Title: Got You Stuck On My Body (Like a Tattoo)
Author: Misty Flores
Pairing: Quinn/Santana (some Brittany/Santana implied)
Teaser: Later, months later, when Santana is splayed naked against her, heavy with sleep and with limbs so tangled Quinn can't sleep, she'll think back and wonder why it'll never be marshmallows and fluff for them.
Spoilers: Glee S4 through ep 10
Prompt: from Jskuriou: Santana is being too passive and Quinn decides it's her mission to get an honest reaction out of her. No matter what it takes. Looking for the real Santana under the calm, mature veneer she's hiding behind. Could be set at Christmas or New Years.
AN: Inspired very much by Maroon 5's 'One More Night'. Thanks for jskurious for the prompt. This is a shorter fic that should be finished up sometime this week.
Part One. You and I Go Hard At Each Other Like We're Going To War
It begins with a slap. Of course it does.
Except maybe it doesn't. Maybe it begins with a twitch of bee-stung lips; with hooded dark eyes that hide a brimming loneliness almost (almost) forgotten when paired with blinding white teeth and a smile that is too practiced and plastic to be anything but manufactured.
It's Santana Lopez playing a part, you see. Just like when her best friend was closeted, miserable and mean. A return to form for the Kentucky cheerleader, now stunning in ways the Cheerios outfits never allowed.
It's ridiculous to Quinn that she's the only one who sees it.
But then again, maybe she's the only one who possibly could.
Quinn's reality is a fabricated fantasy. She's known too much heartbreak in her young life to even think it could be anything else, but she has indulged herself because she wants so badly to believe it.
So she plays the part. Quinn, who will forever try to escape the ghost of Lucy, is over-confident and over-compensates. She secretly marvels that no one sees it. Her friends, who self-professed family who claim to know her best, listen to her bragging with not a doubt among them. They look so damn proud, so happy for her as she weaves her tales of success. They see the image she creates and it's addicting. It's so much better than the truth.
In Kitty's worshiping eyes, Quinn finds her bliss and the chance to remodel her history.
That same group sees Brittany and Santana as two halves of a whole. They don't remember, or possibly never knew, that before Brittany skipped into high school as a sophomore with her rainbows and sunshine and quirky insanity that captivated Santana so effortlessly, it had been Quinn and Santana that had been attached at the elbow. Best friends since cheer camp freshman year; an uneasy alliance formed due to a determination to rule the school.
It's not the same. With Brittany, Santana is marshmallows and fluff, dimpled besotted smiles and sweet loving affection. With Brittany, it's love.
It's not love with Quinn. It's not soft or sweet and even though Santana's dimples poke through her olive cheeks when she leans over the piano and regards Quinn with her plastic smile, the impact of her beauty fades thanks to the pure rancor in her expression.
They slap each other. Of course they do.
In Santana, Quinn remembers every mistake; every weakness. Santana's smile cracks with her own insecurity, and yet she's the only one who knows exactly what to say, using her words as a well sharpened scalpel, digging deep inside of Quinn to stab at the very heart of her, causing so much pain she's caught breathless, left gasping like a choking fish.
Santana's palm imprints on her cheek. The flesh is swollen and heated, and stings when hot angry tears slide over it.
Quinn leaves Brittany with Santana and walks through those familiar hallways alone.
She thinks about Santana and her mask of pain and loneliness.
She wonders why she hates it so much.
Later, months later, when Santana is splayed naked against her, heavy with sleep and with limbs so tangled Quinn can't sleep, she'll think back and wonder why it'll never be marshmallows and fluff for them.
But how could it, when it began with a slap?
New Directions loses Sectionals for the first time since their inception sophomore year.
It's almost surreal; the way Quinn feels so outside of this. The rest of the mentors, her fellow graduates, look as stricken as the kids who actually performed. She keeps to herself at the back of the room, delicate arms folded across her chest as she wonders when high school became so young, when it felt that these kids are so absorbed in their own petty problems that seem so miniscule and ridiculous in comparison to what she and her fellow graduates went through. A girl has fainted and even still, the others shift the blame and conceit among themselves. Brittany, who looks oddly younger than she ever has before, huddles closely to Sam. He looks so proud of that fact that he neglects to notice the longing and jealous looks Brittany's blue eyes float across the room to Santana, who is currently focused instead on her own mentee, Marley.
Quinn's mouth twitches with distaste. This is the girl who was supposed to be the new Rachel? She's young and frail, and at Sectionals, where Rachel swallowed her nerves and blasted out the most amazing rendition of 'Don't Rain on My Parade' Quinn's ever heard, this one collapsed at the back of the stage before she even got her chance to open her mouth. Marley just looks so damn young, her pale face crippled with shame and regret. In this room, Santana and young Puck Jr. are her only protectors. With her palm pressing gently against the small of Marley's back, Quinn's 'friend' whispers quiet words into Marley's ears that are probably meant to be reassuring.
Quinn supposes she should feel sorry for Marley. She knows from experience that the pressure to carry a lead at Sectionals can be intense. She can only imagine how much harder it is coming off a win at Nationals, with expectations at an all-time high.
She doesn't feel pity. Instead, all there is is an odd sort of apathy. It's an unsettling experience. To be here, to be in this choir room and feel absolutely nothing is something she never quite expected. She thinks of Yale; old brick walls and vines that wrap around buildings, musty libraries and David, with his booming voice, his pipe and his rough calloused hands.
Quinn is a young girl from a small town who in the scope of things, perhaps doesn't know very much at all. Her classmates together have so much more world experience, so much knowledge. They stare at her with her small town hair and small town clothes and see a child. In her first few months at Yale, Quinn has never felt so small and unimportant. It's why David is a godsend. David is the first to see her as a desirable woman, and not this damaged child. He calls her an old soul. He makes her feel comfortable and at the same time so regal and beyond herself. The temptation and euphoria fits her like a glove.
Here in Lima, nothing changes. She stays in a tiny bedroom in her mother's house that is full of nothing but disappointing memories and a wheelchair stuffed in a closet that's saved for a 'just in case' relapse.
She understands now, what Rachel meant when she emailed her and told her that Lima just did not feel like home anymore.
It's curious. The only times she's felt anything resembling affection and nostalgia since her return happened on that empty stage, during an impromptu Unholy Trinity performance, and later in a conversation that devolved into a slap fight between her and Santana.
Mr. Schuester claps his hands together, drawing the attention of her peers. "Come on!" he sighs, defeat in his voice as he waves his palm to the door. "We need to be good sports and get out there; congratulate the winning team." In light of how they lost, it seems slightly ridiculous, but true to form, his students file out. They're quiet and devastated, a funeral march that passes by her. The suddenly maternal, oddly passive version of Santana glares at Kitty and gently helps Marley up off the seat, handing her off like a gentlewoman to Jacob. In the action, her eyes catch Quinn.
Quinn arches a brow, but does not move.
Neither does Santana.
The choir room is quiet in the absence of the rest of the group, odd considering the sheer amount of songs that float regularly through this place. Still, Quinn feels no inclination to break the silence. Sooner or later, Santana will speak because that's what Santana does.
She waits, watches those deep brown eyes as they regard her. Santana's full lips quiver in her emotion. This has upset her, which is interesting. Santana never used to care about anything but Brittany.
"You know, your girl did this," she breathes, pointing an accusing finger in Quinn's direction.
It makes Quinn want to laugh. "Having fun beating that dead horse, Santana?" she responds lightly, pushing off the wall and making her way easily toward the piano.
"Quinn, this is serious." Santana remains on her plastic chair, but her eyes follow Quinn's every movement. "Marley is sick."
"And Kitty's magically responsible, how?" she asks blithely. "Might want to check that Mexican third eye, Santana," she drawls, "because all I see is a scared little girl who couldn't handle the pressure."
She settles against the piano, tinkering with a key or two, plonking an awkward melody. This is the point in their many confrontations where Santana will say something absolutely devastating. It'll be a crack about David, maybe something about her past obsession with appearance. Whatever it'll be, it will dig deep inside of her, prick her into feeling.
It's what she expects. God, it's even what she wants.
This apathy that courses through her is odd, but it's also a terrifying.
Glee Club used to be her safe place.
Now it's just a room.
And yet, Santana proves to be a disappointment. When Quinn hears nothing, her eyes lift and she discovers Santana staring at her with an expression on her face that makes Quinn feel like she's looking at a stranger.
"What the hell is going on with you, Quinn?"
The tender, disappointed way she asks nearly chokes Quinn's breath away. Her fingers jerk against the keys, causing the note it creates to wobble like a bad ending.
"Nothing's wrong with me," she snaps, but her words are stiff, and her posture tense. "For once in my life, everything is going exactly how it's supposed to. Maybe I'm just over all this petty high school crap."
She lets Santana soak it in. Hears a choked laugh and a sudden sardonic, "Whatever Quinn." The chair grinds against the linoleum. "If a girl with an eating disorder is just too petty for you, then by all means, feel free to go back to your professor and your X-rated study sessions."
A small, pained smile floats on her face. "At least it's better than going back to short skirts, pom poms and being too much of a coward to admit you broke up with your girlfriend because you were afraid she'd cheat on you if you didn't."
The barb is well placed. She sees it hit Santana with a jerk, watches the shoulders stiffen and the body falter.
But Santana says nothing. She doesn't engage. Instead, this woman who used to be her best friend flexes her wrists and keeps walking until she's out of the choir room.
Quinn's mouth trembles when she realizes she's been left behind.
Logically; rationally; she understands completely that Santana is lost. She's heartbroken and insecure, hiding behind her quasi-celebrity status at Louisville, pretending that it's enough even though she doesn't have the stage that made her feel alive or her girl that made her feel loved.
Santana gave up the stage so she could be closer to her girl and gave up her girl because Brittany felt abandoned.
Maybe it's selfish of Quinn that she has made no attempt to push past Santana's erected walls.
That's what a best friend would do.
Maybe she's not as good of a friend as she thought because there's an ugly bit inside of her that feels the smallest amount of satisfaction that this is the state of things. Brittany and Santana, two halves of a whole, self-declared soul mates, barely made it two months before the real world got a hold of them.
The Unholy Trinity. Besties for Life. Except that Brittany is a freaking Peter Pan incarnate who is so scared of growing up she literally failed her senior year to avoid it and screwed over her so-called soul mate in the process. Santana is an out lesbian internet celebrity who wears this mature, bitchy façade like she's so damn wise, but she's too afraid to do anything but wave a pom pom for hollering meatheads and crash high school musicals.
Is the jealousy petty?
To stare at Santana's beautiful face and try to remember that one moment when Quinn realized that no matter what, Brittany would always be Santana's first choice?
To think about those moments before Brittany, when Santana's gaze would linger too long on her own body, her own face, her own lips? To wonder oh-so-fleetingly how those looks had terrified her in a dangerous, frightening way, flushing heat through her body and terror in her soul?
But it doesn't matter because Quinn's better than them. She got out. Quinn made it. She's moved past her teenage pregnancy and quietly fighting that homo-erotic fascination with Rachel Berry and paralyzing car accidents to become more than just a cheerleader, more than Quinn Fabray.
She did it without the Unholy Trinity and their so-called friendship, forgotten so easily when Santana fell in love, linked pinkies with Brittany and left her behind.
She leaves Santana in her Kentucky purgatory. Quinn has her own life, and she goes back to it.
Her pristine, gorgeous life holds steady for approximately two weeks after Thanksgiving. In that time, she's promised a Christmas in Vermont. David thumbs his pipe and spins a gorgeous tale of a wooden cabin and dirty sex on a bear rug in front of a fire place.
In truth, the allure of David has faded quickly. Time away has given her some perspective, and David's class actually helps as she realizes that when she first arrived at Yale she was lonely, scared and out of her element. The first friend she made was a professor who listened and regarded her as woman. At the time, it hadn't mattered when he had given her champagne and pressed up against her in his office. She felt worthy and validated.
His beard, previously magnetic and interesting, now feels scratchy and intrusive. His hands, before so weathered and strong, now feel rough and abrasive. The secret liaisons that proved so thrilling during the semester now feel dirty and shameful.
He grows careless. He forgets to take off his wedding ring. He's not interested in her theories or her opinions as much as he is interested on getting her on her knees, unbuttoning his fly along the way.
Santana's words ring through her, but she tells herself that is not the reason for the shift.
Still, her only alternative is going back to Lima and watch her mother drink herself into a Christmas stupor.
She chooses Vermont.
Two days before Christmas, David sends her a text message that states the plans fell through, and he must spend the holiday with his wife 'for appearances sake'. It will make the divorce 'less messy' if he just does what she wants.
Quinn wonders how she could have expected anything different.
On Christmas Eve, she sits alone in a cold dorm room in New Haven, reading a novel called 'Divergence' when there is a tentative knock on her door.
Quinn puts down the book with weathered resignation. She's expecting Nina, a pretty German Pre-Med coed who couldn't afford to fly home for the Holidays and spends so much time in her books she has no idea that Quinn has gained a reputation as the girl who fucks her professors. She seeks her out for the occasional movie and some friendly company and Quinn is always grateful.
It's not Nina that stands in her hallway.
Instead she sees a woman bundled in an expensive trench coat, glossy black hair curling under her fur hat, with a small suitcase trailing behind her.
It's someone she has not spoken to since Thanksgiving.
"Santana," she breathes dumbly, so confused there's nothing else she can say.
Santana's mouth opens for a moment, then closes just as quickly. She shifts her balance on her ridiculously high heeled boots and bites on her lower lip as she musters enough false bravado to snap, "Are you going to let me in or not?"
She looks… small.
It's then that Quinn remembers a Facebook post announcement made just a couple weeks ago, in terribly misspelt words and all caps that stated to the world that Sam Evans had finally landed Brittany Pierce as his new hot girl soul mate.
Her douche ex actually used the word 'finally' (or FINALEE, if she's being literal), like the coupling was inevitable.
Since then it's been picture after picture of him and Brittany Pierce, cuddling and kissing and Sam gleefully telling the world that they just 'brammed'.
She understands immediately why Santana is standing in her hallway in New Haven and not in a hallway in McKinley back in Lima, Ohio.
Without a word, she pulls on the knob and widens the opening, allowing Santana to push her way past her, back into her room and into her life.
They were the Unholy Trinity. They were supposed to be besties for life.
That's absolute fiction.
Even though Quinn and Santana have exchanged cutting words and painful truths, even if they have scratched and bit and slapped each other, it's the dark horse Brittany Pierce that has come from behind and managed to mangle Santana Lopez with thoughtless actions and words in such a damaging, devastating way that Quinn is absolutely flabbergasted.
All it takes is a stupid facebook post about a Mayan Apocalypse and becoming Sam Evan's Mayan Star Wife.
She fucking married him.
Screw the Unholy Trinity. Screw Brittany.
Quinn sits on her absent roommate's bed. She watches Santana, notes the bags under her eyes, the way her thin body shudders, the way Santana has no words in her, no way to explain why she's here, or why she could possibly think that this is okay.
She's a passive shell of the person she used to be, and it makes Quinn remember the Santana of senior year; the one who went through shit and who had so much anger but who finally got the girl, got to be who she really was, got to sing on that stage at Nationals.
God, it pisses Quinn off so much.
Maybe it isn't logical, to blame Brittany like this. After all, Santana is the one who dumped Brittany. And maybe someone could argue that Brittany is just trying to cope with losing Santana the only way Brittany in her Peter-Pan Unicorn world can. Maybe she's just trying to make Santana jealous. Brittany is rainbows and sunshine, but she can be manipulative as hell.
But the reality is that no matter how many slaps and scratches are exchanged between them, no matter how many sweet Unicorn smiles Brittany gives her, if made to choose, Quinn will always choose Santana.
She's never actually voiced it. She doesn't like to think about it at all. If she does, she manages a quick justification, that she knew Santana first, that Santana was HERS first.
She was hers until Santana was Brittany's, and this is what Brittany did with Santana and her unwavering loyalty and love.
What's left is this dejected, broken woman who looks like a girl. Santana sits on the floor, back resting against Quinn's bed as she stares at the wall like a catatonic zombie, eyes too dry to cry, fingers rubbed raw from rubbing against each other, because that's what Santana does when she's insecure and nervous.
If this is some fucked up way to wake Santana up and get her to come back, then fuck Brittany Pierce, because what she's done instead is destroyed her and left Quinn to pick up the pieces.
And if she's actually serious; if she actually believes that the world is ending, and the first thing she did was marry Sam Evans instead of tracking down her supposed soul mate and spending her last days with HER?
Fuck her more.
The Unholy Trinity is a crock.
It's utter shit. Quinn doesn't know what to do.
She bites down on her lower lip, hesitates only a moment before she pushes off the bed and crosses the room. With deliberate, slow movements, Quinn lowers herself until she's seated beside Santana.
Her eyes do not stray from that wall, but Quinn's fingers shift carefully, until they're sliding over cold, clammy hands. She doesn't look as Santana's palm overturns; their fingers interlock, a desperate movement of absolutely trust.
Quinn's sucks in a shaky, hesitant breath.
She knows she's a buoy now, clinging onto Santana to keep her friend from drowning.
It's just Santana and Quinn now, just like it was.
Quinn's just fine with that.