Summary: The Governor told her three things: Find the girl, bring back the girl, and don't fall in love on the way.
A Pezberry post-apocalyptic AU.
Santana knelt down at the edge of the creek. The water glistened a murky blue in the white, hazy sunlight. It beat down on her back, drawing up sweat and keeping it coming so it soaked through her dirty, gray tank top. She could feel it beading up on her neck and sliding down like a stream along a river before it was absorbed into the bandana she had tied around her throat.
It was a nasty feeling she had gotten use to - this endless torture of sweat and heat that never let up. Not since the Quakes shook and the dust of the ground filtered into the atmosphere, the sun never let up after that. Acid rain was their only salvation, but any human only had about thirty minutes out in that stuff before it started to eat away at the skin.
Santana had seen too many people get singed by the stuff. She'd watch them whither and scream and the pus start to seep through the boils the water brought on their flesh. She had experience the burns once when she didn't wash down after running through it. She had to soak in a tub of ice and special salts for three hours before the sting let up enough for her to move.
"Shit," her boot slipped on the dirt, drawing her closer to the waters edge. She threw a hand backward, catching onto a dried up plant before her entire body plunged in.
The water rippled with the pebbles that hit it from her boot dislodging them from their place. Santana dug her heel into the ground, pushing back up to a crouch so her shadow casted over the water. She looked over it, examining the color. It looked fine enough. It didn't have that greenish tint that a lot of the fresh water started to take on confirming its acidic contamination. Finding something clean was a miracle and it was a miracle Santana may have happened upon.
Shrugging off a backpack, she brought it around between her knees and opened up the dusty, brown flap. A flashlight, spare batteries, canteen, canned food, bandages and more filled it up to the top that weighed on Santana's shoulders everywhere she went. Even in her sleep, she had a strap wrapped on her somewhere while out scavenging. Supplies like she had anyone would kill for. She had been lucky signing onto the force she served as a Scavenger for. If not, she'd be a shriveled up carcass on the side of the road no one cared to bury properly nowadays.
Digging to the bottom, she pulled out an old mint tin and thumbed it open. A piece of fabric lay inside, folded and wrapped over an old glass thermometer. It was a tool she was entrusted with for being a Scavenger. It was one of the few instruments that could give an accurate reading of the water's contamination. And for her, being gone on scavenging assignments for long lengths of time with only her backpack and her trusty convertible, she needed something to tell her whether or not the stuff she was about to drink would be her last ever to touch her lips.
Taking the thermometer in her fingers, she dipped it into the water, eyes fixed on the red dyed mercury as it rose steadily. Anything that was rotten, the temperature would read that of boiling water regardless of how cool to the touch it was. It was that deceiving thing alone that had a lot of people die on the spot.
Santana's first scavenging partner had been one of them. But Santana was sure, had her partner not been sick with fever and on the brink of heat stroke, she would've heeded her words and not drank out of the small pocket of water that had gathered as runoff from the lake.
The water rippled again as Santana drew the thermometer out. She held it up at eye level, inspecting where the red stopped through her black sunglasses. She stared at it for maybe a minute or so before she packed the thermometer back up and took out her canteen to fill up. Getting out another mint tin, she dropped in two periwinkle tablets that Dr. Jones and Santana's father had invented that would clean up small amounts of water enough to drink then and there.
She shook the canteen so the tablets would dissolve faster then brought the rim to her lips and drank. It was warm and hardly satisfying, but it quenched her parched throat and spread on her tongue like the most precious gift from heaven she had ever received even over the breath still in her lungs.
Taking off her bandana, she wetted it and patted her forehead down, wiped off her face and cleaned the muddy grime off her hands before tying the bandana back around her neck and stood up to go.
She walked up the slope she had scaled down to get to the creek, putting her in a vast plane of dried earth and nothing else. In a mile or so she'd hit the ruins of old down town, then a mile after that she'd hit the Town of a less than half a forth of the population that used to live there.
Pulling open the door of her little convertible, Santana climbed in, tossing her pack onto the floor on the passenger side. The car was a gift from the Governor. Maybe when Santana was five and dreamed of a Porsche for her first car, she would've thought the paint chipped, rickety, apple red car was a total poor person mobile. But since the Quakes and since the riots and looting, cars like Santana's were scarce, ones that ran well anyway. Lucky for the Town, they had people like Burt Hummel who could fix up any automobile you handed over to him, but then again, under her lady the Governor's rule, he had no choice but to get things running.
Pulling a pair of goggles over her shades, Santana turned the key in the ignition. The engine coughed and whined a couple seconds before it roared to life and kept up a steady hum. Her eyes jumped down to the clock on the dash that was stuck on 3:23 and never moved before she shifted the gears and hit the gas.
One more hour and she'd be back home.
Santana was five when it started.
It began with the earthquakes. They shook everything from LA all the way across the globe and back around hitting Hawaii. They could never be predicted, but hit at random, hardly ever along a fault and lasting for minutes at a time. They broke up the earth and sent the population into frenzy.
After that, the storms started. Storms unlike Santana had ever seen. It was a wonder her family survived. Somehow they did. First in the storm shelter then in various places, hulling up with other families. They stayed close to the Jones' being old friends of the family and somewhere in there they found the Cohen-Chang's after the second flux of Quakes.
The news couldn't tell the people what was happening and no textbook had enough evidence or research to pinpoint it as Armageddon. And it made the people crazy. It made the people insane.
It was an outbreak of chaos for years afterwards.
People killed for no reason, churches burned, and faiths lost. Political leaders fell out of power, riots trashed government offices, and the streets became asphalt painted with crimson blood and salty tears.
The sky turned to gray and the sun shined through a chalky haze that made the heat unbearable and blocked out the coolness of winter. The rain turned dangerous and the clouds turned the color of the moon to a pale orange that spooked the people for months before they got use to it.
The years dragged on and the conditions steadily worsened. People found a way to survive and leaders started to create safe places to begin rebuilding and redefining their way of life.
That was fifteen years ago.
"Come on, come on," Santana jiggled the wires in the dash where the face of her radio should be. She had gotten a good half hour of tunes by connecting the wires right, but she had hit a bump and it knocked everything all askew again.
The car was stopped at an intersection in the middle of the ruined downtown. No cars rushed through anymore and no cars could with the condition of the streetlights hanging off wires and lights busted out. People use to go around to traffic lights and cut out the glass to use as covers for solar cells to help light their houses. Santana had stolen and sold a few herself to get food and clothes.
In the cup coaster, she found an aluminum gum wrapper and folded it around the wires. A few small jiggles to the wire, the radio crackled and buzzed back to life.
"Score," Santana placed the face back over the hole.
The static sounds of what Santana guessed was old country hummed through her rundown speakers. It was about the only station she could ever get unless she rewired some things. But even then there were only two radio stations close enough for her to pick up frequency from.
Foot back on the gas, she started down the road. She could see the outline of the Town in the distance showing she was only about fifteen minutes off and thank God. She had been sent out alone to rummage the old Bank District three days ago to gather what valuable and useable resources she could. The Governor would be happy about the two large suitcases full of things she had in the backseat.
Santana still had that cocky grin on her face as she drove up to the town's border. It was the only main entrance into the Town of what was left of good ol' Lima, Ohio. There were no crazy barbed wire fences or iron gates. There was just a group of Enforces manning a large arch over the road with their rifles, sweaty faces and John Lennon inspired sunglasses that Santana still got a kick out of.
There were other towns like Canton that was surrounded by a six-foot wooden fence then a ten-foot gate with coils upon coils of serrated wire all along the top. It took an ID scanned through a machine that could detect fakes to get inside. Santana only had the privilege to go in once along with the Governor. She had taken her two Guards and a hand full of Scavengers to talk to their person in charge about combining the two towns into one. Because where the Town of Lima excelled in food production, Canton had a better grasp on weaponry than them.
Unfortunately, they're Mayor, a Mr. Sumner, had basically laughed in the Governor's face and told her and her force to leave. It was a bad move on his part. No one laughed at the Governor and gets away with it and still breathing at that. But instead, she let the old man live, had some of the Scouts ambush one of the large trucks that drove in and out of Canton, slaughtered their men on board, save for one who went back screaming and crying about what Lima did.
The two locations hadn't been at peace since then, and from what Santana learned, Canton put an electric current through their fence to intimidate another attack from them. But the Governor was smart and she was never intimidated. So she kept the open plane and main entrance into Lima with the few ports out back for goods the Foragers brought in.
"Miss Lopez," said one of the Enforcers who approached the car.
Santana stalled the car just a ways from the arch. On either side of it were a pair Enforcers. She had seen them through the dust cloud her wheels kicked up goofing off until the ugly hum of her engine caught their attention and they straightened out.
"Hudson," she pulled up her goggles to let them sit against her forehead. He pulled off his round sunglasses that left an unflattering tan line across his face. Santana snorted.
His eyes blinked to the backseat. "What's in the bags?"
"What do you think?" she ticked, because really? How many times had she done this and Finn still wouldn't just let her drive right on in.
"I don't know," he folded the shades and tucked them into the chest pocket of his navy shirt that stretched along his chest tighter than normal. Well look at that, Hudson was getting some pecks. "Drugs maybe?"
"You got me. Busted. How'd you know?" she rolled her eyes and wiped the sweat from the top of her lip.
Finn grimaced at her tone and lifted a hand, signaling the others over. Their rifles jangled and theirs boots crunched over to the car. Santana sat back in her seat, listening to them undo zippers and rummage through every last inch of the cases.
Finn shrugged at her annoyed look. "It's protocol,"
"Uh huh," she just waved him off, turning the knobs on the radio that went out again.
She disliked Enforcers just as much as the town's people did. They were the police of the Town. They were the little bit of authority that was left to the people when the Governor regrouped her civilians and set up some rules. The Enforcers were the first batch of titles to be established and were some of the most nitpicky, pains in the ass. More so than the Scouts who thought they were big and bad because they were allowed to carry around guns on their belts and bounce around from town to town like VIPs. But even they seemed okay next to the Governor's Guards…
"Clear," one of the boys sounded off followed by the others in the same dull tone before they returned to their posts against the arch.
Santana's smile was condescending. "You don't say,"
"Arm," said Finn and Santana held it out, almost clocking him in his nose as he was bending down to look at the tattoo on the inside of her left wrist.
Everyone in the Town had the tattoo. It was more like a brand if Santana allowed herself to remember that she along with the others in Lima were just a piece of property. She was just another pawn for the Governor and the little diamond with an Old English S and two slashes going through it rubbed it in more.
At first she thought it was cool when she was thirteen and her dad along with the Jones' decided to stick around their home and not take a run for it to other parts of the country as most did. She used to smooth her fingers over it and trace the one slash it had at the time. When she signed on board with the Governor at age sixteen, the second slash had been inked in and she had worn it like a badge of honor. But it wasn't that. Not really.
"Finished?" Santana stopped fiddling with the radio knob and looked over at Finn who should've been finished ogling her arm. Instead, he stood there, gassy look on his face and eyes shifted left and right.
Santana pursed her lips because she knew that look. It was that look he got right before he asked if she do him, "a favor?"
"Don't even. I'm not going to sneak you anymore playboy. It almost cost Kurt the rest of his fingers." Finn cringed and Santana almost regretted bringing it up.
He and Kurt were buddies before the Quakes. During the months when the clouds clouded over with smoke and dust, a lot of people fell sick. Lungs couldn't take the debris and lack of pure water caused infection. Kurt had caught the infection, which dried a person out until the skin was about as crusted as bone and would cracked.
Right before a vaccine was made, Kurt lost his left pinkie and almost lost his leg. Fortunately he still had it but he never walked the same again. He would always have a jagged limp and an ache in his calf that stung like the burn of hot coils.
Santana spent a lot of time at his place when Mercedes went over to deliver him pain medication and some creams she and Dr. Jones were testing out for others who had fallen to the same fate. All Santana knew was that the creams didn't help and Kurt would give himself a headache with how hard he'd bite down on a towel to keep from screaming out in agony before the pain meds kicked in.
Sighing, Santana slipped off her shades to look up at him. "What is it?"
There was a flicker of a smile on his face as he dug into the pocket of his dusty, navy pants and pulled out a folded piece of crinkled paper. He rubbed it on the edge of window that wouldn't go all the way down to flatten it out some.
"Could you, uh," she stammered, glancing back to the other Enforcers before ducking his head down lower so only she could hear him speak. "Could you gives this to Rachel?"
"Berry?" Santana's eyebrows shot up in surprise.
Finn winced. "Please?"
"Nope," her hand reached to shift the car back into drive but he reached down to stop her. "The hell, Hudson?"
"Come on, Santana," he pleaded, instantly peeling his fingers off her wrist. "I know you and Rachel have some sort of beef or whatever, but I can't and- please?"
"First off," Santana swatted the paper out of her face. "For Berry and I to have beef one would have to speak to the other, which we don't. And two, what's in this for me?"
"I let you go through. No protocol,"
"You already searched me,"
"Then next time,"
"Too cheap," she slipped on her sunglasses again and Finn lunged back forward, hands clutching the window tight. "Oily hands best get off my car,"
"I'll give you my dads old rifle,"
"Hm?" she tilted her shades down with an index finger, narrowed eyes staring up at him and deadpanned, "You're joking,"
Taking up Santana's free hand, Finn shoved the paper into it and closed her fingers around it. "You give Rachel this and it's yours. No catch, no jokes."
Her tongue dragged across the inside of her lip as she stared down at the folded paper. The corners were worn and dog-eared. Like he had been keeping it in his pocket for days or weeks or months just waiting for the right moment to give it away.
"What is it?" Santana tugged at a corner.
"Don't," he reached out and Santana's eyebrow cocked. Finn's voice softened. "Just- don't- don't open it, okay? It's private."
"Is this some kind of Romeo and Juliet shit where you try to get her to run away with you?" The uncomfortable shift in Finn's bulky weight made Santana's face fall. "Oh god, Finn, you know if the Governor-"
"It's not like that," he quickly recovered but Santana kept a hard eye on him until he broke and she knew he was telling the truth. "I promise. It's nothing like that. It's a letter- just get it to her, alright? You can come pick up the rifle after that."
"And that's it?"
A grin broke across Santana's chapped lips as she stuffed the letter into the inside pocket of her sleeveless blazer and jerked the gear into drive. "Fancy doing business with you," she saluted off with two fingers to her eyebrow and peeled off.
Driving up the main road, Santana tried not to get stuck in the old days - the First Days - as they liked to call it. It almost pained her knowing the little boy and girl no older than five and six that ran out the water mill with their father would never know how those days were. All they knew was a gray sun, endless days of heat, and a society that had to scavenge the ruins of other cities for the necessities of life. And to think they could've easily gone to the Wal-Mart a mile off and get everything in one. Now it took teams of people just to get them one thing.
The Town stuck out like a sore thumb against the barren, desert of a landscape that surrounded it, putting more than ten miles between it and the nearest dead forest, and hours of a drive to the next closest point of civilization. Dusty barns and greenhouses with their gleaming glass stood on the edges of the town beside the truck ports the Foragers used when they headed to hunt the forests.
Houses stood just around the Town's center. They were ugly things, all wood and glass panes and simple. The biggest had maybe three rooms at max unless you had the money to afford a couple extra square feet. The Governor's income was good for her and her father so they could afford something upscale, though they hardly used it. They had no reason to with just the two of them and the Jones' next door. Instead they stashed the money away, giving the workers in the center's kiosk some extra change to get by.
Pulling off the main road, Santana took to the dirt, circling the Town around the edges with brief glimpses between houses at the town's Center always bustling and moving with people in the mid-westernesque set up.
The trunk of the car rattled as she drove over the rock, music not loud enough to be heard over the racket. Most of the roads weren't made for cars since most people didn't have them. Bicycles, yes. Bikes were the best way to navigate and the cheapest to purchase. Motorbikes were for those who had enough money or bargaining to get the parts and get one fixed up, and only the wealthiest of them all had cars.
Dust bellowed up, thick and strangling. Santana fished for the bandana around her neck, pulling it up so it covered her nose and mouth to filter out most of the air. She laid on the gas pedal, pulling around to the furthest back port that would lead her right up to the Governor's Precinct.
By the time she arrived, Santana's throat burned and her tongue tasted of the earth. She idled the car along with the others in the lot. Only the Governor had a lot and in it was an array vehicles issued out to only those who worked for her. They were made to return them to the lot every night, giving their keys to the Watch Guard and could pick them back up in the morning if needed.
Santana tugged the bandana off her face, panting in dry heat. Her fingers fumbled on the top of her canteen, dry and chapped as she unscrewed it and brought it to her lips. The water went down her throat thick as molasses leaving her lips smacking and tongue heavy.
The Governor's Precinct was the only nice building left. She had gotten the best construction workers and brightest architects to rebuild and remodel the old city hall building into something that resembled a mayor's office in the 1960s. White columns held up an over hanging veranda that had banners of green, blue, and white draping across in contrast with the red brick and brass knobs on the doors.
Wiping her mouth with the back of a hand, she watched the back doors of the Precinct fly open and a set of Guards come down. Santana climbed out of the car, keys jingling on her finger.
"Welcome back," said the first guard, his face hidden in the tint of pure black sunglasses.
Santana rolled her eyes away from the crooked smirk that broke out across his lips. "Shits in the back, Smythe. Take your keys," the key rings jingled as she tossed it into his chest. Sebastian caught them at the last second in his fingerless, gloved hand. "I'm headed home,"
"Wait up, Ho-pez," Sebastian threw the keys to the other guard and tugged off his beret. Sweaty, brown hair flopped onto his forehead. "The Governor's been waiting days for you to get back. Wouldn't want her to wait another when she's dying to see you."
"I'm sorry, I couldn't understand you through all the cock-" she cleared her throat, goggles peeling off her eyes and dangling off her neck. "-y."
His smirk only drew back more, crooked back teeth shining all nice and pearly white. Santana only saw those kind of Colgate beauties on the people in the force. Toothpaste was just as hard if not harder to come across than soap nowadays. And, hell, did it suck at first.
"Governor told Hudson to radio in when you got back," he drawled, turning around and signaling for her to follow with the twitch of two fingers. Santana fought back the urge to snap them backwards. "She's been waiting for you,"
"Hell if I know," he sighed long and hard as if it was throwaway information. Reaching into his cargo pants, Sebastian pulled a radio, bringing it to his mouth and pushed on a button to speak. "Got a haul in. Lopez's," his lips curved back as his eyes racked over Santana, eyes narrowed and corners tugged. "It's gonna be a good one."
The radio crackled and out burst a, "copy that," before the line went dead and he tucked the radio away.
Santana sighed in annoyance. "What's going on?"
Sebastian shrugged, eyes squinting against the sun, looking out at the lot from where they stood at the top of the steps leading to the back doors. A pick up truck came driving around to Santana's convertible. The guys jumped out, helping the other Guard move the cases from Santana's back seat into the truck's bed.
"Not for me to know,"
"You seem to already know so much,"
"I hear things," he turned to her, beret slipping back over his messy hair. "She's waiting," his back turned and Santana shoved his shoulder before grabbing the handle and yanking the door open to a gust of chilly air.
It was hardly even that cold, but It was enough to raise goosebumps on Santana's arms and make the drops of sweat on the back of her neck feel as if they had turned to ice.
A Guard waited just inside the door, green eyes flashing to Santana for a second before turning back forward. A long corridor led her into the main lobby where she padded across the sleek hardwood floor to the secretary desk that awaited her in the middle of the room.
It was only by the woman's red hair that she reminded Santana of her old neighbor Miss Pillsbury. Last she heard of her, Emma was locked in a ward unable to take the aftermath of the Quakes. Too much dust and too much heat and too much infection drove her mad.
"Name," the crusty old woman sounded off not even looking up. Santana leaned enough over the counter to see what held attention because there was no computer or phone at the desk. Santana supposed a makeshift crossword was excuse enough for such a heavy distraction.
"Lopez, Santana," she sounded off.
The woman glanced up only a second before she grumbled, "go on back," and started to scribble in a word.
Santana turned and headed down the hall on the right. The Precinct was the place everything of the three branches of government was done. Had she gone down the hall to the left, one of the doors would've filtered into a courtroom with an interrogation room right beside it. On Santana's current left and right were offices for the Lead Enforcers and the Head of Guards.
At the very end of the hall was the Governor's suite. A row of chairs lined either side of the hall. Santana walked up slowly, arms crossing over her chest as she eyed the Guard standing at post right outside the Governor's door. Both pairs of brown eyes locked for a millisecond too long. Santana was only glad she hadn't been the first to turn away and falter to a Rachel Berry.
"Of course," Santana mumbled, falling into a chair that kept at least three between her and Rachel.
She wore the typical Guard wardrobe: a pair of fatigue cargos weighed down by a gun belt and a black shirt. The toes of her black boots were shiny and the gold stars that studded her beret were just as sparkling. Her hands remained behind her back, head straightforward and chin tilted the slightest bit upward. Of course Rachel Berry had the best military stance for a group that was less than what the military use to be in the First Days.
"You say it as if you weren't aware that I do work and live here," said Rachel, voice dull from nonuse.
Santana slumped back in the wooden chair, legs thrown out in front of her and crossed at the ankles. She kept her eyes fixed on the dried mud caked on her own boots. "There are other Guards,"
"Well, as you should know," Rachel cleared her throat. "The Governor does find pleasure in causing discomfort for everyone."
Santana shifted her eyes to the corner where she saw Rachel standing as still as a board. Only her lashes fluttered as she blinked and her chest rose and fell as she breathed. "I'm aware,"
Rachel's jaw tightened at her tone. A tone of disgust and bitterness that was so harsh against the breath of a whisper Rachel said, "Santana, don't,"
"Don't what?" she snapped, fingers digging on the inside of her blazer. "How about telling your boyfriend to don't."
That was enough to get Rachel to break character and snap her neck in Santana's direction. Her wide eyes followed the hand out of her blazer and the white paper between her fingers. "Excuse me?"
"Merry Christmas," the letter flitted through the air at the flick of Santana's wrist, landing halfway between the two. Rachel stared down at it. "Well, pick it up. It's not going to read itself,"
"What is it?" she took a stiff step forward.
"A letter," Santana deadpanned. "Honestly, Berry, you use to be so smart. What happened, Hudson fuck the brains out of you?"
She saw the anger snake down Rachel's back making it rigid. Her knees popped on the way back up with her paper between her fingers. Deep brown eyes found Santana's nearly black ones and locked on. She tried not to shift in her seat, but she did and it would've given her away if Rachel weren't so focused on boring into Santana as intensely as she was.
Rachel's jaw set and her tongue spat out, "Finn is not my boyfriend,"
"Then what's with the love letters?"
Taken aback, Rachel stood up straight, letter held out in front of her like it was riddled with disease like those envelops of chemical warfare that terrorist would use during the First Days. "Did you read it?"
"Didn't have to," she shrugged, running a hand through the low, side ponytail that draped over her shoulder. She couldn't wait to get home and take a proper bath to wash the filth out of it.
"Santana, I don't think it's-"
"Santana," the voice came through the tall, wooden door in volume less than a whisper.
It shut Rachel up and had her standing stock still beside the door yet again with the letter tucked away. It had Santana instantly on her feet and clutching the knob to let herself in and shut the door of the Governor's office behind her.
She looked nowhere else but to the woman behind the large, mahogany desk in the center of the room. Santana wasn't sure she'd ever really gotten a good look at the office because she never focused on anything but the Governor. What she did know was that her desk was a large, crescent shape with a leather chair behind it. A plane of glass made a window behind her so the sun lit up the room, framing the Governor in an angelic glow that made her chestnut hair sparkle.
To the walls on her left and right were bookshelves of dusty, old, worn and cracked books. Some books of which Santana had brought in on a haul herself. They were the hardest things to keep during the Quakes. Books provided paper and paper provided fires heat and light and even cushion stuffed inside a pillowcase. But it were books that made the Town of Lima begin to rebuild. The words on the pages gave them hope and gave beauty and elegance to the Governor's speeches that helped others follow her and support her. It helped them survive.
"Santana," the Governor said her name like a breath of fresh air. It made Santana feel cold instead of warm and the grin that peeked from behind her pink lips on made that shiver down her spine all the more chilling. "Welcome back,"
"Thank you, Governor," she spoke precisely, hands held clasped in front of her.
Santana did a mental run down of the state of dress she was in: dusty tight jeans with rips all up and down them only blacked out by a pair of tights underneath. Her gray tank top was a disgusting, sweaty mess and the cutoff, sleeveless blazer had dried up mud discoloring the deep, forest green tones. Her boots, laced up to mid-calf were worn out, scuffed, and most likely tracked flakes of dirt onto the hardwood.
It was an unacceptable appearance to present before the Governor. Santana could only guess how ragged and frizzy her hair looked, or how dry her arms, tanned even more than the sun were. She pushed those things aside. It was the Governor who called her in right after an assignment. She should've been expecting the least from Santana.
"Three days is a long assignment," she continued, hands folding beneath her chin where it rested just beside a ring on her finger. "But I knew you would deliver."
"I did my best,"
"Yes, I'm certain you did," a hand slipped out from under her chin and motioned towards the straight back, leather chair on the opposite side of the desk. Santana needed no words to know she was supposed to sit. "Were you good on fuel?"
Santana nodded, her rear sliding on the glossy seat. She was sure it would've been comfortable had she not been tense. "I had one gas can left,"
The Governor smiled at that and brought her hands down to fold on her desk. "Were you and my daughter playing nice out there?" Santana stiffened, her eyes widening for a split second. It only made her wind up more at the toothy grin the Governor gave. "Well?"
"As nice as any two bitches," Santana croaked.
The Governor laughed a throaty tone that Santana wasn't sure if it was humor or tolerating. "You didn't get blood on my hardwood did you?"
"Ma'am?" She repeated. Santana stayed quiet. She always referred to the Governor as ma'am. It was what she made everyone refer to her as. Anything less than that was punishable. "You've been working for me for so long, Santana. Wouldn't you consider us…friends?"
Santana blinked, teeth biting the inside of her lip a moment before she responded, "Colleagues, maybe,"
An eyebrow rose up, lips pursed. "So my equal?"
"No," Santana stammered. "I never- no ma'am-"
"Miss Corcoran," she chuckled.
"-No Miss…Corcoran," Santana tried it in her mouth. It felt so wrong, but if she insisted, "friends is fine,"
"Friends is good," she stressed and Santana nodded to the flit of a laugh the woman gave, eyeing the nameplate on the desk that read Shelby Corcoran in embossed, black letters. It was a wonder she hadn't ever read it before. "Would you like a drink?" she asked, back leaning into the leather cushion of her chair. "As friends of course,"
"Of course. I mean, yes. Yes, thank you."
Shelby stood up fluidly out of her seat. Her fingers tugged at the base of her pencil skirt that had risen up higher than half up her thighs. Santana forced herself not to stare at the toned plane of skin presented to her and the way it spilled out from under navy fabric in a pair of smooth legs tensed from a pair of apple red heels.
Her eyes shot up at the clink of a glass on glass. Warm, brown liquid filled two glasses that were picked up delicately in Shelby's fingers and brought back to the desk. She sat one down in front of Santana while she herself leaned against the edge of the desk in front of her so Santana's line of sight was at the bunch of crisp, white button shirt tucked at the button of her skirt. Santana picked up the glass and sipped before she was accused of staring for too long. Not that she was. No, she never did. You never stared for too long. Not at the Governor and not anyone else.
"You're fidgety today," Shelby commented, lifting the glass to her lips. She sipped, barely taking any in so it didn't spot on her lipstick red lips.
Santana swallowed the burning alcohol quickly, almost choking at how strong the heat was in her throat. She hadn't tasted something like that in so long. Everything brewed at the center's bar was so diluted one could hardly get a buzz off it unless you drank the entire bottle.
She cleared her throat, wincing. "Lack of sleep,"
"You were working hard," Shelby assumed, lip slightly pouting. It was such a strange thing to see any form of sympathy present on the Governor. "You always do. I know I can count on your haul."
Santana bit the inside of her cheek to hold back her grin. "I try not to disappoint,"
Perfect white teeth peeked from Shelby's pouty lips as she smiled and raised up her glass towards Santana. "And you never do," Santana lifted her own allowing Shelby to clink them together and followed suit in drinking it down. It hurt less the second time.
Her eyes stayed on Shelby all the while she pushed off the desk and rounded it in clicking heels to sit in her leather chair again. The cushion groaned as she lowered into it and rolled forward so her stomach just touched the wood of the desk's curve. Delicate, yet powerful hands folded together, each finger falling into place one right after the other. Santana examined the black polish that coated her nails. Where had she gotten polish?
"Yes ma'am," She sounded off in reflex then paled. Shelby only smiled briefly before her face molded into the seriousness Santana was use to. Her eyes turned dark boring right into Santana's so she had nothing else to focus on but them.
"I need you to scavenge for me again,"
Santana nodded. She had heard it many times. The assignments came through General Schuester, the Head of Guards, in envelopes delivered by the Letter Runners. They had two days to either send in a plea of decline with sufficient reason or accept it and report to the Precinct for further instruction. Anything that came from the Governor herself, in her office, over some brandy was…not heard of.
Santana placed down her glass, cringing at the sound of it hitting the wood. "Where?"
"That's the thing. I don't know where," Shelby paused, allowing it to sink in. Santana's eyes narrowed in confusion, watching Shelby raise her folded hands to rest beneath her chin. Her voice grew softer. "I need you to find someone for me,"
"You want me to scavenge for a person?"
"Aren't you smart,"
Santana could taste her condescending sarcasm. "Who?"
A second passed where Shelby didn't move. She just stared, eyes blinking from one of Santana's to the other. They narrowed, probing her as if waiting for Santana to step out now, give her plea of decline and walk out of her office. But she didn't and Shelby slid backwards in her chair with a set of jingling keys in hand and unlocked what must've been a drawer. All Santana heard was something slide, the shuffle of papers, another slide and the sound of a lock.
In Shelby's hand she held a file envelope. Wrinkles ran all up down the manila paper, water stained in some places, and creased in others. It looked old like something recovered from the rubble of an old town. It sat on the desk between them, offset by a pen underneath that gave it a tilt. Santana looked from Shelby who was watching her down to the envelope. There were no words, no labels, and no markings. Just an envelope a half inch think of-
"Stop," Shelby snapped.
Santana quickly withdrew her hand from taking it up. She sat back, hands clasped in front of her and eyes wide. Everyone had said the Governor's bark was worse than her bite. For some reason Santana felt they were both equally as lethal.
"By opening that envelope, Santana, you are saying that you accept the assignment."
"Should I not?"
The laugh that filled the room made Santana's already dry throat prick with needles. "It is up to you, but you should know that this assignment won't be easy. I'm only offering you the opportunity because you're not only reliable but you are also loyal."
"What-whoever it is, Miss Corcoran, I'll bring them back,"
"It won't be that easy,"
"Who is it?"
Shelby paused again, lifting her neglected glass to her mouth to sip down the last bits of brandy. Keen eyes never once dropped away from Santana's. "I'll tell you this, Santana, you take this envelope home. You open it, and say you want to take this on you come back to me. However you open it and decline…well," Shelby smirked something not at all jovial. "We'll figure out some alternative."
"This is my job,"
"And for this one you will be given an escort," Shelby tapped her finger to her lips a few times. "One of the Guards – Rachel – will go with you."
"Rachel?" she scooted forward, hands clutching the edge of the desk. Not Rachel. Anyone but Rachel. "Miss Corcoran, I-"
"This isn't an option, Santana. I have faith in my…daughter," she wavered, "just as much as I do you. She all but needs to make sure you stay alive and if there's any one of these idiots I'd send out there with you it would be her."
Santana's brow furrowed, grip on the desk loosening. "You doubt that I'll live?"
"I don't, no. If anyone, Santana, you're the one I'm sure will return with the haul alive. You possess the…skill unlike the others,"
Sighing, Shelby rose up to go for the brandy. She poured herself another glass. "Take it or not, Lopez, but you have a week. I will give you a week to regroup, take a rest, and gather your things." She crossed to Santana, sitting on the edge of the desk once again. This time it made Santana feel claustrophobic. "I can't tell you how long this will take so I will provide you with enough supplies to get you by, in the event you use your resources wisely, at least four months."
"Four months?" Santana counted the hours, the days, the weeks that took. She never had to do anything for longer than a week. Four months was- "Ma'am, I've never-"
"Excuse me?" she hissed.
"Miss Corcoran," Santana dropped her eyes to the ground. "Sorry, I-"
A hand, chilled from the brandy, grabbed Santana's chin, tilting her head back up to look into deep brown eyes. "Will do this or you can find a new town, a new Governor, and a new life because if you refuse you won't have a life left here."
Santana swallowed. "Okay,"
Shelby grinned, letting her chin go. "I knew you'd be willing,"
Till next chapter