"Go out…they said," Santana mutters angrily into the open air. "It'll be fun they said." Santana mimics the phrase aloud—the one that she had heard repeatedly that night- as she does her best not to stumble on the cracked cement of the sidewalk. She does her best and yet, still fails miserably when the heel of her right boot gets stuck in one of the various holes in the ground. She stumbles forward after pulling her boot out with all the force she could muster, her head spinning from all the alcohol that her "friends" had convinced her to drink. "Fun my ass." Santana spits out as she steers clear of the curb, her feet somehow taking her in the wrong direction, again.
She is far too drunk to be walking home. If that was where she was even heading. Santana sort of just chose a direction on a drunken whim—a drunken whim that felt right at the moment due to a few carelessly managed shots and as a result, a massive loss of her good judgment.
It was clearly a misguided notion that led her to this intoxicated state.
The notion being that she could trust her coworkers. They were fun, don't get her wrong. And it was nice to spend an evening with other people who encouraged her to let loose instead of spending the evening the usual way: avoiding Rachel's judgmental eyes and Kurt's always skeptical eyebrows. Because there is no way in hell that those arches in his brow are natural. .
No, it is nice to see her coworkers look at her with appreciation instead of concern. They don't plan their lives out with diagrams and multi-colored post-its, and they definitely don't expect Santana to do so either (as if she would ever be caught dead with fluorescent post-its or life plans, she was a doer not a planner). It's okay for Santana to not quite know what she's doing or who she is because none of her coworkers seem to have a damn clue about anything themselves.
It's fun because they're fun and Santana gets to feel fun around them.
(Because the truth is that they're all coasting. And sometimes it's just nice to coast together.)
However, Santana is not foolish enough to believe that these were trustworthy people. After all, she is stumbling her way home alone in the wee hours of the morning. Her purse is clutched tightly under her right arm, and her knees are still shaky from the lack of concern that accompanied her as she tripped out of the club earlier.
They're not her friends, not really, and that's okay.
Her safety isn't of any concern to them, and it shouldn't be, Santana thinks, because she's fucking phenomenal. She used to hide razor blades in her hair. She single handedly brought down homophobia-well, at least at McKinley, anyway. But that still fucking counts. She scored the hottest girl around for miles and she didn't even have to try, she just had to exist.
Santana Lopez was—no, she is hot shit.
And it's nice to feel like that again. Even if it's brief and even if it's at the expense of her safety.
She knows it's late when she trips her way across the street, her body attempting to successfully put one foot in front of the other. Santana knows it's late because it's quieter than she's used to hearing in a city that's so vast and stuffed to the brim with people. The silence—this particular silence, where there's not a soul around and the lights are starting to dim- reminds Santana of Lima, in all the worst ways. So when she hears her cell phone blaring out an obnoxiously loud version of Chicago's All That Jazz, Santana breathes a quick sigh of relief and starts digging her fingers carelessly through her purse.
When her left hand brushes against her iPhone, Santana grips it with all of her might and pulls her phone out of her purse with an ungraceful grunt. She blinks blearily at the screen on her phone and tries not to grimace when she sees Rachel Berry's wide smile grace her vision and her phone screen. Santana rolls her shoulders in preparation for the massive amount of BERRY that was about to bombard her senses, before sliding her thumb across her phone screen and then placing her phone carefully between her left shoulder and ear.
Santana pretends not to hear the irritated sigh that makes its way through her speakers and into her ear. "Good to know that you're still alive," Rachel bites out, her tone far more dismissive than Santana is used to.
"Look who's finally mastered the art of sarcasm," Santana quips quickly, her body stilling awkwardly to prevent herself from falling face forward onto the sidewalk.
"Apparently I had a great teacher," Rachel responds dryly, her voice holding no amusement. Santana hears a shrill voice add loudly in the background, "A teacher who doesn't call her roommates to let them know she won't be home before four in the am!"
Santana winces at Kurt's high pitched screech, her ears ringing from the second abrupt disruption of her silent surroundings. She decides to continue onward in her quest for home, her eyes in search of anything that looks somewhat like the neighborhood their loft is in. "Hello to you too, Fancy Face."
Rachel sighs at Santana's comment and for a moment, Santana almost feels guilty, because these two people are nothing like her coworkers. The two majestically gay creatures that she shares her home with…well, they're also her friends (apparently).
It's a concept she's almost completely forgotten about considering the fact that her years in Lima were spent plotting, conning, and just spent being all-around fucking fantastic. Friendship is a hard thing for her to wrap her head around because it's too soft and too sincere. So much so that the very thought often makes her queasy.
Framing your teammate so that you can end up as Co-Captain of a nationally ranked cheer squad? That was something Santana understood. Slipping laxatives into Mr. Schue's disgusting "vitamin fueled tea" so that you wouldn't have to listen to his horrible Mexican stereotypes for any longer than truly necessary? That was something Santana could get on board with. Breaking into Puckerman's gym locker and filling all his clothes with itching powder? Well, that was just hilarious, and totally worth it.
But having people who genuinely care about who she is and what she's doing, and expect her to do the same? Well, that's just balls to the wall odd.
What's worse is that Santana doesn't even know how it happened, not exactly. She just knows that her gay street cred blew up after that campaign video was released during her senior year, and suddenly, she was surrounded by the gay wonder twins everywhere she went. They fell into a weird sort-of camaraderie then and haven't separated since. They fit together in the strangest of ways, even when Santana didn't want them to.
(Three cheers for the queers.)
"You know I hate it when you don't call," Rachel admits quietly, and this time it's enough to make Santana feel guilty. It settles in the pit of her stomach and burns down her throat like a batch of too-hot-coffee.
"I'm sorry, mom." Santana responds, her voice lowering as she passes by a sleeping body, someone that Santana assumes is homeless. "I needed to live a little. There's only so many times a girl can be forced to watch Yentl."
"You said you liked that movie!"
Santana rolls her eyes at Rachel's defensive response. "I did. The first seven times you made me watch it."
"I'm sorry that I wanted to share something with you," Rachel says, clearly hurt.
"Oh my gosh, Rachel. Quit it with the pity party of one because I'm not buying a ticket to that show."
"You know, you could learn a lot from Barbra. She's the mo-"
"Rachel! Jesus, I know!" Santana interrupts quickly. "I just needed a night out to get my drink on, okay?"
"It won't make you feel better," Rachel states, matter-of-factly. "It won't make you forget about Brittany leaving you to go g—"
Santana doesn't get the chance to brace herself for the sharp stab that hits her heart; and hit her, it does. It knocks her sideways, and she has to stop her current pace to lean against a pole that'll help keep herself upright. It's true, all of it's true, but it doesn't make it any easier.
(She thinks about the note she came home to four months ago. The note that gave no real indication as to what Santana had done wrong or what had changed. The note that gave no reason, no sentiments, and no apologies. The note that ruined everything, that ruined her. And it hurts more than Santana wants to admit, because she absolutely loved Brittany. Santana fucking adored that girl and would have gone to the moon and back just to prove that the love she felt for Brittany was real and all consuming. Which is why it fucking sucks. It sucks because it hurts and Santana doesn't know how to handle things like this, she doesn't know how to justify it to herself, how to justify how it happened or how Santana let it happen. How she let Brittany completely consume every part of her only to later throw Santana away so easily, like Santana's worth amounted to nothing.)
By the time the ringing in Santana's ears disappears and the sharp pain in her heart becomes bearable again, there's another voice coming through the phone. She can't recall how she ended up on the ground (her butt is pressed firmly to the concrete, and her back is leaning against a light pole) or how her phone ended up next to her, but she can hear someone calling out her name. So she ignores her curiosities and listens closely to the voice that's getting louder with every second she remains unresponsive.
"Santana?" Kurt calls out tentatively, again. "Are you still there?"
Santana licks her lips and raises her phone to her ear slowly. "Yeah."
"Honey," Kurt starts, and Santana does her best not to roll her eyes at the sentiment. "Where are you?"
"Um," Santana glances at the sign above her head and repeats the cross streets that she sees above her, because she knows Kurt's question demands an answer.
"Okay, I'm sending a Lyft to come and get you."
"Afraid I can't do it on my own?" Santana jokes half-heartedly.
Jokes: because she wishes all of it was.
Half-heartedly: because she doesn't think she can make it on her own.
Kurt clears his throat before responding. "Of course."
Santana smiles and bows her head at Kurt's willingness to avoid the real meaning behind Santana's question, good old Kurt, always there to save to the day. "Thanks. Kinda."
Kurt gasps dramatically. "Is the infamous Santana Lopez actually saying thank you?"
"Don't get used to it." Santana responds firmly, her right hand playing with the hem of her skirt. "I still refuse to thank you for that monstrosity you call lasagna."
"It looked a lot easier on Food Network," Kurt mumbles into the phone and Santana lets out a bark of laughter in return. "You ate it anyway!"
"Only because Berry was glaring at me the whole time. Which, by the way, she's about as threatening as a poodle that has its head in a cone."
Kurt laughs lightly and Santana can't help the smile that graces her face in response. "She doesn't mean it, you know?"
"Rachel," Kurt clarifies. "What she said? She doesn't mean it. She cares about you and she worries, so she can be a little overbearing sometimes. But she doesn't mean what she said to you."
Santana's hand stills on her thigh as her gaze wanders towards the sky. It looks different here, she thinks. The stars are harder to spot here and the friends are harder to make and the love is harder to feel and all around, it's hard.
Hard is something she gets, it's definitely something Santana can wrap her head around.
She pushes herself up until she's standing and lets out a grunt of agreement, her knees less shaky than before. "Yeah, they never do."
Santana's drifting in and out of an uneasy sleep when she hears a loud honk to her right. She opens her right eye warily and is surprised when she's met with a brand new, bright red, Volkswagen Beetle. It's far too bright for a city like this, Santana thinks, as she opens her other eye, and definitely far too clean.
Santana pulls away from the lamp post –the lamp post that had also been acting as her uncomfortable kind-of, sort-of pillow for the past thirty minutes—and leans her body forward to investigate the automobile further.
The person in the car honks again and Santana rolls her eyes at their impatience, her hands gripping her purse as a reflex. She walks over to the bug and taps the passenger window with her fingernails, her eyes narrowing until the driver complies and rolls down their window. Santana leans in, her teeth bared and her tongue ready to rip this person to shreds. When Santana's brown eyes meet hazel, however, Santana's body stutters to a stop.
The driver is a girl—no, a woman, and she's absolutely beautiful. A modern day Grace Kelly, even. She's far too pretty to be out this late at night, alone, Santana thinks. Especially in a city that eats beauty for breakfast and shits dreams for dinner.
Especially in a city that breaks hearts and chalks it up to life lessons.
The woman has sharp cheekbones, pale skin, and long blonde hair that she's pulled into a lazy ponytail. Her lashes are long and her shirt is low-cut and Santana can't help it that she's staring openly instead of delivering a verbal lashing for the woman's blatant insult.
Pretty girls always did catch her off guard.
"Even though you look like a streetwalker, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're this…" the woman trails off as she looks down at the S4 that's sitting in her lap. "Lopez?"
"Santana," she corrects, her mouth finally catching up to her brain.
The blonde shrugs absentmindedly, as if nothing about this interaction is particularly important to her. "Okay. Are you getting in or do you require some assistance?"
Santana narrows her eyes at the woman's clipped tone, her hand already reaching for the car handle. She yanks the passenger door open with very little effort and manages to slide into the passenger seat easily. Santana slams the door shut when the woman gives her an impatient glare, her tongue already heavy with all the insults she wants to say. "I was going to thank you—"
The blonde woman snorts in response, her right hand shifting the car into drive. She looks over her shoulder before turning her attention back to Santana. "No you weren't."
Santana bristles at the woman's obvious lack of social skills. "You know, it suddenly makes sense why you're alone at nearly five in the morning."
The blonde rolls her eyes at Santana's comment and starts driving, her hands and feet moving the car quickly through the driving lanes. "Says the woman who's dressed like a harlot."
"Excuse you," Santana chides, slightly amused by the woman's brashness. Bitchy is a language Santana speaks fluently, and it's something she can usually admire. It's surprising to hear someone be so blunt with her without any reason though, so Santana turns her focus towards the woman to her left, and does her best to further inspect her.
She's prettier up close, that's the first thing Santana notices. She has on very little make-up, aside from the eyeliner that's surrounding her eyes. The woman is wearing jeans—at least, Santana thinks its jeans—and her fingers are covered in rings. Her skin is so pale that it almost shines in the darkness, and it makes Santana ache for a different woman altogether. A woman with blonde hair and pale skin. It makes Santana ache for a different time so suddenly that Santana has to quickly move her gaze to the objects outside of her window—the ones passing by in an odd blur- as a means of distracting herself.
"Just an FYI, I'm pretty sure harlots don't wear Michael Kors on Friday nights."
The woman glances at Santana out of the corner of her eye. "I think floozies come in all different shapes and sizes."
"Lady," Santana says, her nails drumming against her thighs out of reflex. "I sincerely hope this isn't your only job because your tip is getting lower by the minute."
The woman puts a hand over her heart, her body feigning dismay. "I'm so sorry. Please leave me a five dollar tip that will surely alter my life. I might starve otherwise."
Santana stares at the woman to her left, her eyes studying the blonde who looks so unbothered by all the statements leaving her mouth. It's weird because this woman is a stranger, a stranger who's getting paid to transport Santana home, and yet she still has the balls to speak Santana so casually, so carelessly. It throws Santana off, but in a good way, because Santana is almost certain that she likes it. "Fuck off."
"Mmm, no thanks." The woman glances back at Santana before clearing her throat seriously. "Am I going the right way?"
"You are so helpful," the woman comments sarcastically before turning left. She looks down at her phone and nods when she sees the GPS tell her that she is indeed going the right way.
Santana gives the woman a small shrug. "I aim to please."
"Spoken like a true streetwalker."
"Wow, do you charm all of your customers like this?" Santana asks before sticking her hand up to silence the other woman. "Your business must be flourishing."
The woman laughs and it's nice, to hear laughter happening again because of her. The woman looks at Santana and smiles softly, so Santana smiles back, because it's easy and because she wants to. "No, just the pretty ones."
"You just called me pretty."
"I also called you a hooker," the blonde points out.
"Yeah, but that could also be considered a compliment under the right circumstances," Santana answers with a smirk.
"I like you." The girl says loudly, her right hand reaching across the console so that she could pat Santana on the knee. "I'm Quinn, by the way."
Santana doesn't answer, just stares at the hand that Quinn has yet to remove from her knee. "Quinn," she says after a moment, testing how it feels to have the name rolling off her tongue. "Quinn," Santana repeats after a few minutes. It's different, Santana thinks, unique even.
She decides that she likes it, too.
"You're not going to murder me now or something, are you?" Quinn asks seriously, her eyebrow raised curiously as she slows her car to a stop. They're situated at a red light that Santana recognizes, one that's about eight blocks from the—hers, theirs, whatever - loft.
Santana huffs and tries not to think about the warmth that's settled on her knee. She tries not to think about how this is the closest she's gotten to anyone—physically, at least—in months. Instead she looks over at Quinn and raises an eyebrow at her in return. "You're the one with the automobile and the shady name, shouldn't I be asking you that question?"
Quinn clucks her tongue in response and rubs Santana's knee affectionately. "Touché." The car begins to accelerate once the light turns green and Quinn's hand leaves Santana's knee as a consequence so that she can better grasp the wheel. Quinn sends Santana a genuine smile before taking a left turn, one that's all teeth and nothing else. A smile that feels out of place in the moment they've created. "So what's a girl like you doing out this late?"
"I feel as though you are insinuating something here, Quinn. Which, by the way, I'm totally offended about."
"I believe that this is what some people call small talk."
"I'm not the type to talk," Santana says, and it feels like a lie the moment it leaves it her lips, she knows it does. But she keeps spinning lies anyway. "Especially not with people as chummy as you."
"Man," Quinn comments with a laugh. "Whoever gets the benefit of dating you, is one lucky person indeed."
Santana opens her mouth to say something but nothing comes out, and she's left sitting there with her mouth hanging open awkwardly. She doesn't know if it's Quinn's hand leaving her knee, the fact that she's in a car with a stranger (a stranger who seems to understand her better than the people she's worked with for a year), or just plain tiredness. All she knows is that she has nothing to say, at least not now, and maybe that's Santana's problem. The fact that she's never quite figured out a way to fill the important moments with anything other than silence.
Quinn spares Santana a nervous glance—the first of the night that actually shows genuine concern. "Did I just overstep?"
Santana shakes her head dismissively, but doesn't say anything, because she doesn't really know the answer to that question. Instead she points to a convenience store that's located two streets in front of them. "You can just pull over here."
"Are you sure?" Quinn shoots Santana a worried look before following her directions. "This doesn't look very safe."
Santana nods when Quinn slows to a stop in front of the convenience store. "Yeah, my place is just a few blocks down."
"I'm sorry," Quinn says quietly, even though Santana gets the feeling that even Quinn doesn't know why she's apologizing. "But my job insists that I take you to the designated location."
"It's okay," Santana lies, her hand already reaching over the driving console to grab Quinn's phone. She enters in her information and presses the charge button, before manually entering in a twenty dollar tip. Santana tosses the phone back into Quinn's lap and gives her a fake smile. "It was nice to meet you, Quinn."
Santana doesn't bother waiting for a response. Instead she opens the door and climbs out of the car, her skirt raising even higher, making the view of her ass even more indecent. She doesn't bother glancing behind her after she kicks the door closed with her foot. Santana doesn't really want to see the look Quinn is giving her, she doesn't want to see the pity written all over some pretty strangers face.
Instead, Santana does her best to keep moving forward—just like she's been doing these past few months—she does her best to carry on. Santana spends the rest of her walk home hoping that at some point everything will stop feeling like this; hoping that she'll be able to just start feeling again.