S. Pierce and her campaign manager, Rachel Berry."
Brittany smiles at her kindly. "We've already met," she directs at Quinn. "Hi, Santana."
Santana gives her a tight-lipped smile, blindsided when the other woman steps closer and holds out her hand. She shakes it and notes Rachel Berry's firm grip.
"What's going on here?" she says because she's been in this business long enough to know when shit's going down. Usually she's on the other side of it.
Brittany offers her a chair at the table in the center of the room and she takes it because she doesn't know what else to do. Brittany sits opposite her while Quinn sits on her left and Rachel on her right. They all look to her expectantly.
"Santana," Quinn starts carefully. "I know you don't want to talk about it, but did you read that folder of information I left with you the last time we spoke?"
Santana changes all her incorrect word choices in her head as she listens. They didn't speak they argued. Quinn threw the folder at her. Quinn left before she even had a chance to process it.
She knows that the look she aims at her is icy at best.
"I honestly haven't had the time," she tells her.
Quinn's expression falls and she glances down at the table before looking back up. Santana glances away and watches the way that Rachel watches the three of them curiously while Brittany stares intently at Santana. She looks away before she can blush.
"Someone's investigating him, Lo," Quinn continues pointedly. "Someone has approached me twice and the congresswoman once."
Quinn looks at Rachel expectantly and she takes over quickly. "We were originally placed in another room when we arrived at the hotel," she explains. "Our secret service detail did a sweep before we came in and found this envelope—" she presses her index finger against an envelope in front of her and pushes it towards Santana. "It was addressed to me and inside it had a note for the attention of the congresswoman. It's a list of names."
Santana raises her eyebrows at them. "And? It's probably bullshit."
"Santana, it's not bullshit," Brittany cuts in quickly. She gives her a look and smiles at her softly. Santana's sure that the other two notice her familiarity. "It's serious. Really serious. And I wanted you to know how serious… I didn't want you to be blindsided because something is happening."
Quinn watches curiously and Santana knows that her expression has softened. Her hands have relaxed into her lap and her eyes stare intently into the honesty in Brittany's.
"What names?" she says around a reluctant sigh.
Quinn passes her a piece of paper without a word. Santana glances at them and notices the one thing they've all got in common.
Quinn clears her throat. "They're all female," she shrugs like she read her mind.
Santana nods. "I noticed."
She stands up and they all copy her actions. They look at her expectantly.
"Is there anything else?" she says. Quinn shakes her head at Santana but looks like she wants to say something else. She doesn't and instead Santana turns to the other women in the room. "Miss Berry," she says before holding her hand out to Brittany. Brittany takes it with both hands and holds it for a long time. "Congresswoman," she says and it's like the words wake Brittany up.
She smiles and lets go.
Santana leaves with the three women looking at her with three very different expressions.
They're having a meeting by the time she gets back to her people. Puck stands at the head of the conference table with a dry wipe marker, staring at the governor as she enters the room.
"Where have you been?" Will asks, glancing up from his notes.
Santana folds the paper Quinn had given her and slips it into her pocket. "Cigarettes," she says, waving the brand new pack she's had on her for the past three days.
It's enough for Will who nods and gets back to the meeting.
She's been sitting in her room staring at the list of names for an hour and forty-five minutes before she gathers the courage to head up the hall to Lauren's room.
She's still awake, still dressed, and gives no impression that she's surprised to see her.
"I need a favor," Santana says, closing the door behind them. "A very discrete favor between you and I."
Lauren lifts her chin in consent and takes the piece of paper that Santana takes from her pocket and hands to her.
"I need you to investigate these names," she explains carefully. "I need any and all information you can get about them and I need you to only report to me about this matter. Understood?" Lauren nods and rolls her eyes but Santana grabs her arms. "Not even Puck."
Lauren's face shifts and for a moment she looks unsure.
Then she nods.
She sits opposite Will on the plane for the first time in days.
He reads his paper quietly in front of her before clearing his throat.
"Emma agreed to move back," he says out of nowhere. "Said that she'd made a promise and she had to keep it."
Santana gives him a forced, knowing smile and continues scribbling her signature. "That's great news, sir."
He looks back at his paper smiling.
Her phone vibrates and, for the first time in days, she takes it from her pocket knowing exactly who it is.
Are we friends again yet?
Santana smiles but doesn't respond. She isn't sure what to say. It's only a few seconds before the phone buzzes again. She rolls her eyes and checks it, struggling not to laugh at the picture Brittany's sent her.
It's an actual picture of a sad panda.
A message quickly follows.
It makes her laugh out loud and she's glad that no one's paying attention to her because she quickly types out her response.
You're a dork.
The smug smiley face she gets back is weirdly endearing. She steps around the corner into privacy as she writes another reply. She leans steadily against the wall and feels nervous as she sends it.
Sorry I'm such an ass.
You are. But you're a nice ass.
They're at a party event in Cedar Rapids when Santana notices the uncomfortable change in atmosphere.
Will walks around the room like nothing's different, talking to people who were his best friends mere weeks ago. Now, they just look at him with indifference and something else that Santana can't quite put her finger on.
She's sure that it's some sort of paranoia. The words of Quinn, Brittany, and Rachel haunt her. An ever-constant loop of someone's investigating Will swills around her head and drives her crazy. She wonders if it's reporters or someone who just wants them gone.
The worst thing is that she pretends alongside him, out of genuine fear she'd look insane otherwise. She greets the guys from the DNC and the press that she's been dealing with for a year now in the same way she always does and tries to ignore that same look of disappointment in their eyes.
It's the same disappointment she's started to see staring back at her in the mirror.
When someone knocks on her hotel room door later that evening, Santana is weirdly confused until she finds Puck beyond the threshold.
She waits for the come-on but instead he walks in and settles down in the chair behind her desk without a word.
She frowns. "Can I help you?"
Puck looks at her but it's not that predatory look that used to make her feel relieved and lead to release. He looks confused.
"What's with this list of girls that Lauren's looking into?" he asks and Santana's first response is shock closely followed by anger. Puck must see it because he raises a hand and gives her a look. "Please," he says. "Calm the fuck down. I caught her doing it. She didn't tell me what it was which is why I'm here now."
Santana feels herself settle uneasily before falling onto the couch across from him. "It's… I don't want to comment on it right now because I honestly don't know what it's about. It's a possible investigation or expose, maybe? I was given the list of names and told they're important."
Puck's expression hardens then softens in less than a second. He smiles at her kindly and sighs. "I'm a little annoyed you didn't come to me first," he explains. "I mean… I could have handled it way more sensitively than Lauren."
She smirks. "You think you're up to it?"
The insult on his face gives her sick pleasure. "I taught her everything she knows," he scoffs. "I'd still be teaching her if I weren't here."
"The Great Hackerman," Santana says around a snort. "I still hate that nickname. I'm glad I gave you an honest job."
It's his turn to snort then and she grimaces when she realizes what she said.
The last thing this job could be called is honest.
"Work with Lauren," she says when he still sits there looking at her expectantly.
There's a happy skip in his step when he leaves.
Will takes the day off for his daughter's birthday and Santana takes the reprieve with open arms.
She passively monitors everything around her via the news sites and is happy to see that the press still wants to take pictures of Will and his family frolicking around the park.
She's sure that they'll still spin it one of two ways but she doesn't care right now. If people are still watching it's a good thing.
She changes her mind later that evening.
It starts with Puck and Lauren storming into her office.
(She should probably say it ends, actually.)
"You need to cancel everything," Puck says before she can demand to know why they're wandering in on her conference call. She glares at him but his only response is to lean forward and take the phone from her and slam it down on the receiver. "You need to cancel everything. You need to suspend everything."
"What the fuck—"
"Someone is investigating," Puck hisses as Lauren quickly closes the door behind them. "Someone is monitoring everything we do here. Lauren and I found a bug in the system that's been monitoring everything we do. Someone wants the truth and will do anything to get it."
Santana swallows thickly and wonders—briefly and selfishly—if that bug extends to her cell.
"The IT guys need to completely restart the system, clean it, and figure all this shit out," Lauren says more clearheaded than her counterpart. "I called them the minute we found it but it was complex. We almost didn't notice it and there's no way to trace it."
"What's it been monitoring?" she says and she hasn't felt this terror since Quinn left, since forever.
Puck sits down opposite her and shrugs. "Will," he says. "It's gathered everything and—my feeling?— it's there to humiliate him. It's there to make him look as bad as possible and, honestly… I think it's going to happen soon."
They present her with a packet of information the next morning.
It has a list of potential security leaks that may have happened and what devices have most likely and thoroughly been hacked into.
It's mostly Will's phones and his computer. His assistant's computer that sits outside his office is high on the list and Santana's stomach sinks when she notices that his office webcam is on there. They could have seen anything.
She's sure he has no idea what's going on when he doesn't question anything. They tell him they need to cancel the schedule for security reasons and he just nods like it happens every day.
She calls all the journalists she knows, hoping to scare them in the event that it's them stealing the information. She even calls Holly but gets her assistant's phone. It disappoints her but she knows it would have been pointless anyway.
She doesn't care who sees when she dials the Pierce campaign switchboard.
She asks for Quinn Fabray and it takes her all of twenty seconds to answer.
"Yup?" She says and Santana feels momentary nerves before she remembers that, beyond this shit, beyond all the hell they're going through, this is her best friend she's talking to. This is the one person who has stuck around and had her back regardless of everything else.
"I need you to tell me everything you know about what's going on," she whispers, more for self-preservation than anything else. "I need to know what's going on here."
Quinn's silent and it becomes clear that she's finding somewhere more private to speak. "Did you read the file, Santana?"
Santana glances to where it still sits atop that same pile she threw it onto all those many days ago. When she doesn't respond, Quinn gives her a soft, knowing laugh.
"God love you, Lo," she whispers but it's soft and sincere. It's something they've despondently said to each other for years. "Read it and you'll know everything you need to know."
The line clicks and Santana misses her best friend.
"What if I did switch campaigns?" she says to Shelby in a quick phone call between contemplations and panic attacks.
Shelby sighs fondly. "Calm down."
"But what if though," she urges frantically.
Shelby is quiet and Santana hates this bit, where her philosopher mind clicks in and she just thinks about everything for too many minutes that Santana can't cope with.
"Everything will be okay," Shelby says.
It's not what Santana needs to hear.
She locks herself in her office and settles at her desk before biting the bullet and reaching for the folder.
With the first line of words, she already doesn't want to know anymore.
She's disgusted, humiliated, ashamed, overwhelmed. Furious.
When she sees the first picture, it all becomes too much.
She drags Puck, Lauren, and Sugar to her shitty corporate apartment and hands them the folder.
"This is Quinn's handwriting," Puck comments when it sees it.
Santana shakes her head. "Just read it."
An hour later, she sees expressions staring back at her that she knows cover her own face.
"Jesus fucking Christ," Sugar is the first to whisper.
Puck is speechless. He stares at the words in front of him before wordlessly standing and aimlessly searching around him.
"It's in the cabinet next to the fridge," she tells him knowingly and watches as he strides there and quickly removes the bottle of vodka from the shelf.
He takes long, slow drinks from it before shaking his head.
"This is why she left?"
Santana nods. "Yeah."
"It's disgusting," he continues, nodding and Santana knows he's thinking of Rebecca, his little sister who visited the campaign bus once or twice. "It's… It's…"
"Did you know?" he spits and Santana gives him a look as Sugar and Lauren shoot him horrified glances that she'd know such a thing and not do something about it.
She doesn't stop looking at him, as she slowly and quickly shakes her head no.
He looks so simultaneously hurt and relieved that he has to sit down. Sugar runs her hand over his back before looking to Santana for guidance.
"What do we do?" she asks quietly.
Santana shrugs and reaches for her hand.
"I don't know."
They think they'll know something if they just figure out who the women on the list are.
They're sure that they'll know what to do once they have the whole picture.
They can do something once they know what they're dealing with.
The next morning, it's clear there's nothing to be done.
They send Sugar out for coffee at 4am but all she comes back with is a copy of The Washington Post.
(Santana's glad because doesn't think she'd be able to stomach the coffee anymore anyway.)
Schuester accused of sexual assault
The headline and the words of the article won't leave her alone. She repeats them endlessly in her head.
Sunshine Corazon of Ohio, and Dottie Kazatori of Washington, DC, allege that the presidential candidate forced them to engage in sexual activity when they were minors. Corazon, now 25, claims Schuester groomed her at age 15 while she was a student in Lima, OH during the governor's time as a City Council Member. He later forced her to have sex with him while she visited his offices. Kazatori, now 20, claims Schuester forced her to perform oral sex on him whilst she was visiting him at his DC congressional offices during a school field trip. She was also 15 at the time.
That's all Santana remembers reading before she couldn't read anymore.
The only thing she can truly communicate through her brain is the understanding that these two girls are two girls whose names currently reside on the list in front of her. These girls are on a list of other women and these girls are saying that Will assaulted them.
There's a second thing she's suddenly able to understand.
It's a very long list.
She finally gets the rest of the information from Fox News early that morning.
She throws a glass at the wall when she learns that both girls have proof they met the governor, hard evidence that this is most definitely true.
Puck says nothing. Sugar holds her head in her hands. Lauren works tirelessly to retrieve all the information she can.
Santana wants to cry.
She calls Holly Holliday. From the uncertain tone in her voice, Santana's sure that she was expecting Santana to be shouting.
Instead, she sighs and swallows back the nausea.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Her response is instantaneous. "You would have talked me out of it."
Santana pants away the anger. "You don't know that," she hisses because there are things Holly doesn't know, things that nobody knows, especially those she cares about. "You don't know what I'd have done because you never gave me a chance."
Holly stays silent and swallows thickly over the line. "We all have our ways, Santana," she says carefully. "When Quinn told me what he'd tried to do to her I couldn't just sit here anymore. I know firsthand of Will Schuester's inability to understand the word no. Quinn and I made him listen but there are endless amounts of women out there who were unable to do so."
Her hands scrabble for cigarettes and she doesn't know what to do. Her feet tap and she grips at the hem of her skirt so tightly she thinks she might rip it. She stares into her lap as she holds the phone tighter.
"I know of four other young women," Holly tells her when she doesn't speak. "Four more girls, Lo. They were all underage when he hurt them. I got the information messengered anonymously to me weeks ago. Someone wants the world to know this, Santana."
Santana lets the breath rattle from her as she heaves deep lungfuls of oxygen into her chest. Holly sighs and there's a knowingness to it.
"How can we expect this man to be president and protect millions of people when he can't even protect one?" She asks.
The question shakes Santana to her core.
Will stands on the steps of the Ohio state capitol and vehemently denies the accusations against him. He denies all knowledge of the existence of Sunshine Corazon and Dottie Kazatori. He announces his intentions to seek full legal support against the accusations and prove his innocence.
His wife stands beside him, ashen faced and so delirious with anger that it's possible to feel it radiating from the television screen.
She snatches her hand back the minute he finishes his speech and the reporters start screaming. She heads back inside the capitol and Will follows her blindly.
He plays the perfect victim.
Multiple women appear online in the next two days, revealing further stories of Will's treatment of them.
Women of all shapes and sizes, all sharing one common link in the disgusting treatment they received from William Schuester.
Santana stays at her apartment and reads the words of every single one.
And with every single word, all she feels is hate.
On the fourth day of accusations, The Washington Post publishes another startling front-page cover detailing the accusations of three more, currently underage young women who all received sexual abuse from Will.
Two of them are ex-Schuester baby-sitters. Another is the daughter of a guy who worked in their Iowa Campaign office. Her used to bring Santana her copies.
The press captures Emma packing the girls into the back of a car with bags of their belongings later that day. They get pictures of Will begging on his knees and of her hitting him repeatedly in his chest and around the head. There's one lone video of it where she can distinctly be heard yelling at him for turning her into a fool.
"She's not coming back," Mike tells them in hushed whispers when he calls Puck with an update later that day.
Santana doesn't blame her. She wishes she could have taken her to the airport herself.
She dodges reporters on her way back to the office on the fifth day. They ask her why she's not at the governor's side and she tells them no comment. They ask her what the plans for the campaign are and she says no comment. They ask her if the governor ever tried anything on with her and she almost punches them in the face.
She's sure she'd be in jail right now if it weren't for Sugar. She shoves her through the doors when Santana's eyes burn red with anger and doesn't stop her moving until they're in an empty elevator.
"I should have—" She shouts once the door closes but Sugar quickly cuts her off.
"This has nothing to do with you," Sugar reminds her and it's in that moment that she decides not to handle this situation.
She decides that she doesn't have to.
This is not what she signed up for.
The Secret Service keep him on lock down at the mansion but there are pictures of him being placed into a police car on the morning news on the sixth day.
They release him but the press starts to theorize what happens next. They try to figure out a potential sentence for any crimes he may have committed. They wonder when he's finally going to drop out of the race.
The police release a statement that evening saying they haven't charged him as they have currently received no evidence to do otherwise.
Everyone camps out in Santana's office and it feels like they're waiting, waiting for something Santana isn't sure is ever going to happen.
There's a deep-down part of her that knows Will Schuester is too stupid to know when to give in.
On day seven, the evening news reports what Santana knows is the nail in the coffin.
The Schuester's current fifteen year-old babysitter tells the special report that the governor forced her to have sex with him in the back of his car when he drove her home. She tells them that it's been happening since her fourteenth birthday.
What makes her different is that she says he's got pictures.
The democratic primaries have practically paused as everyone attempts to deal with the allegations Will faces. No one reports on them, though Santana's sure they're still happening.
If she's honest, she hasn't even really thought about it.
She doesn't think about it, until her phone unexpectedly vibrates even though everyone who has her number is in this room.
Everyone except for two people, that is.
It's the first time she's heard from her in days.
"I didn't know what to say," Brittany whispers instead of saying hello or offering some words of support. It's the worst excuse Santana's ever heard.
It makes her unexpectedly, irrationally angrier than she's been all week.
"Well that's bullshit, Brittany," she laughs. "Because you always seem to have a wise ass answer for everything else. Why not this? What makes you think the age old cliché of I didn't know what to say would be fucking good enough? If you don't have anything to say then don't fucking call! I'm not here to make you feel better. And I don't want to hear you say I told you so or whatever other bullshit you've got."
"I would never—" Brittany starts but Santana cuts her off.
"You know what? THIS? It's all your fault," she shouts pathetically even though there's not one single tiny part of her that believes it. "Before you came along everything was fucking okay. I could handle ANYTHING. I firmly believed that I could probably take over the world if I set my mind to it but YOU. You. When you're around, sometimes I feel like I can't even breathe on my own…"
The words come out but they're not how she means them. She thinks that's not how she means them. Her breath catches anyway and she lapses into silence. The sound of Brittany breathing over the phone calms her, lulls her into that new sense of security that she manages to provide. It breaks down Santana's walls and, because she hasn't got anything else, she lets free the only thing she has left.
"Why did you kiss me?" she gasps desperately, frustration oozing through her limbs and out into her fingers and toes. "Back in Vermont, why did you kiss me? Why, Brittany? Why—"
"Because I couldn't wait," she admits softly.
It confuses for Santana. "For what?"
Brittany laughs and it's the best thing she's heard in the longest time.
"I don't know yet," she explains. "All I know is that I couldn't wait."
It's not an answer but it's good enough. It's enough for Santana to want to listen.
"I know that I have nothing to say," Brittany whispers apologetically. "But I didn't call to tell you how sorry I am or tell you I told you so…" There are tears in Brittany's voice and Santana hates that she can hear them. "I just couldn't go another day without knowing you're okay… that you're going to be okay."
The breath Santana had held in her lungs expels from her softly as she realizes something fundamental to understanding where she goes from here.
It makes her smile.
"I'm going to be okay."
Will arrives at the office later that day and the way that his face drops when he sees how they've started to pack everything away gives Santana a satisfaction she didn't know she needed.
"What's going on here?!" he demands and Santana glances up at him, oozing the boredom and disinterest she so completely feels. She's not the only one.
"We're packing," Puck spits as he walks past.
Will turns to him in dumb confusion until he turns around and all Santana sees is recognition of what's going on, understanding of what happens next.
Just like normal, he doesn't take it lying down.
He's in her face before she knows it. She doesn't flinch because the minute he lays a hand on her, everyone will know. All he has with everyone is hard feelings.
"This is all your fucking fault," he spits and, boldly, he actually does grab her by the collar and guide her back against the wall. She lifts her hands as a show of surrender and lets him continue. "You ruined my campaign. You ruined my career. You ruined your own and everyone else here's careers because you couldn't manage. You're a campaign manager who couldn't fucking manage."
It's pathetic and usually she'd tell him that but she honestly doesn't see the point.
He looks at her and she catches just the slightly whisper of desperation. "Here's your last fucking chance. Here is the last chance for you and your so called staff to fix the things that I hired you to do." He lifts her just ever so slightly off the floor and just like that, Puck's on him, trying to pull him off. "Fix it," he spits. "Make it go away. Or I will make sure that none of you—and I mean every single piece of shit one of you—works again. I might not have much pull anymore after this but I have friends in places you don't even know about. And they will ruin you."
He lowers Santana to her feet but doesn't let go.
"So fucking fix it," he spits and actually spits at her feet as he pulls back. "Before I fix your future."
Instead of backing down, Santana looks him dead in the eyes and lifts her chin defiantly. He presses her harder against the wall again and the pressure against her throat where he holds her actually hurts. It doesn't matter because he soon shoves her back hard against the wall.
He shrugs off Puck as he grabs for him and pushes the Secret Service agent that tries to break them up out the way.
Santana straightens out her clothing and looks around at everyone reassuringly.
They don't look convinced.
The police question Will again the next day and the threat of them possibly throwing him in jail does little to quell the concerns of his staff.
They're aware of his pull, his friends in high places. There's no doubt that he'd probably be able to ruin all of them if he got the chance to.
And there's ruthlessness and a reluctance poorly hidden within him that Santana's always hated.
She can't lie; it makes her worried too.
She stays up with Puck and Sugar drinking scotch and trying to figure out a plan.
"It's Thanksgiving tomorrow," Puck comments when they've exhausted every avenue and worry. "We can't let these guys go home to their families not knowing if they're going to come back to no jobs or futures."
Sugar drinks her scotch and sighs. "I really liked this job."
Santana reaches over to squeeze her hand. "And you'll keep it," she promises. "You're too good an assistant for me to let you go."
Sugar glances at her. "And what if you never need an assistant again."
Santana looks away and doesn't want to be the asshole who says she doesn't have to worry. It's a fact but she doesn't want to rub it in their faces. She's had six emails from different campaigns across the country already, and that's just today.
But none of them matter to her if she doesn't know if the people she dragged into this mess are safe.
"She'll be fine," Puck rolls his eyes and she glances at him, unsure what to say. "She'll be fine or she'll go down disgracefully like the rest of us, our political capital spent and ruined enough that we have to work at Taco Bell."
"That's racist," Santana quips.
He glares at her. "You know what I mean."
She rolls her eyes. "I do not what you mean and you're wrong. There's no need for these innocent, hard-working people to go down like him. This is his crime and he's the only one who deserves the punishment."
"Well, what do you suggest we do, boss?"
Santana sighs and clutches at her phone in her pocket.
"I've got a couple ideas."
She makes a speech for all of them later that morning and tells them to go home and not to worry. She reassures them that she'd never let Will do anything to damage them. She promises them that she'll fix it.
She asks them to trust her and, as per usual, they do so without question.
It makes what she has to do easier.
It's late by the time that she arrives and it's a struggle to drag her suitcase, briefcase and purse all by herself.
(She suddenly misses Sugar and the advance guys.)
As expected, it's bustling inside with people readying for the holidays and she waits in line for a short while before she gets to the desk.
"Welcome to Port Columbus Airport, Ma'am," the short stout woman at the counter asks her kindly. "How can I help you today?"
Santana smiles back and presses her credit card to the desk.
"I need a seat on your next flight to New York."