By the time that Wednesday rolls around, your week has pressed upon you an ever-growing list of constant concerns. You have, according to Holly's secretary, umpteen numbers of messages from one Rachel Berry insisting that she needs to talk to you about the upcoming Fondue for Two special; you have Quinn constantly circling your thoughts with her smiles and her wiles and her every word made to be measured. And you have Santana. Or, you haven't had Santana since yesterday morning, and her absence is causing an ache.
It's a different ache to the one which sent you off towards madness on Monday; then you were flailing about in a headspace of too many mixed emotions, and you were drowning under doubts not encountered before. She loves you, though. She told you she loves you. And now it's a different kind of ache. It's like… a settled sentiment, maybe; because with her words went your worries and your woes, yet, with her words came this whole new level of wanting. Like, wow, just…
It's the only way to honor the intensity of her moving inside you while those three words traced the space by your ears. It's not anything you could have imagined, or anything you really have a vocabulary to describe. You just ache again for that feeling. You crave that feeling. Like a promise inside that relishes the thought of constant renewal, you want to tell her again that you love her. You want to hear again that she loves you. Over and over until you catch up on eternity; until you're sweat drenched and soul spent and spread out beneath her, and everything within you knows where it belongs.
Because you belong to Santana.
Your heart is certain of that fact.
And it's a fact that pushes the happy up high onto your lips.
It doesn't matter that you're filled full with this unchecked longing, it doesn't matter that you've started counting the hours between the times that her eyes on are on you so that the hours stretch out like days before you, it doesn't even matter that every task filling those hours has become like a banality you're beyond bored with; you still just smile for your thoughts of Santana.
She's still the light behind your eyes that shines for all to see.
Sam commented on it, of course, this morning. He made easy jokes again about how you're back to being lit up brighter than a Christmas carnival, but to you it feels like more than that; you feel like you're the sun at the center of the solar system, or the spark behind the big bang that birthed a billion stars. That's how big this feeling is.
That's how powerful you feel. Like, anything is possible because of your love for Santana.
It's a thought that makes you wistful with the happiest kind of sigh. It makes you lift your phone and scroll again through the morning messages you exchanged with her. The ones that say she misses you, the ones that say her day's another doom-filled fest of abuela influenced activities, to the ones that say how none of that matters.
Tonight she's yours.
And you think, or you don't. You stare off into that space where tonight is already now, and you forget entirely the focus you're supposed to be paying to what's going on around you.
Today is an important day. You're sure of it; or Holly said to you this morning;
"Important day today, Britts! Eyes on the prize, okay, Chica?"
And sure, you nodded, and sure you flashed another glimpse of your solar-powered smile, but you're not a hundred percent sure what the prize could be beyond the prize of seeing Santana tonight. Today for you is quite routine; whenever you're due a new guest on Fondue, you arrange a day before the filming where they can visit and familiarize themselves with the set and the way you work. Today you have Quinn visiting before lunch time, and then you have Rachel and Team Chang coming in this afternoon.
Out of the two, neither seems particularly prize worthy.
You think maybe it would've been something worth keeping your eyes on had Santana been due to stand by Quinn's side, yet you know that won't be so. Even though they're back resting as friends, even though Santana has filled you in on the strained time they've spent together over the last couple of days, she assured you quite sincerely that she's not about to be drawn back into the fray;
"No way I'm getting up in her and Berry's business anymore. I'm done with it all, Brittany. So done."
And you believe her.
You spoke a lot about Quinn before Santana left you yesterday morning. You spoke about the way she might be playing you all, and you spoke about the way that you and Santana are going to play it with her. You didn't speak at all about Rachel.
Like, it's not a subject that turns her eyes dark or desperate anymore, nor does it makes that muscle in her jaw grind tight on the tension, but she still isn't easy when she talks about Rachel, and she changes the subject fast when it's one that you bring it up. You suspect that on the inside it's a subject that's still set on confusing her though, because when she buried her own self deep down inside, she buried all her memories and her feelings and her happy times in the Berry household…
Now she's resurrected the places where those memories reside, and you imagine all the ways that the past is clashing with the present, and how the good must be swirling about with the bad, and,
You believe that she wants well away from the battleground.
You just hope that the battleground stays well away from her.
And maybe that's a thought that makes you sigh something other than the happy kind. You just feel like you want to protect her. You just want to wrap her up and keep her safe and not let any of the world's worries come close enough to hurt her.
You still recognize her fragility. You'd still fight to the death to preserve it.
It's an idea which circles you back towards your Quinn thoughts, and to the day you have ahead, and to all the different ways you want to work her out so as you can judge the level of threat she currently bears towards Santana. Like, sometimes you think none at all really… That the majority of the fear lives large in Santana's mind, but not too far beyond it.
But then, it's Quinn. And you've seen Quinn in action. And you've heard all of the tales.
And you really want to work her out.
Like, aside from Santana, you really do think it's become your main focus. And when you focus, when you decide you really want something, well…
You're Brittany S Pierce. You make shit happen.
First of all, though, you make Quinn comfortable.
You don't measure her presence as soon as she arrives on set; you don't spare her the same glances you've been assailing her with over the last few days. You quiet down your suspicions. You greet her as if you're just that small town girl come to LA to make good.
And she lets you.
Like, at first you can see her peering a little closer, and she wastes no time in passing comment on just how much you appear to be smiling, like;
"Did someone win the state lotto last night, or are you particularly pleased to see me today, Brittany?"
You laugh like it's the best joke ever, you link your arm through hers, and you start speaking fast as you tell her sure, seeing her has you all hyped up, because you're so hyped up for the upcoming show. And she lets you lead her easily. You take her first to the area that holds your makeshift bed and is mocked up to look exactly the same as your bedroom back in Ohio. You talk her through the way that you normally set up a show, you tell her how long it usually takes from start to finish, and you explain again the way you see the show going.
You'll start with both performances, then you'll have bed-time with Lord Tubbington and a chance to talk up the importance of voting, and then Lord T will choose a winner from the song contest, and you'll close out with a joint performance of America the Beautiful.
As a schedule it's one that you're happy with and it's one that's met with Holly's approval, yet the way that Quinn looks at you now, gives you pause for a moment, and – small town girl aside, it's a moment that you want to examine. You sit yourself down on the bed; you pat the space by your side in a show of shared camaraderie, and you ask her the obvious, you ask her what's up? There's no obvious answer forthcoming though, and she waits you through a silent beat of ten before she fills the space at your side.
And then she sighs. Not forlorn, not overblown and dipped in drama, she just sighs.
And you ask again what's up. You say; "Seriously, Quinn; if there's a problem with the way we've set up the show, you should probably say now. Like, Holly's cool and all, so we can change things up if…"
Yet she shakes her head no and ceases your words. She casts her eyes around as if to check that what she says will be for your ears only, and then she tells you;
"I just don't want to look like a fool."
And you pause.
You turn a little in the spot you're seated, and you glance long and hard at her profile. You note the knot that's twisting her eyebrows down into a frown, and you ask her to elaborate, because, "It's a fun show," you tell her, "the aim isn't to make anyone look foolish."
"I'm not talking about the show."
"I just think the reality of having to sing next to Rachel Berry has finally hit me."
You watch her take in a deep breath, and you watch her shoulders slump the breath back out of her; "And what with Yale and all of my other commitments," she continues on, "I've barely used my voice at all since high school. I know I said this would be fun, but I think with time to think about it, I'm seriously reconsidering that statement now."
She drops her head down and lifts her hands up, and for a minute she's obscured from your view.
You don't know quite what to do; like, in any normal situation, your hand would already be on her shoulder and you'd already be speaking placations to make everything sit someway better with her. As it is though, you consider a long moment all of her previous plays before your hand does lift, and when you settle it on her shoulder she jerks a little, almost as if she's surprised by your touch.
You don't let go, though.
You say hey, you say;
"I'm sure it'll be okay, Quinn, like, it's just Rachel, right? You do remember we're kicking ass in the polls, yeah?"
She looks at you, she nods her head, and you offer more;
"The audience already likes you better; you seriously don't need to worry."
She seeks to sigh and you insist it again. You remind her how close you actually are to winning and you feel her shoulders straightening up beneath your touch.
"You're right," she finally accepts, her voice rising slightly as she speaks. "I just need to focus on the long game; I need to remember the plays. I need…"
She lets her words drift away and you ask; "You need what?"
"…I just need a little Santana," she says.
And your teeth take a bite of your tongue.
Like, you feel fully assured now, you feel like the madness you made in yourself on Monday has been completely swept away, and you're secure in the knowledge of everything Santana. The threat of Quinn no longer scratches at all of your edges. You no longer feel that sudden pang of jealousy when she speaks Santana's name. Only,
You do. A little.
And you bite your tongue. You ignore the way she's watching you now, you ignore the implications of why she might be looking quite so closely at your reaction to her words; you just fashion your face into a smile and you enquire a little further. You dig a little deeper. You say;
"How is Santana?"
And her eyebrow lifts. She shifts in her seat and she angles her body your way.
"Oh, she's wonderful," she replies, her tone reminding you again of that fake sugar substitute. "It's nice to be talking again; I really do hate when we fall out."
"So why exactly did you fall out?" you ask.
She hesitates. She ponders upon you long and hard before she answers;
"I told you before, Santana's the hardest person in the world to care for; she doesn't like people getting too close, and if they do she pushes them away. I got too close, and she pushed too hard; it's nothing we haven't dealt with before."
She smiles high and so do you. You don't refute her words; you don't tell her how wrong she is or how Santana is in fact the easiest person in the world to care for. You just smile, and so does she.
You tell her it's great that they're friends again, and then you ask, your curiosity rising; "But why do you need her? Like, what does Santana have that you need for the long game?"
"For now, Brittany, I just need her to sing with me. If there's anyone that can challenge Rachel when it comes to vocal ability, then that's Santana."
And again you say nothing.
Because supposedly you don't know Santana. You just smile and you nod, and you ask about the likelihood of her wanting to sing on national TV; "That's a pretty big ask, right? Maybe she won't want the spotlight."
"You're probably right," Quinn agrees, her eyes lifting to catch sight of Holly and Sam and a couple of the guys from the stage building crew who are walking their way across the set towards you. It stops her words, and whatever else she was about to say is lost to the moment where she pulls herself up from the bed to find a now common fist-bump with Sam. She exclaims her delight at seeing him, and then she eyes Holly, her gaze going once up and then down, before rising to rest on her face. "Holly Holiday," she proclaims loudly, holding out her hand in greeting, "It's so good to see you again."
"It is?" Holly replies, her face flashing flummoxed. You're a little thrown too; you've never heard Quinn speak with any enthusiasm to meet your boss again, yet she's already kind of fawning, and it's a little freaky to watch. Like, you can actually see the ways she's working it; you see her need to be next to power, to seek out the source in charge and subvert it in her direction. Because she's laying it on really thick. She's telling Holly again how much she's looking forward to the show, and she's asking who really calls the vote for Lord Tubbington, and she says;
"You know the Berry family on a personal level, isn't that right? I'm sure Brittany mentioned to me that was the case."
And you're sure that you didn't. Again you say nothing though; you stand back making notes of the mental kind. You exchange glances with Sam where both of you raise your eyebrows high on your head at the unprompted show of exuberance in front of you, and you wait to see how Holly handles it. She is your mentor and you credit her with as much savvy as anyone you know when it comes to being charming, and you wait to see if she will shoot through Quinn's façade or if she'll fall for the plays of the politicians daughter.
By the look you see appear on her face in response to Quinn's question, you imagine she won't fall for anything. She sizes her up slowly, crossing her arms lightly across her chest, and she gives the smile that only slightly lifts the one side of her mouth. "You're right, Quinn, I do know the Berry's; I'm actually a huge supporter of Hiram, and of his policies. It's kind of refreshing to see an elected official actually care about his constituents and believe in the principles and platform he was elected upon." She takes a moment before continuing, her lips lifting up into an impish grin; "I'm totally looking forward to seeing what he does with his second term in office."
The double thumbs up she gives Quinn is something you're used to seeing often, yet it's Quinn's first time on the receiving end, and you can see the lack of surety in her gaze and the way she seems momentarily stumped for anything else to say. Yet, she does speak again, she still insists on stepping closer to Holly;
"I've never had an issue with Hiram's policies," she says, shrugging her shoulders, "and to be honest, I won't be at all surprised to see him take a second term. It's a liberal climate out here on the west coast, and my father's politics are far from liberal."
"And yours?" Holly asks, her face forming into one of genuine interest.
"Mine? Well, of course I'm supporting my father's bid for office, but…"
You watch as Quinn falters. It's as if she's unable to decide in the instant what part she's playing; you know she wants to impress Holly, yet you know she won't ever give too much away about what she's really thinking, and; "…If I was speaking freely, perhaps, I don't know, I'm not entirely behind all of his policy drives, and…"
She tails off again on her sentence, and you're not surprised when Holly's hand lifts up to rest gentle on her arm; "You can always speak freely here," she says, softening her smile to honest, "you can't help that your last name's Fabray, and if we all agreed with the things our fathers say, I'd still be repeating my final passing out year at that fancy finishing school in Switzerland."
She shrugs once more, and you note the squeeze to Quinn's arm, and it makes you question again who's coming out on top here. Like, Holly is in control and she's definitely just placed Quinn in her pocket, yet… You also see the look that Holly has bestowed upon Quinn, and it's the same look she gives you sometimes; the one a guru might give a new student, someone they wish to teach, or someone they want to take under their wing, perhaps. You can't help but wonder if Quinn isn't still in control here after all.
You rest by Sam's side, yet you don't make any comment. You still just watch. You listen to the way the conversation carries on down the route of politics you don't much care for, and it's only when Holly mentions the upcoming show on Monday that you do anything other than follow their facial expressions and makes guesses at honesty. You clear your focus; you listen to their words;
"So talk song picks to me," Holly is saying, "I loved your spot on the top ten show; I bet you have something really great lined up for us here."
And once more you watch Quinn falter. Her eyes flick across to you and you raise your eyebrow in response; the last you heard from Quinn, she was still working on it. You assumed she would've worked on it a little bit by now, but the look she's giving you changes up those assumptions.
"Actually," she briefly stutters, turning her attention back to Holly, "I haven't managed to settle on a final choice just yet. I've been busy with the campaigning, and, I just—"
"That won't do, Sweets" Holly interrupts, her expression back to business, "we need to finalize the set list for the band as soon as possible; what's the hold up?"
You imagine it's the not wanting to look like a fool next to Rachel that's got a grip on Quinn's lacking selection. She doesn't say that though; she turns her gaze back to you, and you can't help but lift your shoulders in a barely there shrug of not having an answer.
Again Holly steps in to speak;
"Can't you help her out, Britt?"
And me you say, because sure, it would make sense that you would help her, it really would, yet the thought hadn't crossed your mind in amongst everything else. Quinn is quick to capture the idea though; you see the smile forming Cheshire like across her lips, the little light of enterprise sparking fast behind her eyes.
"Another great idea!" she beams across at Holly. "If Brittany doesn't have plans later, perhaps we can meet this evening and work something out. I really think it'd help me narrow it down…"
And, "Sure," you manage to mumble, "I guess we can do that."
Because there's not much else you can say when everyone is eyeing you the way they are.
You smile. You don't think about the plans you already had made for this evening. You don't think how it is that Quinn always seems to be the one stealing away your promises of perfection.
You just smile and you say sure, again. And on the inside you let out a sigh.
It's a similar sigh you let out into the phone when you speak to Santana.
You wait for your lunch break and you seek out a silent corner, and when she answers your call all Hi with the happy, you can't help but sigh in response. You can't help but start the conversation with a brusque and bitter, "Quinn's an ass. I mean it San; an absolute ass."
"She is," you assure her. And then you tell her how your perfect plans for a perfect evening have been broken again due to Quinn. You tell her how unhappy you are with the change in circumstance, and then you wait for her to heap her own sighs of agreement atop your ever growing pile. She doesn't though.
"It's not all bad," she insists instead, and you ask her to explain herself. "Well, Quinn already asked me to come over tonight to help her with this song choice thing; I was obviously going to tell her no, but I think I may have just changed my mind."
"Wait; you're going to be there too?"
"Why not, right? We can get it over with really quick, and then we can get back to what we already had planned."
Your mind meanders happily towards the things that you had planned, yet it snags hard on the things that come before that; "Are you sure that's a wise idea?" You ask, because really, you're not so sure that it is. You find Quinn almost easy to handle when you handle her on your own, and you handle Santana in the best way when you have her to yourself, but handling them both together...
Your mind trips upon the notion. You say to Santana, "What if she can tell?"
"No way. We'll be careful... we've done it before. Besides, she's all worried about this song choice thing and facing off against Berry. She won't be paying attention to us, Britt. You said yourself, there's a whole lot more going on for her than me."
"But really, San, what if she can? I'm happy to keep 'us' stuff hidden from her, but I really don't know if I can hide how much I want you if you're standing right by my side."
Your voice has slipped to soft, and your words have slipped to sweet, and she answers you the same. She agrees that sure, it's going to be tough to not touch you each time she looks at you, and it'll be tougher to not kiss you whenever she pleases, but; "I can deal with Quinn," she states, her tone still going with the idea of easy, "and once we're done dealing with Quinn, I get to deal with you."
"Deal with me?"
"You know what I mean, Britt."
"I'm not so sure I do; maybe you should break it down a little for me?"
And she does. She tells you exactly the kind of evening she has in store for you. She laments a little on the fact that she hasn't seen you since yesterday, and then she laments even further when she tells you the ways that she's missed you; how much she aches to be inside you again, how she woke this morning wet for you, just longing to feel your touch.
And it buckles you.
Like, your tummy tenses on the sound of her words, and your teeth bite your lip and, again you say, "Are you sure Quinn won't be hit by the obvious?" And again she tells you it'll all be fine, and then she says she'll see you later, and you smile into the phone and you tell her you can't wait…
You're not entirely sure that her reasoning is based upon anything rational. Like, you ache the same as Santana, your whole body – inside and out – craves to break beneath her touch, and you just think, maybe, that perhaps that isn't a display you'll be able to keep particularly quiet.
You think about calling her back, you think that maybe you should insist that it really isn't the best idea; that you should play it as safe as you can and you shouldn't be looking to rock any boats unless you have to. You don't though, you don't have time, because just as you're pulling your phone out of your tight top pocket to make the call, your ears are assaulted by a now all too familiar sound.
It's not a bad sound, just a loud one. Really loud, and really excitable, and,
"Brittany S Pierce!" Rachel announces, flouncing into your space with her own band of happy fanfarers trailing along for the ride. There's Tina to one side, you spot Mike ambling along behind, and to the left of Rachel is a man you're quite sure you haven't seen before.
"You really have no idea how long I've dreamed of this moment," Rachel carries on, beaming up at you with her stretched wide smile. "Don't get me wrong, Broadway is of course my dream, and the stage is where my feet are destined to tread, but this…" She throws her arms out to encompass the whole area around you, and then she smiles delightedly up at the man by her side, "…I've always absolutely adored being on camera, haven't I, Daddy?"
And the man you now assume to be one of Rachel's Daddies, smiles right back at her. There's a touch of a tease in the crinkle about his eyes as he nods his head in agreement, but mostly you just feel the obvious warmth he projects from within. It's a warmth he turns your way when Rachel makes the initial introductions; he holds his hand out, he wraps his fingers securely about your own, and,
"Brittany Pierce," he speaks, looking pleased as punch to be talking to you. "I've heard so much about you, I feel as if we're friends already."
You offer him your easy smile and you ask if he's the senator style father; a question which eases his own smile into light laughter. He shakes his head firmly and waves his hand up into the empty air ahead of him. "No, no, I'm just the regular dad. We leave the politics to Hiram; I'm really only here for the arts."
He claps his hands together as he speaks his words, and you can see the trait of something diva-esque running though his mannerisms. It's in the set of his chin as he casts his glance across the outlay of your set, and when he clicks his fingers together as a way of summoning one of your set-runners swiftly to his side, you're sure that you're getting a little of a look at where Rachel gets it all from.
And still you smile. Because if you had a dad, you'd probably want people to notice your similarities too, you'd want this level of closeness you see exhibited between Rachel and Leroy. It's something so refreshing when contrasted against the stark harshness of Santana and her father, or Quinn and the monster that claims her parentage; and you like it. And maybe it shifts something inside you. A little bit at least.
Like, maybe you don't feel the same level of caution when looking at Rachel.
Maybe you are more curious than concerned right now.
It allows you to let her take your arm without flinching, it makes it slightly more of a joy than a burden to be walking her around the set, explaining the same set of instructions to her as you already explained to Quinn. She's much more eagerly receptive, and her voice rises steadily in volume as she unleashes her excitement to project it forward towards Monday. Because she really can't wait to work with you;
"I just feel this bond," she assures you, all giddy grins and pearly bright whites, "and I'm certain we're going to work amazingly well together; it's like adding star quality to star quality, you just make a bigger star."
"I'm sure you're a big enough star on your own, Rachel," you say sincerely, yet she glances across at her father and at Holly, and she lowers her voice just a touch before answering;
"Of course, my ascent is somewhat guaranteed when you consider my background and already burgeoning résumé. But think about it Brittany, how incredible it would be if we combined both the areas of our expertise, and made something truly spectacular…"
You're about to delve deeper, to question her a little on how that combination would even set to work, because you are curious and her excitement is somewhat infectious, yet Holly is back by your side and Rachel is changing the subject, and your thoughts are kept to yourself. You focus instead on the song selection Rachel seems intent upon sharing, and when she offers to give you all a quick run through, you're treated to your first ever in the flesh concert, given by, as Leroy proudly announces, the most prestigious prodigy to ever grace the stage and share her song!
You can't help but laugh. You perhaps even giggle when he nudges your side to shoot you a smile…
And then everything stops. Like, even the air around you freezes.
Because honestly? She's beautiful.
Not like Santana, you don't think anything or anyone could ever compare to the magnificence of beauty you see in Santana, but when Rachel opens up her mouth and the first of her notes slip out to slide across the floor and tickle a track to your ears, you're taken aback by the level of beauty on display. Like, she's really good. She's actually amazing. And it's not hard to imagine why Quinn is a little lost in the thought of feeling a fool when forced to sing at her side. You have no idea how good or bad Quinn will actually turn out to be, but you assume she's nowhere close to this level of awesome.
You keep on smiling higher as Rachel carries on singing, and when she wraps it up with a note you think appeared from somewhere up above, it's genuine and heartfelt applause that you offer in response. You heard her on tape before; you've seen her singing on the show, but…
The hairs on your arm have actually risen to hear her. You're blown away by her voice.
And you don't doubt at all her star quality.
Throughout the afternoon, for the couple of hours you spend explaining the process, all the while you're giving her schedules and suggestions and a general overview of how you want things to go, she keeps it on a level highly professional. You think she's probably going to fit in perfect and be quite brilliant.
It's you who adds Quinn to the equation.
Not because you want to, necessarily, but there is still that thread. And threads have two ends, and…
You tug, slightly.
You open up by saying that Quinn hasn't made a song selection yet. You note the flicker of her eyes on hearing Quinn's name, and then you note the grim set line of her lips in that pause before she answers.
"How is Quinn today?" she enquires tightly, and it's not quite the question you anticipated. You expected something musical, yet she straight talks you right to the point.
It gives a pause to you in return. Much like before, you have the sense that Rachel's motives don't necessarily clash with your morals, and it enables honesty to pepper your thoughts. You shrug. You drop your eyes and tighten your brow, and you take a moment to consider that question.
"I think," you say, when your eyes have made their way back up, "that Quinn's probably the most confusing person I ever met. I mean, she seems okay sometimes, but then…"
You trail off and Rachel continues for you;
"…When she seems okay, it's then you really have to worry. Take yesterday's performance at lunch; I'm certain she's cooking something up, Brittany. As to what…"
You widen your eyes as encouragement for her to expand on her words, yet first she offers up a sigh; something extendable and drawn out and enriched by unnamed emotion. She appraises you with her gaze, and then she speaks. Almost solemn she asks, "How much do you really know of Quinn's history?"
And your eyes widen more.
Your teeth search out your lip and your right shoulder lifts just a little.
"Like, I know stuff," you say, fidgeting your fingers together. "Santana told me about… Stuff."
You nod your yes, and after a moment, Rachel mirrors your movement. She accepts your words and then she adds to them;
"I honestly don't think I know anyone who had a stranger upbringing than Quinn; she was always present at every event, her parents were always in the audience watching, but it was as if nothing she ever did was going to be good enough. There was one time," she says, and then she stops. She takes a moment to glance about her, and then she takes the time to clear her throat and gather her thoughts. "I really do believe," she begins again, "that we should find the time to get together properly; I can tell you all of these old war stories and you can…"
You wait for your end of the deal to be named, but she stops on the pause once more. She considers before she continues;
"…I don't know, Brittany. Maybe you could tell me a little bit about Santana?"
Her tone sounds hopeful and you're not really sure what her hope is for. It creates a space where you think before you speak, where you back off before you go forward. You ask her why; you ask her what exactly it is she wants to know. And she surprises you. She springs forth a query that goes straight to your heart;
She asks if she's happy now.
You can't help the smile that precedes your reply.
You don't get into it with her; you don't have the time or enough of an inclination right now to start showing all of the cards that you hold in your hand, but you do show her your smile, you do invite her to witness the warmth of feeling you've created with Santana.
And it's enough to appease her.
She doesn't press you for more, she simply accepts the curve to your lip, and she smiles her own warmth in return. She nods again, once, seemingly to satisfy her own inner notions, and then she shakes herself back into work mode. She asks you lots questions about Lord Tubbington, his career so far, and mostly, she makes you laugh.
Sure, she's still overbearing with the volume in her voice, and she's ever so insistent when it comes to the way she talks to Mike and Tina about the shots she thinks they should collect from behind the scenes at the filming, but…
You kind of like her a little. She's growing on you, bit by bit, and when she suggests again, near the end of your day, that you should find the time soon to do lunch together, you don't immediately dismiss the idea. Your gaze appraises her this time. You take a moment to consider all of the angles, and;
"I'll give you a call," you tell her, and you think you actually will. Not before you talk to Santana, not before you sound out where her Rachel thoughts are currently resting, but, you do want to lunch with her. You want to hear what she calls her war stories of old, and you definitely want more of the maps that you hope might guide you towards the center of the maze.
They're thoughts that you mull over as you wait on your final guests to leave. Sam has already wrapped up his portion of explaining things to Mike and Tina about how you play things behind the camera here, and you're sitting with him now while you wait for Holly to finish hamming it up with the Berry's so as you can all go home. When Mike comes across to join you both, you hold out your fist and bump up your grin and your hi is an entirely happy one; you haven't had the chance to talk much to Mike over the last couple of days, but you know that he and Santana have shared conversation, and you know that there are definite plans afoot to convince his uncle of the validity of your Christmas show ideas.
He opens up with dance talk now. Or he opens up with an impromptu dance; his hand grabbing your fist and pulling you up, his feet quick to step to the side and spin you into his rhythm. And you go with that. You laugh out loud when he dips you down, and you laugh even harder when he lifts you up.
And "Mike!" you say, closer to a squeal or a peal of delight, and when he puts you back down on the ground, you poke your fingers hard into the soft flesh of his side. It makes his laugh as loud as yours, yet you don't stop to check your volume. This is, after all, your set, and you're used to having fun here; a fun that continues on in conversation as he takes the seat at your side, across from Sam. He tells you all enthused how much he loves your personal work space, he tells you how much he's looking forward to Monday's shooting, and then he inches you backwards towards talk of tomorrow, because;
"I reserved the back room again," he says now, his grin still fixed in place. "I've even managed to coerce my uncle into coming down and taking a look at what we've put together so far."
"You have?" you ask, your voice pitching a hint of disbelief in his direction.
"I sure have. I can't promising anything yet, Britt, but when I spoke to Santana she told me what to tell him about exposure and advertising and revenue increases, and I guess that got him to listen. He's interested enough to take a look."
He shrugs as if it's nothing, but to you, it's something awesome. It's like a little bit of a dream starting to come true. And it's your ideas becoming a reality. And it's Santana…
Because you know this conversation wouldn't even be happening if it wasn't for the way she went to bat for you the other day. It makes you sigh on the inside and you smile on the outside, and from every side you just love Santana.
It makes you want to talk more. It makes you insist; "I told you she's amazing Mike," before listing out to him ever more of the qualities he hasn't himself yet seen. Like, you tell him how sweet she is to you, always, and how all that angry stuff on their first meeting was just because she so badly wanted you to be able to dance the way you wish to;
"She'd never have been mean to you just for the sake of it," you offer him by way of explanation; "she just really thought she was helping me, that's all."
When you shrug, Mike mirrors you, and his smile is still the easiest. "Totally over that, Britt," he readily assures you. "I was getting tired of the same old routine, but I never would've thought to challenge my uncle on my own. I'm glad Santana stepped up to check my reality; the show's going to be unbelievable this year. I haven't been this excited to dance in ages."
And you know you haven't. You've also never been as excited as you are to work with anyone as you are to work with Santana. It's just, everything about it is awesome, and you can't wait to get stuck in. You mention tomorrow again; you ask Mike what his schedule is like for shooting and you ask what kind of time he thinks he'll make it to the studio.
"Do you mind if I bring along Tina?" he asks before he answers, and you tilt your head to hear more; "We've been so busy with Rachel, we haven't had much time together, and what with dancing all weekend…"
He trails off and you get it. You pause to ponder, and you're not sure on an answer. Like, of course Tina can come along, she's one of your best friends too, but with the way you just soothed Santana past getting to know Mike, and Mike knowing about the two of you; and then Tina is all pally with Rachel, and…
"Do you mind if I check with Santana, first?" you say, and he rolls his eyes at you. He waves away your worries with words on how Tina won't say anything; she just wants to come hang out a little.
And you're thinking how to word it, how to say that you still want to check with Santana because her feelings are incredibly important to you when it comes to all of this. It's a task that renders your thoughts far away from paying attention to Holly walking up by your side. You just say what you say;
"I'm sure her and Tina will get on great, but… If your uncle's going to be there, and if we're going to be trying to win him over with the support, I don't know; maybe we should leave Tina out of it this time? Like, we'll just let Santana help us get the show secured, and then we'll introduce everyone properly..?"
It seems to you like the perfect solution, and you see the understanding cross Mike's face when you speak your words. You also hear Sam cough loudly, and it's when you turn to look at him that you see the newly arrived Holly and the entourage that follows her. You note the look of interest on her face. You see her mouth begin to move as if it's happening in slow motion;
"You kids working on the Christmas show again?"
And that's easy. That's a nod of a yes and please don't say more. Yet Leroy is at her side, and he speaks up to ask you curious, "You're putting on a Christmas production? Is that a stage show sort of affair, or…"
He's interested. Of course he is; it's what he does. But it's not his interest that's bothering you, it's Rachel with her,
"Wait; you said Santana is helping you secure a show? Our Santana?"
As if it could be another.
And you drop your head down on instinct. You close your eyes tight on her upturn of interest. You take in the deepest of breaths.
And you prepare yourself to lie your ass off.
It was Mike though who stepped up to the plate and faked his way through an explanation; grabbing fast at similar kinds of straws to the ones you'd first used when you'd blurted out your confession of love to him. He'd ham-fisted his words into ones about how the musical legend Santana was your chosen musical accompaniment for this year's show, and how you were showcasing that to his uncle tonight, and also;
"Who's Santana, anyway? Isn't she that crazy chick you told us about from all the way back in high school?"
Rachel had looked and looked – at him and then at you – her voice had fallen silent, and she acted out an acceptance of the tossed together alibi. You don't believe it for a minute though.
Two hours on, waiting at home for Quinn to pick you up for the evening ahead of picking out songs, you're still pretty certain that there's no way Rachel had bought into anything that Mike or you insisted to her. Even to you it had all sounded ridiculous, and Sam had assured you after everyone else had left, that ridiculous was kind of how you'd looked, with your eyes stretched wide and your mouth set on gaping.
"Maybe you should've just told the truth," he suggested next, a small smile playing at his large lips and his hand ruffling up your hair. "So what if San's helping with the show? I don't see why everyone won't just mind their own business. It's not that big of a deal, right? I actually think it's kind of awesome that you're doing it together."
And you'd found yet another shrug. Another sigh.
You'd tried to explain why.
The whole of the car ride home you'd traced the delicate intricacies that tie the tale together; you spoke more than ever before to him about all the plotlines he hasn't been privy to, and by the time he pulled up outside of your apartment you could see him starting to get it.
He wasn't smiling so much anymore as looking overwhelmed with all the new knowledge.
"So basically," he'd begun, summing up your words, "you think Quinn might actually be crazy; she might possibly be plotting to take over the world; and if she's not crazy, then Santana's family definitely are?"
And sure, you said. And sure you still kind of think.
It may have been a rough sum up, you may have still rushed through parts which had taken you weeks to even begin to unravel, but with all of the facts laid out before you, you're pretty happy with Sam's summing up. You think you made him understand why everything still needs to be kept rug-swept and secret.
It's just about the timing, you told him,
And it's time that creeps up and catches your fancy.
Because in quiet moments, in amongst the seconds that turn and churn constant with drama on the outside, it's nice to stop and focus on the feeling you've found inside. You pause on the picture you perfectly paint there; on the way you see your world woken with sweet kisses each morning, and laid down with love when you seek sleep each night. It lifts the sigh you find from subdued to wistful. Because it is all about the timing, and the time for the future still isn't quite now.
It's time now for Quinn, for Santana and Quinn and You, all packed tight together in the same shared space. No distractions, nothing else to whittle away your time, just the three of you forced to make time together. And you're still not sure at all that it's a good idea Santana being there. You're nervous, a little. Anxious, a lot. You imagine again metaphors of minefields and ballet dancing, as you consider how hard you're going to have to work to keep everything on a level looking professional. You even reach for your phone once more to discuss it again with Santana, yet the timing now ticks you back into the present and your ears hear the sound of a car horn outside.
And you're ready. Kind of. At least you tell yourself you are as you holler out your goodbye to Lord Tubbington and exit your apartment. You keep your eyes to the ground and let them follow your feet forward, and it's only when you get out to the sidewalk that you lift up your game face and get ready to meet Quinn.
Her little red sports car is in fact a top down black Audi, and the surprise of the smile that captures your features is enough to stall your whole body in the instant to catch up on new facts. You definitely feel your heart trip and then skip on a beat. You experience fully the moment when your tummy does a flip up-and-over at the sudden sight of her before you. You can't even mold your mouth into the shape of hey or hello or anything other than the beaming grin that it's found for itself.
She just looks so damn good. Like, with the late evening sun tinting everything about you with the low glow of pink, you think perhaps this is a moment of pixie dusted magic; like you wished for her to be here with you, and now she is, and now you've forgotten every single thought that considered perhaps that she shouldn't be a part of your evening. You don't care right now for caution. You care only about the kiss you want to whisk from her lips.
A kiss that calls you forward and breaks your pause and has you approaching the passenger side door with words flowing fast to ask what she's doing here. You say you were expecting Quinn, you say you're happy for the change up; "Does this mean we don't have to go there, after all?" you ask, infinitely hopeful, "because dinner, dessert, and then you, was a much better plan. Are we going back to that plan now?"
She smiles, but not her perfect smile, and she tells you no such luck.
"I'm only here because Quinn's less than legal with the drink drive limit; she's been steadily sipping the wine all evening. I think she's…"
Her words taper off and you know exactly what's hijacked her current train of thought.
It's you. Because you're giving her a look that you know will bypass her brain beyond anything other than sharing your spaces again. And she gets it. She smiles her most perfect smile at you and she leans across the center console, and,
"Hi," she whispers, lip bitten in the moment.
And you tell her Hey and you say Santana, and you smile into her lips when she brings them forth to kiss you. Like a quiet hello, and a soft hello, and little nibbles that she takes in the second before she breaks away to look at you again. "I missed you, so much" she tells you simply, and the sweet sincerity that echoes within the words is enough to have you repeating her sentiments. Because you did miss her; so, so much. No matter that it was just one night, and one long day stretched out around it, you missed her quite completely.
And you kiss her again.
You take her soft and sweet greeting and you apply the spice with your tongue. You take your hand and tangle it up in her loose flowing hair; you pull her tight towards you and you remake her mouth yours. You kiss her as deep as the angle will allow, and when she whispers a moan that bites at your being, you force yourself to pull back from her. You force yourself to replace passion with a wink; you fight to remind yourself of that thing called timing again, and you make words like later Santana; still sounding out everything suggestive, yet pointing quite firmly towards momentary postponement.
And she moans a different moan. Like a groan that makes you fight off a giggle, because she puts far too much emphasis into it as she turns the key in the ignition and pulls out to drive.
And for a while you just watch her.
You know the scenery that passes by you, so instead you focus to your left, delighting as you always do in watching her drive. She seems relaxed and carefree with the wind in her hair, and you wonder how it is that she's not wracked at least a little with the worry at the thought of your evening ahead.
You find comment when she pulls in at a coffee place. You sit in line at the drive-through and you ask her, "Are you really not worried about Quinn, tonight?"
"I'm worried she might empty her stomach all over her father's apartment and I'll be the one catching the usual dose of blame; but other than that, no, not really. She's been so caught up in picking the perfect song," she says, and she smiles across at you again, "I don't think we have much to worry about."
She hands you both your drink and a large coffee for Quinn, and for a moment you try and silence the speed of your thoughts and accept Santana's words. Yet, you watched and wondered a lot today, and you find your own words again before Santana finds the freeway. You say that today you saw Rachel sing for real, and it turns her eyes back your way;
"Yeah, I did, and she's really, really good, Santana. I don't know what Quinn sings like, but unless she's got heaps of crazy talent hiding in there somewhere, I don't think even I can help her beat Rachel this week."
"That's really not the problem," she speaks quick to inform you.
"So what's the problem?"
She fidgets in her seat a little at your question, and she finds the handily placed holder for her cup before she pulls out into the flow of traffic. "Quinn can't stand looking like an idiot," she starts, her eyes no longer on yours. "Rachel made her look like an idiot once already, and now Quinn's freaking herself out thinking about it again… It's like her worst kind of déjà vu."
"Because of the whole Finn thing?"
She darts her gaze back your way and you see the dip which drags the query across her brow; "Wait; I have told you about Rachel, Quinn, and the great debate debacle of senior year, right?"
And no, she hasn't. Because you're certain you would've remembered that. It's enough to draw the query down to your own brow; it's enough to ask her to go on and to tell you all that it is you don't yet know.
She sighs again across from you. She drops the car down into the slow moving lane of traffic, and she says sentences about how she can't believe she hasn't told you all of this. You assure her that really, she didn't, and then you prepare the fresh spaces to place new pieces of the ever growing puzzle.
And they're interesting pieces.
Like, you've started to form fairly strong impressions of all of the players and the ways that they operate, yet the tale Santana tells is like a backwards formation where your attackers are your defenders and Rachel was the one who threw blows below the belt;
"…She was always insanely dead set on winning absolutely everything," Santana says, "she's Rachel Berry, she's destined for success and all of that bullshit. Quinn always nailed the debates though… As good as Berry sings, she's nothing next to Quinn when they're up in that arena."
"So what happened?"
"The senior year debate topic just happened to be about women and the issue of their reproductive rights; a topic picked out by the captain of the losing team from the year before. Rachel was one of the only ones who knew about what happened with Quinn, and she used it against her…" She flits her gaze your way, and you just widen your eyes for more. "…Quinn fled the stage, the debate was awarded to Rachel; minor scandal, the school paper spent the rest of the year making random jibes about Quinn's departure…"
"Rachel revealed Quinn's secret on stage?"
"No, god, no. But hers was the opening statement to make; she said enough, not about Quinn specific, unless you knew the situation… But she said enough to rattle her."
You don't ask for any more than that and Santana doesn't offer it.
Your imagination is left to fill in the blanks, and every one of your empathy receptors place you momentarily in Quinn's shoes. You still haven't managed to quite take in the way that her reproductive rights were so brutally ripped away from her, and now, trying to fragment in a piece where that injury was reopened and her scars were used to scorn her…
It keeps you quiet on your journey up into the hills. It tugs at you to understand a little more the fire that burns inside Quinn to bring revenge upon Rachel. Like, stealing someone's boyfriend in high school isn't anything spectacular; yet you know Quinn, and you think from what you know that the kind of blow Rachel struck isn't one that fades with time.
And you think of your show. And you think of the big debate finale.
And you wonder once more on what Quinn's got cooking.
Once you actually see Quinn, you mostly wonder how it is you're supposed to make any plans at all tonight. You wouldn't say she's drunk enough to render her useless, but there's an edge to her angles that you can't quite name. Like, she talks a great deal about the show, she discusses in flowing sentences that trail off to nowhere the schedules you have in place for final three weeks, yet she strays away from talk of song choices and singing until you're the one to bring it up.
You're still combing caution over every word you say.
Not that your worries are the same as before you arrived; Santana was right. Whatever state it is that Quinn has herself worked up into, it has her distracted enough to not be throwing measured glances in your direction. She's wrapped up in her wineglass and she's wrapped up in herself, and you have to ask the question more than once to get her attention. You try for a third time, you say;
"So, song choices, huh?"
Yet her eyes barely find you before they're back tracing distances far away from your center. Eventually you feel forced to throw out song titles yourself without any knowledge on what her range might be or what style she prefers, yet you can't help feeling it's a parade into pointless. It's like you're giving away your evening alone with Santana for no good reason, and you don't bother to fight the irritation that begins to itch along the sidelines of your mind. You make a show of glancing at your watch and finding irritation.
And Quinn smiles.
More alert than the moment before, almost like she's timing your timing.
And that engages you.
Or it captures your attention. And for the first moment since you arrived in Quinn's company, you fight the urge to turn and exchange looks with Santana. Because that measurement is back beneath the guise of disinterest, and as always it makes you wonder. When she smiles at you, when she casts her gaze wide to catch both you and Santana up in her sights, you mostly wonder if she's been on point this whole time. If her deliberate drinking wasn't about wearing down her own edges so much, as wearing away at yours…
When she speaks crystal clear words in Santana's direction, you're almost certain of it;
"Do you know what would make this process a whole lot easier?" she asks, and a part of you can already guess at what's coming. You're not surprised when she mentions the idea of Santana singing at her side, you're only surprised when she says; "I discussed it with Brittany earlier, and she agreed it's a great idea."
And that screams for your attention.
Because you didn't. You absolutely know you didn't.
Something. There's always something.
Like there's a nagging sensation that fidgets at your thoughts, and it's beyond the obvious disbelief that she just quoted you so falsely. You raise your eyebrow her way, yet Santana has risen to speak, and Quinn's gaze faces away from you.
"Not a chance," says Santana.
"Don't be like that; you know your voice can kick Rachel's off the stage, and think how thrown she'll be when she realizes she's facing not just me, but you as well."
"I already said no."
"But Brittany thinks it's a good idea, don't you Brittany?"
It's so false. So obviously false, that you're not sure what it is you're witnessing here.
You discard caution and look across to Santana for some kind of clue, yet her jaw is tight shut and her eyes are locked in anger on Quinn. And it feels somewhat like a trap, perhaps.
Because if you say no, if you point to the obvious and insist that Quinn is currently freestyling with the truth, well, you can't say that, because you're working with Quinn, and Santana is just her sidekick, and you've got no place to be making this a scene that sits any different.
You swallow once. You attempt a smile.
"I don't know about that, Quinn," you say, "it's a good idea if Santana wants to do it. I don't think we can force her into doing it, though, not if she doesn't want to."
You watch her lift her lip in silent reply. You watch her turn again to Santana;
"You want us to win, don't you?" she asks her, dripping coyness down over the whole of her delivery, "can't you take this one for the team, Santana? Help me settle the score once and for all?"
"You know I don't sing anymore; you know-"
"I know you're being difficult for no other reason than the same old one. Are you ever getting over it?"
Within the strained silence and sharp looks that follow, you make a bold decision. You gamble on a feeling that's fermenting in your gut, and you say wait. You hold your hand up as if struck by a sudden epiphany, and then you rush the words out in one fast flurry, "I just remembered about the really strict rule to the contest. Like, Lord Tubbington is the one judging and I'm certain there's a clause about who's actually allowed to sing on the show."
"A clause?" Quinn asks; her expression shifting.
"Sure. Like Santa, but a lot less jolly. It says that only you and Rachel are allowed to sing; anything else would probably be an unfair advantage, and Lord T's been really keen to promote equality this election season. I mean, you're welcome to take it up with him, but he can be really stubborn when he's got his mind made and set."
You finish your explanation with a shrug of helplessness and a thin lipped smile.
You don't expect her to believe you. That's not really the point here.
You just watch and you think and you don't make any play beyond the one you just made, until finally, eventually, she does exactly what you expect.
She accepts your words with a short and shallow sigh.
She reaches again for her wineglass. She slips back inside the façade of someone who really doesn't care at all about what's going on around her.
And you don't believe a single second of it.
Long past the laborious length of the evening, you don't believe a single sound or sigh that falls from between Quinn's lips. There's no song settled upon, because once you'd put an end to whatever way it was she wanted to manipulate Santana into singing at her side, she again lost interest in making decisions. She listened to all that you suggested; she listened to the songs that Santana insisted she was more than capable of performing quite perfectly on stage, yet she wouldn't commit to making a choice, and still, you're irritated.
A little confused.
A little enlightened.
Because you think she showed something of one of her hands tonight, and you're trying your damned hardest to make it make sense. You ponder it from the moment Quinn ushers you from her apartment with Santana at your side as the driver she designated. You ponder it the whole car ride home. And a small part of you still ponders upon it in those moments when Santana kisses her lips from yours and lays sated by your side, worn out from your welcome home and drifting already towards a sleep that you have no hope of. You can't search for sleep with so many thoughts still turning and twisting down through the ever decreasing spirals of your mind. Because you assumed that Quinn had stopped mentioning the idea of you and Santana because you had done enough to dismiss the idea of you and Santana from her thoughts.
Something now feels incredibly off about that. Like, you feel as if you were used tonight in a maneuver to bend Santana once again beneath Quinn's will; as if she somehow knew the sway you happily hold in that direction and she planned to direct it all back her own way. And you remember that time when she spoke words of Puerto Fucking Rico and you recall quite clearly the manipulation she attempted towards Santana for the Father/Daughter ball. And you think of pretty little pawns on a chessboard and how she likes to play with them all.
And you wonder again at the length of her long game.
But your final thought, the niggling and gnawing realization that drags you down into sleep, even as you fight to keep consciousness and dissect even further the furor of your thinking, is that she knows. She actually knows.
You're almost sure of it.
Quinn somehow knows the truth about what's happening between you and Santana.
She hasn't found a single word to say about it.