Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Glee. If I did it'd be very different.

A/N: Hey guys! I've decided to start another multi-chapter fic for the hiatus. It'll keep me sane and hopefully keep you guys entertained! I've been wanting to do something a little AU and also some college Samcedes, so here's my attempt at both of those things while also getting to write about two of my favorite brOTP's. Oh, and btw, you can expect a SOSN update before the end of the week :)

Flashbacks are in italics, enjoy!

She was strange.

Maybe that wasn't the best word for it, but it was the first word that came to mind. Strange as in different; he didn't mean it in a bad way. It's just that most people in the Pennsylvania college-town could be pegged as one of a few "types" within several short minutes of making their acquaintance - especially the girls.

"Um, hello? I've only been waiting for my latté for, like, an hour…"

Case in point, Sam thought, grudgingly finishing the latté art leaf on the girl's order before she snatched it up in a huff. The vast majority of Greyson College students were trust fund babies who thought the Ivies were too "mainstream" for their tastes. Greyson was rather selective for being a smaller liberal arts school.

Sam Evans was in his second year of studies towards a double major in finance and statistics; after struggling with dyslexia growing up, he'd been surprised and comforted by how well he took to numbers. Figures, formulas and statistics were cut and dry; there was always an answer, and it always made sense.

Quite honestly, there were times he felt that he compartmentalized most of his life into neat sections. From a young age, gray areas and uncertainty were unsettling to him in a major way. He supposed it had to do with the abundance of instability he experienced. When Sam's parents passed away in an accident ten years ago, he'd been sent to live with his mother's sister.

The grief, coupled with his dyslexia, hadn't made for a pleasant childhood. So now he was of the belief that quantifying and categorizing were the keys to living a normal, stable life. As his aunt always said, "Everything in its place and a place for everything."

But for the life of him, he could not place her.

"Alright you two, I'm headed out for an appointment, I should be back in an hour. Remember, keep things-"

"Clean and serene," finished Sam. "We know, Auntie Em, don't worry about us!"

"Yeah Miss E, we got this," said the brunette at the register, "you know I wouldn't let Sam mess things up."

"Gee thanks, San." Sam made a face at his friend who, in turn, gave him an unapologetic shrug.

"Mhmm." The petite redhead laughed, eyeing her nephew and his friend dubiously before nodding goodbye, fastening the last button on her fall jacket before heading out.

"What was that? You know I'm practically as crazy-neat as she is! And I've never let anything happen to this place." He watched as the lithe girl leisurely finished the line she was reading and marked her place in the book before looking up at him.

"I was just joking. Christ, Sam, unclench…" Santana smirked at him, the smallest hint of worry flickering in her eyes.

Sam let out a sigh, leaning against the counter. "I know, I know…it's just…she's been doing so well lately, you know?" He gripped the counter, tightly. "With the therapy and the medication, she's really been able to just let go somewhat. I don't want to do anything to set her off."

Seeing him tense and worried was deeply troubling to Santana. No matter how much of a protector he grew up to be, she could never forget that skinny, terrified little boy who showed up in her fifth grade classroom. She'd saved him after he was teased and tripped during a game of kickball at recess; his tormentors were bullies and cowards, but they'd never hit a girl – that was her advantage. They'd been best friends ever since, and seeing him get anxious about his aunt pained her.

"Hey now," she said, softly, "she's gonna be just fine. You said it yourself, she's doing so much better." She rubbed his shoulder soothingly. "And you've been helping her so much, it's wonderful. But remember, she is a grown woman, and she can take care of herself."

But that was just it: Sam wasn't sure how well she'd manage if he wasn't there with her at least some of the time. Ever since he came to live with Emma Pillsbury, he'd noticed that she had some strange habits. Her townhouse was always impeccably clean and in order; it reminded him of a museum. The only rule she gave him upon his arrival was that he returned everything the way he left it – clean and serene.

The little quirks she had grew into full blown OCD a little over a year ago when her boyfriend of three years, Will, left her for his high school sweetheart. It turned out that he'd been seeing her for a year behind Emma's back, and Terri was four months pregnant with his child.

She desperately attempted to make up for her lack of control over her emotions by obsessively controlling the cleanliness of her surroundings. His first semester of college was rough; balancing school and practically running the Daily Grind hadn't been easy.

Last winter she began to see someone about her condition, and she'd been slowly but surely getting back to her old self. Every now and then, when she was under a lot of stress, it would flare up something awful, but they got through it together.

Emma had once confessed to him that she was afraid he'd resent her for having to help her through this. He'd immediately assured her that after taking him in and raising him when he had no one else, this was the least he could do. Thankfully, things were going much more smoothly for them of late.

"You're right, San. It's just that I'm really protective of her, you know? Not everybody can be strong all the time."

"You should try telling yourself that some time," Santana raised an eyebrow at him, "you have the biggest hero complex I've ever seen."

"Two semesters of introductory psychology courses and she thinks she has her doctorate," he muttered, dodging a dishtowel she flung at him.

"Don't get smart with me. I love you, but I will hurt you." Empty threats were Santana's specialty. She was about as dangerous as a toothless puppy; she could try and gum him to death, but it would never be more than annoying.

"Sure..." Sam ignored the glare she was no doubt giving him and began to wipe down the equipment. It wasn't long before his eyes drifted back to the corner where she sat.

She'd been coming in regularly for the last few weeks. He was certain he hadn't seen her before then; he definitely would've remembered pouring her coffee. Sam had no idea what her name was, but in his head she was Beanie Babe – B.B. for short – because of the slouchy wine colored beanie she always wore on her dark curls. She was curled up in the plush, oversized armchair in the corner by one of the bay windows, engrossed in small book. It seemed to be her favorite spot.

His eyes raked over her figure. She dressed simply, but her style had a lot more personality than the budget busting designer wardrobes that were typical on campus. Today she had on a cream colored dress that stopped just below her knees, with tiny buttons going up the front, and long sleeves that she folded and cuffed just below her elbows. Dark lacy tights covered her legs, and on her feet were dark brown boots. Her only accessory was the charm bracelet on her right wrist.

She was…warm. That was the only thing he could think of when he looked at her. B.B. seemed to radiate warmth: from her brown skin to the dazzling smile she gave him whenever he handed her her coffee. And yet, with all of this warmth about her, he also sensed something inherently sad; he just couldn't figure out what. It was killing him.

"Stare any harder and I'll file the restraining order."

He whipped back around to find Santana watching him with a gaze that was equal parts smug and curious. He'd been caught.

"Ha. You're a piece of work, you know that?" Sam rolled his eyes, but he couldn't keep the blush from creeping into his cheeks.

"Whatever, at least I'm not the one who's stuck casting longing glances at a chick because I'm too chickenshit to talk to her." She put her book down on the counter and leaned against it, hand on hip. "Though it's probably for the best – you have no game."

"Shut up! It's not like that…she's just…different you know? It's weird, I don't know…"

"Weird?" she scoffed, "I was wrong, you have negative game. Christ."

"Oh my g-" his tirade was cut short by a customer. Santana quickly turned on the sickeningly sweet charm that made her popular with the patrons and took the older man's order while chatting amicably about his beloved grandson. He quickly steamed the milk for the macchiato, poured the drink, and handed the man his order with a smile before turning back to his friend.

"Look," he sighed, "What I meant was I don't-"

"Don't tell me you don't have the hots for her; she's clearly attractive. A bit plumper than your usual, but deliciously so…" she trailed off, biting her lip as she gazed over to the corner.

Sam panicked when he saw something akin to desire flash in Santana's eyes. Sometimes having a lesbian as his best friend sucked. Not that it matters, he told himself, because I don't like B.B. in that way.

"Like I was trying to say before I was rudely interrupted, I really don't. I just think there's something different about her. I mean, you constantly bitch about Greyson girls being the same, you should know what I'm trying to say."

Santana cast another glance at her, and this time her eyes lingered. Sam chose to ignore a sudden jealous twinge.

"You're right," she murmured, eyes still fixed on the girl. "I'm just not sure what it is," she mused.

"Exactly," he huffed, exasperated. "That's what's driving me nuts. I need to know what makes B.B. tick…"

"Wait, so you have talked to her? Liar!"

"No, I haven't…why would you say that?"

"You just called her B.B., that's her name, isn't it? You so talked to her!"

Sam's face was burning with embarrassment. "No…it's…um," he stammered, "It's kind of what I call her in my head…" he explained, the last of his words drowned out by Santana's raucous laughter.

Mercedes Jones had been in the zone for a good hour until loud laughter shattered her concentration. Carefully marking her place, she looked up to find a girl doubled over in mirth next to a boy whose face was kind of red. She caught him turning to look at her, but he quickly turned back around when he saw that she'd noticed. That only made his friend laugh harder.

She sighed and chewed on her lip, attempting to focus on Plato's Symposium, and failing. Her face grew hot at the thought of the two behind the counter talking about her – making fun of her, no doubt.

Moments like this made her miss New York. Mercedes had been so excited to be accepted to New York University; she had big dreams of becoming an author, and it was a pretty good place to get her start. What she hadn't counted on, however, was hating almost everything about it.

Nothing was centralized; there was no main campus. The school was essentially a bunch of buildings strewn out over dozens of city blocks. She had to fight to get any time with professors or advisors, and even though she was rather outgoing, she hadn't clicked with anyone in a major way. Her freshman year was overwhelming at best.

She loved the city, of course. It was her refuge; the school made her feel insignificant and lonely, whereas the city did just the opposite. It was kind of ironic, seeing as it was so big and densely populated, but that was its magic. You may be an individual out there on your own, but so is everyone else, and there is a comfort and sense of community in that. She felt less alone when she was exploring the Village by herself than she did during classes, group projects, and floor activities. The city was her friend.

Ultimately, she decided no matter how much she loved the city, her education would suffer if she wasn't happy with her school. After a long talk with her parents, she decided that Greyson would be a great choice. Though Mercedes was excited that her transfer application was accepted, she'd been sad to leave everything the city had to offer behind.

But now, about a month and a half into the semester, she was certain she made the right call where her education was concerned. The school was maybe a fifth of the size of NYU, if that, which meant plenty of office hours, actual professors lecturing introductory courses (not teacher's assistants), and she had an actual campus with grass. It felt right in every way the other university hadn't. Of course, not everything was perfect. The student body here was far less racially and socio-economically diverse than at NYU, a fact that hit her as soon as she moved in.

She was one of maybe 10 students of color in her entire dorm, and one of the only girls who didn't own a handbag worth roughly the same as a semester's tuition.

All in all, she made a wise choice, and she knew she wouldn't regret it. Except, apparently, when she's openly mocked in a coffee shop.

Mercedes fiddled self-consciously with the charms on her bracelet, trying her best to avoiding looking over at the pair behind the counter; she hated feeling like this. Granted, it didn't happen often – she loved herself. She loved her chubby, curvy body and its warm brown skin, her full lips, and her wild curls. Self-esteem was never a problem for her because she was taught to love her body and all it did for her each day.

But even the most body-positive amongst us have their weak moments. She chastised herself for jumping to conclusions; maybe they weren't even talking about her. For all she knew they could have just been laughing amongst themselves and she happened to catch him glancing out of the giant window behind her. After a few moments of rational contemplation, she felt downright silly and a little vain for thinking they could possibly be talking about her.

Mercedes jumped when she felt her phone buzz against her leg. Fishing it out from between her thigh and the cushion, she unlocked the screen to see there was a text message from Tina. "Ru done w/ Prof. Parkin's assigned reading?"

A smile instantly spread across her face. She'd met Tina Cohen-Chang during move-in: she was carting yet another bin into her room when a mess of long, dark hair and pale limbs zipped past her, almost knocking her down. Depositing the bin in her room, she strode down the hallway determined to give the girl a piece of her mind.

"Oh, hi!" The girl popped out of room just as she was about to knock on her door. "Sorry about almost knocking you over back there," she grinned, sheepishly. "I'm Tina, by the way," she introduced herself with a dimpled smile, pulling Mercedes into a hug.

All the frustration and anger she felt melted away in the girl's embrace; how could she stay mad at this ball of sunshine? "I'm Mercedes," she replied after stepping back from their hug, "room 404. Why were you in such a hurry?"

Tina's almond shaped eyes sparkled with excitement. "Oh! The French Society is having an outdoor screening of Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain in about 20 minutes, and that was my last box."

Mercedes didn't even pretend to hide her enthusiasm. "Oh my god, I love Amélie!"

Tina grabbed her hands. "Let's go together!"

She was all set to accept the invitation when reality set in. "I want to," she frowned, "like so, so, badly…but I'm not done moving in. I have three more bins in my dad's car."

Tina smiled as she walked past her down the hall. "Well then let's hurry up and get those bins!"

They found out later that week that they were in the same sophomore Classic Literature seminar, and the rest was history; they'd been inseparable since day one. Mercedes smiled, and texted her back, "no, almost done tho, just a few more pgs."

Tina was yet another way her college experience improved since transferring to Greyson. Mercedes assumed that she was bound to get close to someone since the NYU student body was so large and diverse. And she had made a few friends, but they never got close. She always felt that the sheer size of the school made superficial relationships the way to go: why get close to someone when someone better could come along?

But this friendship with Tina, especially the way they bonded so effortlessly, was exactly what she needed. She'd met a host of other amazing people through her that she couldn't wait to get to know better. This is what Mercedes pictured her college experience being like; to be honest, the past month and a half was already socially better than her entire freshman year.

Locking her phone, she smiled at the picture it displayed: it was a shot of her and Tina from last weekend. It was her birthday, so Tina decided to take her to a karaoke bar along with a few of their friends from their floor. She learned two things that night: older men love buying college girls drinks, and Tina has an amazing set of pipes. They regaled the delighted bar patrons with duet after duet, surprised and excited by how wonderful their voices sounded together. It was one of the best nights of her life. The picture on her phone was one a floormate snapped of them mid-song.

Scolding herself for letting her mind wander, she turned her attention to a page she'd been attempting to read for the last fifteen minutes. The book was interesting, but she just couldn't get herself to focus – and the buzzing of her phone certainly wasn't helping. It was another text message from Tina: "sounds good! Come home so we can outline it together. Thai takeout for dinner, my treat. 7ish? And if ur at the DG, don't flirt too hard with latte boy ;)"

The first time Mercedes came to the Daily Grind to study she had brought Tina with her. After hearing the soft jazz music and seeing the calming atmosphere with its plush seating, warm colors, and exposed brick walls, she knew she'd found her spot. Tina, however, decided to spend their time filling her in on the dirty secrets of every student that came in for a coffee and talking about the cute guy who usually worked as the barista.

She thanked heaven that he wasn't working that day, because she was certain he would have overheard Tina trying to get her to ask out someone she hadn't even met. Of course her friend had managed to make each time she picked up her coffee from that day forward the tiniest bit awkward. Mercedes made sure to give him a genuine smile and thank you, but inside all she could hear was Tina talking about how he must be hung because holy hell look at his hands.

When she asked her why she hadn't made a move on him yet, all she'd gotten was an "Um, he's not my type…" accompanied by a sly smile and a shrug.

Mercedes glanced at the time; it was almost a quarter 'til six, and her dorm was only a ten-minute walk away. She'd have plenty of time. "How can I say no to that?" she typed out, adding a smiley face before sending the text. Dinner plans settled, she yet again attempted to focus on the book. A few minutes later she was mentally congratulating herself for making it to the next page when a strange feeling passed over her.

That's when she saw them: a pair of black converse right in front of the chair.

Letting her gaze slowly travel upwards, she took in the dark wash jeans, the fitted black t-shirt with "The Daily Grind" scrawled across a broad chest, and finally a ruddy, boyishly handsome face with a mop of dirty blond hair and a pair of piercingly green eyes.

She was face to face with Latté Boy.

Beanie Babe and Latté Boy for life.

I'd love it if you took a minute to review and tell me whether you're feeling it or not, and what you'd like to see/what you think I have in store for these characters.

Bonus points for anyone who knows where I got the title of the fic from!

- Em