Just a note before you begin reading/rereading:

See Chapter 24 for an announcement about this fic, which now exists in book form as well :)

It's one of the sad ironies of life that there is a lot of truth in all those old clich├ęd bits of advice your mother gave you when you were little. Things like 'be careful what you wish for.'

When I was young, my goal in life was simple. I wanted to be famous. I wanted people to know my name and love me. Like that would somehow convince me that I was loveable or even worthwhile. I can say now, after countless hours of therapy, that part of what I wanted was also acknowledgment and attention from my parents.

But as with all really good karma, I wished so hard that people would notice me that I forgot, or didn't realize until it was too late, that it's much more important to really be seen. Seen for who and what you are on the inside instead of some manufactured image sold to the breathless throngs of people looking for an escape every bit as much as you are. I guess it's a symbiotic relationship. I need the attention, they need a focus for their collective insanity.

The shit ton of money I make helps, too.

On the other hand, it's also an unfortunate truth that the more attention you have from a mass of people, the less you seem to have in private. Hell, I don't feel like I even have a private life anymore.

Maybe it would be easier if I was straight. Or mildly bi enough to be able to have some sort of fulfilling relationship with a guy. Then I could have at least a band-aid for the loneliness. Because despite the fact that my manager could literally walk around with a flashing neon "Gay Gay Gay" sign over his head, he and the rest of my PR team would have a collective apoplexy at the suggestion of me being allowed to openly have a girlfriend.

I've had a couple of not-so-open girlfriends, but that never seems to last long. The already strict constraints on my time and my carefully crafted public image leave me with nothing to offer someone but, well, me. I can lavish presents in private and Rock her Casbah all night long, but I have to be someone different in the daylight. And as shocking as it sounds, that hasn't exactly been a good formula for a stable love life.

I used to hate every second of it, to drink myself into oblivion and have random drunken hookups that left my team scrambling to cover up. But I've gotten older and calmed down at least enough to accept the bed I've made for myself, no matter how cold and lonely it gets between the sheets. Maybe it was the Grammys. Winning three in a single night gave me an overload of acceptance and acknowledgement and I'll probably ride the high of that for at least a little while. My achingly single existence has proven to be far too interesting for the press, especially given my "stratospheric climb to success", and even the random fake boyfriends haven't done much to throw them off the scent.

So, on nights like this, I find that all I have are the few friends I have managed to keep from my childhood and the people I know I can trust if only because their livelihoods depend on me and my image as well. My Grammys are pretty enough, but not so good with conversation. And I'm sure they would be completely useless in bed. Though I did have a sex dream about them once that was particularly disturbing.

Rachel sips from her wineglass and admires them openly, even as she makes sure I know that the Tony Award she's going to be nominated for any day now will mean more than every Grammy I could ever win combined. I toast to that, because it's easier than arguing, and because I know that if I were in her position, I'd probably feel the need to say the same thing.

That's the funny thing about the two of us. We hated each other in high school. Like, straight up loathing. And it wasn't until our final year together, when we had both grown enough to not feel threatened by each other's talent, that we came to understand how sickeningly alike we were. Even now, I know for a certainty that there's no one in the world who understands me better than this obnoxious, annoying little woman. I try my best not to think about what that says about me.

So as we drown our sorrows in obscenely expensive champagne, to celebrate the workshop she's gotten which she is absolutely certain will eventually land her on Broadway, the subject of my pathetically lonely existence eventually comes up, as it always does.

Rachel has her own problems in the bedroom. The biggest one being the huge, trollish oaf that has been planted there since she was a sophomore. She swears that she loves him, even though I think she is still far more in love with the idea of him than the actual reality. And at times he seems to love her, even though I don't think he has ever gotten over some resentment and envy of her talent. At the moment, he's drumming for a moderately successful cover band, that he would never admit owes much of their success to the gigs Rachel and I send their way. We mutually decided long ago that he could never be in my own band, because the two of us in that close of proximity just never leads to good things. It might be because I took his virginity, which both of us sincerely regretted pretty much before it was even over with (and that's saying something considering how quickly it actually was over with). It might be because he represented a lot of things I had some serious issues with at the time. At least the teasing is good natured these days. Mostly.

He's actually a good drummer. Creative, competent, but nothing that could touch the talent Rachel has in one little finger. He loves her for who she is, and I think hates her sometimes for the same reason. It makes him feel special that she would choose him, even now, and they both cling to that like a bad addiction neither one of them seems willing to try and shake.

And okay, so maybe I'm a little jaded where matters of the heart are concerned, but the two of them don't exactly inspire me to reach out and take a chance on love the way Rachel always insists I will have to someday.

When she tells me this again tonight, I roll my eyes and reply sullenly, "All I want is to get laid. Is that really too much to ask? Does everything have to come at some ridiculous price?"

Rachel takes another sip, burps rather obnoxiously, and starts giggling. "Well, you know, if price wasn't an object, I'm sure you could find someone."

I groan and fall back on the soft leather couch that I bought just to annoy my staunchly vegan friend.

"That's just not funny, Rachel."

"Well, but I mean, why not?" She sits up, her eyes hazy and giggles still erupt randomly. "I mean, if you want a warm body, even a hot one, it's not like you're in the wrong place for that. I'm sure there are plenty of gorgeous women out there who would be more than willing to take you up on that."

"If I paid them." I say flatly, and she's too drunk to catch the dangerous glint in my voice.

"Well, I mean, yeah. It's not like you're not capable of attracting girls on your own Santana. I mean, I know there are literally thousands of girls that would probably do bodily harm to themselves for the privilege of sleeping with you. But what you want, or need I guess, is someone you can trust. Someone who is discreet. Someone who would be willing to satisfy your carnal desires," her voice is rising slightly, caught up in the passionate monologue so I can only sigh and wait for a her to finish and start supplying her imaginary applause, "and still understand that you have a career that defines your public persona. Go find yourself a Pretty Woman out there somewhere and turn her world upside down."

I shake my head, gulping down the rest of the bubbling amber liquid in my glass. "You know, that might be the most ridiculously offensive thing you have ever said to me. And that's really saying something."

"While that may be true, it doesn't mean I'm not right." She gets up, stumbling a little as she walks over to me. "If there's one thing this business has taught us both, it's that everything has a price. At least this way, you'll know what it is up front. I remember hearing somewhere that you're not really paying for someone sleeping with you. You're paying so they will leave whenever you tell them to. Or something like that." I frown, reluctantly seeing the logic in her argument. "And you know, you might even be able to write it off!" She gasps with far too much excitement. I can tell she's already casting the movie version of this story in her mind and nothing I say will dissuade her. I call down for my driver and make sure he pours her into the limo. Finn can have fun cleaning up the mess she will be in a little while. The price she'll pay for drinking to excess. A part of me knows that she suggested this as a part of the twisted jealousy and respect the two of us have for each other. We both know the one thing she has, and I don't, is a relationship.

Sometimes I even think part of the reason she clings to him so desperately is to remind herself of the one aspect of her life that she has always been able to be more successful than I have, even as my professional success has by far eclipsed hers, so far anyway. And to get me to do something like this, to make a mockery out of my love life would give her the chance to feel smugly superior every time she thinks about it. Every time Finn drives her crazy and makes her want to run screaming, she can remind herself that at least she has someone who chose to be with her, who she didn't have to pay for his time.

I feel myself sobering far too quickly, as I move over to the large window overlooking Central Park and all the tiny figures milling around below in the busy city. I consider again moving to L.A., finding a place with some isolation and privacy. Maybe a relationship would be easier to find out there.

Of course, all I'm likely to find anywhere is someone who is interested in me because of my fame, my image. I mean, yeah, I wanted to be famous. I didn't realize it meant that no one would want to get to know the real me anymore. So what would the difference really be? At least this way I would know where we stood from the beginning. A decision to use someone for her body while she uses me for my wealth is probably what I would wind up with regardless.

I spend a sleepless night that is going to give my makeup lady fits thinking it over. When I place the call to Kurt, he spends fifteen minutes telling me I'm crazy before he reluctantly agrees to start making some discreet phone calls. I have already begun to get an idea in my head of what I want, what kind of arrangement would work the best for me, and it's about that time that I realize I have already made up my mind to do it.

It's four days later when I get a phone call from a very blunt woman named Sue, who begins the conversation with, "Listen sister, I want you to know that I am the best and I offer the best. You'll pay dearly for it, and it'll be worth every penny. I have only best girls, or boys, whichever you are into. And so long as you aren't some kind of complete freak, I think we can do business."

I don't even know how to respond to any of that, so I clear my throat and begin my own side of the conversation very simply. "I want to choose." I say quietly, feeling my cheeks burning in a way they haven't since the first time I was ever naked with a girl.

"Excuse me?"

"I don't just want you to just try to e-harmony me and decide who shows up. I'd like a chance to meet some of the ladies who might be interested in.. um.. working with me, and see if there's anyone I might be interested in as well."

Sue cleared her throat. "I'm afraid that's highly unusual Ms. Lopez."

I pout slightly, only because she can't see me. I want to ask why not, but I'm afraid it's going to sound too much like admitting that everything I know about prostitution, I learned from watching Cathouse. Instead I go for cool and aloof, though I doubt she buys it. "I don't care. Make it happen and contact my manager with the details."

"You're talking about monopolizing my girls for an entire evening. Our time isn't free."

I chuckle softly, "I didn't expect it to be."

She seems taken aback by my reaction and stumbles a little bit, I smile wryly. There's nothing like having lots of money to throw around to help you make new friends.

"Well, okay then. I'll need you to let me know exactly what you're interested in, then."

I sigh, leaning back in my chair and staring at the ceiling thoughtfully. "I'd like someone in my general age range. Fit, or at least athletic. And.. um.. female, obviously."

"Top or bottom?" She asks, as I hear what sounds like tapping on a keyboard. I frown at the question.

"I'm not really into either one exclusively."


I shift uncomfortably, suddenly feeling even more like the two of us are conspiring to barter for human beings.

"Look, I don't care that much about any of that."

"Oh, come on, everyone cares whether they admit it or not Ms. Lopez. Let's not beat around the bush here, I'll leave that to you and the lucky lady of your choosing. Look, tell you what, I'll send your manager a group of photos and you can decide who you would like to have added this little cattle auction you've got planned, keeping in mind that the amount of money it will cost you will depend on how many girls you want to be able to choose from."

"That sounds fair, Ms. Sylvester." I say, trying not to imagine the shit Kurt is going to give me for this.

In fact, he gives me very little shit. Instead, what I get was profound disapproval and disappointment. In a way I guess that is worse, but at this point I have made up my mind and do my best to shut everything else out. I haven't had so much as a date, let alone a hook-up, in almost a year. I try to explain that to him and he winds up putting his fingers in his ears and humming loudly, saying he doesn't want to hear anything about it.

The next day I get an e-mail from him labeled 'Shopping List'. Inside are almost two dozen pictures of girls. I click through them all quickly the first time, then slow down and force myself to go through one by one. Most of them look like professional headshots. I wonder how many of them made these thinking they would be for casting directors instead of clients.

Most of them are pretty, a few are downright beautiful. In the end, I go through staring at their eyes. There are a couple in particular that stand out. A blonde with electric blue eyes, a brunette with an impish smile, a girl with almost black hair who looks kind of rough and wild. In the end I pick out six of them, in my own mind thinking of it like a dating site, or casting a part. Some of them I already know I probably won't choose, but only choosing two or three might make it seem like I'm angling for a group thing or something and that's not what I'm looking for.

I have Kurt arrange a little informal party, buying out the VIP lounge in La Pomme and grumbling the whole time about how much this little evening is going to cost me. I tell him to think of it as an expensive early birthday party and present for myself. He huffs and then does it anyway.