Glee and all related characters and places are owned by Fox - I just make them dance for my own amusement.
I know what you're all thinking - yet another fic? Well, this one's been bubbling away on the back-burner for quite a long time now. It wasn't until we saw Santana 'playing' Artie in Props that I really got the drive to do it. Though mainly I do have my beta - rynluna - to thank for getting me motivated to do this - you would not believe some of the bizarre brainstorming sessions we've had.
Anyhoo, let's get the ball rolling...
In some high schools, status is everything. Everyone knows that. You're probably thinking to yourself that you didn't have it so bad, right? Well for some, earning and maintaining it are the most important goals of their young lives. Who cares if it won't mean a thing once you graduate? It's one of those things that you'll laugh about in the years to come, but while you're there, it's all that counts. For decades, the status quo has remained the same – jocks and cheerleaders at the top, geeks and misfits at the bottom, and everyone else somewhere in the middle trying not to slip down the ladder.
For Santana Lopez, her place at the very bottom of this social structure was something she had long since come to accept. No one goes to high school intending to be downtrodden by everyone else, but Santana had always known it would happen. That didn't mean she liked it, but being able to give a lecture on how Warp Drive works isn't exactly the sort of trait that would win a person many friends. When she was younger, Santana's preference for things typically meant for boys was seen as cute – a quirk of character. But as she got older, as more and more of her friends became distant, Santana was forced to face up to an uncomfortable truth – she was a nerd.
Not the hardest of hardcore nerds, mind you – that honor was taken by Jacob Ben Israel – but even so, she wasn't far off. It used to bother her; the way people talked. So what if she could name pretty much any Transformer from their vehicle modes alone? So what her iPod was mostly full of movie soundtracks and theme songs from 90's cartoons? After a while, however, she accepted it. Logical as always, she reasoned that after high school, things would get better – people wouldn't be so quick to judge in the real world, right?
Oh yeah, and she was outed as a lesbian during her freshman year.
So maybe some people would always judge her. Couple that with her position as one of William McKinley High School's resident geeks, and she didn't exactly have much room to kick downwards. In terms of status, it didn't get much lower than being Santana Lopez.
To her credit, she was pulling straight A's in all subjects. School work had never really offered her much of a challenge, and she had often seen it as some cruel joke that the one thing she was truly good at – the thing everyone was always told they should be focusing on – was as much a source of derision as her liking for sci-fi and comic books. She'd never understood why smart students were picked on; they were there to learn, after all. Surely the academically able students should be revered? Looked up to by those less able than herself? But no, being smart was just another reason she received weekly slushy facials. It was almost always an air-headed cheerleader, or a dim-witted quarterback – though on some occasions it would even be one of the 'normal' kids, put up to it by their friends for a laugh.
It had become so routine that Santana barely flinched anymore. The icy sting was just as familiar as the laughter that usually accompanied it; just as familiar as the tears that always followed it. Being used to it didn't mean she was immune to it. Santana remembered one particular day when she was just on her way to clean herself up after receiving a slushy from a particularly nasty cheerleader, when one of her cronies ambushed her outside the toilets and gave her another one there and then.
And that was how Snix was born.
Snix – or 'rage-Santana' – was a character she had invented during sophomore year. Inspired by the Incredible Hulk, no less, Snix was the embodiment of everything Santana secretly wished she could be; popular, respected, and most importantly – accepted. Santana pictured herself as one of the Cheerios – maybe even captain – stalking the hallways, with crowds parting before her for fear of incurring her wrath. This Santana would be top of the pyramid; the 'it' girl of McKinley High. She'd have the cheerleading squad in her pocket, the jocks but a sweet smile away, and who knows – maybe even a hot girlfriend to hold her hand and share her glory. It was a complete fantasy, but sometimes Santana found herself bordering on depression when she reminded herself that it would never happen. Who could even picture Santana Lopez as a 'hot bitch in command'?
Certainly no one at this school. Especially considering that she had been so lost in thought that she was now sprawled on her back in the middle of the hallway, having walked right into someone.
"Hey, watch it," a harsh voice snapped. "With four eyes I thought you'd be able to see better."
A few nearby students chuckled, and watched with smirks as Santana slowly sat up, pushing her glasses back up her nose. How many times had she broken them by doing exactly what she'd just done? Groaning, she clambered to her feet, pulling her bag further up her shoulder. The Latina wanted nothing more than to get away from the staring students, but not before she at least got a look at who she'd hit. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed her worst fears.
Brittany S. Pierce.
Instantly recognisable by her battered leather jacket, worn jeans and tangled mane of blonde hair, Brittany Pierce was one of the more well-known students at McKinley. She was also the last person you wanted to fuck with. In fact, it was entirely because of this enigmatic girl that Santana had worked out her own personal system for calculating a student's status relative to their peers. Before coming across Brittany, Santana had assumed that popularity was everything; the more friends you had, the higher up the social chain you found yourself. But all that had changed at the start of her junior year. She had been on vacation with her family at the end of Summer, and due to her father's work commitments, had been forced to overlap their two-week trip with the start of term. It was all cleared with the school itself – that wasn't the problem. The problem was that when Santana returned, it was to find things had changed somewhat at McKinley.
The tall blonde had transferred in from another school, apparently the same one Noah Puckerman had attended as a freshman before coming to McKinley. Now Noah – or Puck as he was called – was a badass. Everyone knew that. But he had the whole 'lovable rogue' thing going on, and was definitely far more approachable than the other jocks he often hung out with.
Brittany Pierce was anything but 'lovable.'
If there was an illustrated dictionary definition of the word 'badass,' it would be Brittany. Little over a month after starting at McKinley, a pair of idiots from the football team had picked a fight with her. They claimed Brittany had insulted them, but conceded they'd made the first move. Now these are big guys we're talking about – the kind you could picture winding up as pro-wrestlers or club bouncers. Two huge guys picking a fight with a single girl, alone in the school parking lot. The next day, McKinley was abuzz with the news – David Karofsky and Azimio Adams were in the hospital, one with a broken nose and fractured ribs, the other with a broken arm and torn ligaments in one leg.
And Brittany? Not a scratch on her.
Ever since then, no one had dared give the blonde any trouble. At first, Santana had been positive Brittany would be expelled – beyond the bubble of high school, what she had done would have been considered assault, or even grievous bodily harm. And yet somehow, nothing happened. There were rumours that Brittany came from an incredibly wealthy family, and a large anonymous donation had been made to the school's budget – though no one dared ask. Santana was partly shocked that such a thing had been allowed to happen. But honestly? Mostly, she was impressed. Santana had lived her life with the constant bullying – because she was a nerd, because she was gay – sometimes just because she was a girl. And there was Brittany Pierce, so brave and so strong, able to fight off two guys all on her own.
Santana had heard murmurs that some people actually thought Brittany was a guy in drag – how else could she have come out of that fight unscathed? Santana had pondered this, but an overheard conversation between two girls from Brittany's phys ed class had put paid to that theory.
'Did you see her in the showers?' one had asked. 'How the hell does a girl get that muscly and still have tits? Jesus Christ…'
And if anyone would have accused Santana of dreaming about a naked Brittany, surrounded by steam and dripping with water, she would have denied it til her dying day.
One hundred percent true, though.
So yes, Brittany had made things quite interesting with her whirlwind arrival. She had certainly changed Santana's perception of a great many things, that's for sure. This system she had devised – in direct response to Brittany's position as new top dog – went something like this: every student as a score out of a possible hundred points. A maximum of fifty are gained through popularity, and another fifty through how plain terrified people were of them – or their 'fear factor', as Santana called it. Quinn Fabray, captain of the Cheerios and Noah Puckerman's on-again, off-again, did you really do that behind the bike sheds-again girlfriend, scored a total of seventy-five. A full fifty points for popularity – the student body adored her – and then twenty-five for her fear factor. Quinn wasn't very imposing herself, but she was still capable of calling in the various jocks she hung out with to do her bidding. Under Santana's old view of things, Quinn would have been at the top – by simply being the most popular. But a different blonde had changed that. Brittany seemed to have quite a few friends of her own, or at least people she hung out with. Not jocks or cheerleaders, but there were still a fair few of them. Santana scored Brittany's popularity at about thirty-five, or thereabouts. But of course, her fear factor was the full fifty – giving her a total of eighty-five, putting her status above Quinn's.
And that's how it worked. Everyone had a balance of popularity and scariness, and at the end of it all, Brittany S Pierce came out on top. She wasn't the most popular girl in school, but unlike Dave Karofsky – whose status was built on fear alone – Brittany was at least liked by enough people to elevate herself to the top of the pyramid. A good number of people seemed to like her, and those that didn't were too afraid to even contemplate crossing her.
By her own calculations, Santana scored a measly five points. No one was afraid of her, and she had a grand total of four people she could call friends – even some of the school's nerds didn't like her, though she silently put that down to her refusal to join their anti-Michael Bay rally last year. Her closest friend was Artie Abrams; the first person who had spoken to her on her very first day. He had admitted it was simply because he recognised the logo on the shirt she'd been wearing as coming from a video game he liked, but their shared enjoyment of various comic books had given them plenty to bond over. Then there was Sam Evans; ostracised when it was discovered just how poverty-stricken his family was, he had been taken in by their merry band of geeks and finally had a place to express his love of sci-fi movies. And finally their foursome was rounded out by Nicole, a fairly hardcore anime fan who often bemoaned the fact that she wasn't born Japanese. Santana would never admit it, but Snix was so sick of the word 'kawaii' that she was pretty damn close to grabbing that stupid Pikachu keyring of Nicole's and stuffing it down her throat.
But that is why Snix didn't exist.
As she finally got away from the last few people that had seen the 'incident' in the corridor, Santana's thoughts turned back to the future. She was in her senior year; it was meant to be the best time of her life, and yet she was still 'punished' on an almost daily basis for being different. She didn't have a clue as to why Brittany Pierce was so harsh to a lot of people – or so worryingly capable in a fistfight – but she was still unable to deny her admiration for the blonde. The only word Santana had ever said to Brittany was 'sorry' – multiple times, usually after similar accidents to the one still replaying in her mind. Brittany, on the other hand, had a whole slew of colourful insults and put-downs in her arsenal. The Cheerios were known for their catty remarks, but everyone knew Brittany was always able to put them in their place with her quick-witted tongue.
And deep down, though she'd never admit it, Santana couldn't help but feel somewhat turned on by it all. Even when Brittany's ire was directed at her, there was something about that voice; the way her bright blue eyes seemed to blaze as she spoke. The Latina knew full-well that it was probably pretty unhealthy to think like that, but she couldn't help it – Brittany was the ultimate bad girl, and that was quite clearly Santana's thing.
Just as she felt her face beginning to grow warm, a pair of familiar red and white uniforms appeared in front of her, and seconds later Santana's face was freezing cold, the sting of the sloppy wet mess burning just as fiercely as her blushing had moments before.
She'd made an idiot of herself in front of the most feared girl at McKinley, and then received a double-slushy facial, all in a matter of minutes.
Yep, just another day for Santana Lopez.