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Surviving Happily Ever After

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                Santana was in her head as she headed to her locker to take her gun out of its case. Her movements were slow, practiced, her mind on other things as she put the Walther back together. It was only Tuesday, but this was already her second time this week that she was spending her lunch at the shooting range. Without meaning to, she had almost fallen back to her training schedule from back when she was going through training. Intense workouts twice a day, shooting practice, combat training, sifting through databases, going over schematics, searching the dark web, brushing up on her foreign languages. (A huge benefit of living in a city like Boston was that there was no shortage of conversationalist partners for Santana to practice with in several different languages.) By the time February rolled around, Santana was going to have one well defined body for Quinn to ravage. That and she’d probably be running her division of both the GSA and Little, Brown.

                “It’s Ms. Bond!”

                Santana gave the side eye to the guy who was standing on her left. Oh for the love of all that’s holy!

                Without any encouragement the man went on.  “So, if you’re a bond girl, and a lesbian does that make you Pussy Galore?”

                Santana checked the magazine to make sure it was empty before loading it. She sighted the target in the distance. “Hal, do you know why lesbians make such great snipers?”

                Beside her Hal looked slightly confused. “No, why?”

                “Because it’s a scientific fact that lesbians have been known to naturally produce and absorb more carotene so on average they have better eye sight than their male counterparts.”

                “I don’t get it…what’s carotene?”

                Santana fired off a round, hitting her target dead center. She subtly slid the safety back into place. “That means when we shoot, we don’t miss. Remember that the next time you want to talk to me about pussy when I have a loaded gun in my hand.”

                Unsurprisingly, Hal decided to find another stall. On her right, she heard a chuckle and a guy questioned, “Is that true?”

                “What lesbians and carotene?” The guy gave a nod. “No, of course not.”  She gave a cocky sway to her hips. “But me? I don’t miss.” She followed those words up with a demonstration.

                “Nice shooting,” he complimented. Santana gave an abrupt nod. “I’m Chandler.”

                While the high school Santana may have told him to fuck off on general principal, or said something like ‘still gay’, she instead extended a hand to him. “Santana.”

                “Ever go hunting?”

                “No, and I’ve never wanted to either. I don’t shoot for sport.”

                “Me either,” he said quickly. “Anything I take down, I eat. I want to invite you to come hunting with me and my wife-”

                Santana cut him off. “Oh, sorry, Skip, I’m not into that.”

                He laughed, knowing exactly where her mind had gone to. He had an easy smile. “Come on: I just watched you mentally castrate a guy who made a tasteless joke. Do you really think that I’d proposition you for a threesome? I was thinking deer hunting.”

                Santana gave him the elevator eye. What was with people who liked to shoot things for fun? And not things…but living things. He could see her judgment.

                “You eat cows, don’t you? I guarantee a bullet to the head to a free ranging deer is a lot more humane then what they put your burger through. And cleaner, too. Thanksgiving’s coming up? Who doesn’t want fresh venison?”

                Santana could just imagine the look on the face of the Fabrays if she sat a buck on the dinner table in front of the whole clan. Extra points if she was wearing a dress when she did it, too. Let’s see them think of her as the ‘little wife’ after that!

                “I’m not a hunter.”

                Chandler whipped out a business card faster than Santana could blink. “Think about it, and get back to me. Loved to have someone with as keen an eye as you out there with me.”

                Santana pocketed the card, before changing out her target sheet, and sending a fresh one down the chute.

                Santana got so caught up with shooting that she ended up being a few minutes late getting back to work. It was just her luck that Paulianne was waiting for her at her station. She sighed in anticipation of getting chewed out.

                “How was your lunch, Lopez?”

                “Fabray-Lopez-” Santana said automatically, even if she was about to get chewed out for coming back late. Why this woman couldn’t be like a normal upper manager who spent all day in her office emailing, Santana couldn’t figure out. “It was good. Sorry about the time.”

                Paulianne didn’t respond, her gaze having been captured by the pictures on Santana’s work station at her correction. Like Quinn, she had expanded her photos to include a picture of Phil on her desk. This particular one was of her and him reading to each other. Phil was curled into her lap, with a book spread out in his. He had been reading Gus & Me, and Santana was reading De Colores, though you couldn’t see her book in the picture. Paulianne nodded appreciatively at the photo.

                “Is that your son, Santana?” Paulianne questioned with a note of surprise. Santana gave a nod.  “He’s adorable; he looks like you! What’s his name?”

                No clue, Santana thought wryly. “Philip.”

                She tensed, preparing herself for personal questions, but the ones Paulianne asked weren’t the ones she was expecting. “Did he like Gus & Me?”

                She nodded, giving a small smile. “He wanted me to buy him a guitar after we read it.” Oddly, even though the book was about a boy and his grandfather, it hadn’t caused Phil to ask questions about either her or Hazel’s parents. Phil had always seemed to accept that he lived in a sort of vacuum.

                “Did you get him one?”

                “Get him…,” she remembered the statement that had prompted the questions. “No. We told him he’d have to wait a few years.”

                “Did he have much trouble reading it?”

                Santana shook her head. “He had trouble with a few words, but no big problems.”

                “How old is he?”

                “He’s five. He was four in the picture, but he’s been reading since he was three and a half.”

                “Smart kid.”

                “He’s really smart,” she agreed.  “What’s the point of having a mother who works in publishing if you can’t even read?”

                Paulianne laughed at her joke. Santana hadn’t set out to actually teach him to read so young; she was always bringing over books and one day seeing Phil with one of the books in his lap, reciting it from memory, prompted her to try to teach him so that he would still have something of her when she wasn’t around.

                “Indeed. Do you read him imprints?”

                Santana wondered if this was the real purpose of the conversation, but she couldn’t see how she could get in trouble for that considering that she read unreleased books to the kids at the Children’s Hospital as well. Free market research.

                “I do.”

                “What’d he think about Dupree’s book?”

                “He loved it! He loves tigers, so a book about a little boy who got to live with them? Loved it.”

                “How lucky for you that you’ve got a product tester in-home! Unfortunately my kids have aged out of the demo. They really grow up so fast…” Paulianne seemed to contemplate that for a span of a second. “So! we’ve gotten back third quarter receipts for The Tiger Prince, and our fourth quarter projections are already looking to be above what we expected.”        

                Although Santana could access that information if she ever honestly cared enough to, it was rare for that kind of information to be shared with her. Her department did the layouts and minor marketing; they had nothing to do with the money side of the business. In fact, a lot of what Santana had done for The Tiger Prince had been outside of what she normally did. 

                “That’s good.” Santana was sure to keep her voice neutral enough to not fall into the suck up territory, yet remain interested enough to not seem apathetic.

                 “How would you like to run lead on the next project?”

                The words took Santana completely off guard. “Really?”

                “Really. I know you gave great sacrifice to see that we had a successful launch. Your dedication to your work is commendable. You managed to impress a few people with your work on the Dupree project, and your past works, so we’d like to see what you can do with a little bit more freedom. Staff meeting is on Monday. Do you think that you’ll be able to put together a presentation by then?”

                It wasn’t really a question you could answer ‘no’ to, no matter how much work just landed on Santana’s desk.  “I can.”


                Paulianne stalked off, and for once to Santana it didn’t seem like she was carrying an inner grudge for her when she did so. She took a moment to bask in the fact that she was the project head on her first ever book launch, before she started to get to work on her upcoming presentation.

                Santana left work at 3:00. It was an hour earlier than she normally did on Tuesdays, but she’d finished up early at the gym this morning so she’d gone in earlier than normal, and she knew she’d be working later hours the rest of this week so she figured she might as well take the time now. This morning she had every intention of coming home from work and practicing one or two of the Fabray family recipes when she got home, but that all went out the door in favor of alcohol and video games. All during the car ride home, she had fantasies of her grabbing an ice cold beer, stripping out of her work clothes, and lounging in front of her game system being stupid and mindless with Puck. Besides…it had been so long since she’d donned her rain warrior outfit…

                She had to dig through the closet to find her beloved outfit, and finding the sword took even longer. Most of her gaming software she had left packed up, deciding that she could do without it for a couple of months, along with most of her other stuff.  Her apartment had hardly been big enough to fit in all her stuff, and now that she was combining with Quinn, there was even less space. So Santana had been doing without a lot; marriage was about sacrifice, she reminded herself every time she had to get something out of storage.

                Before logging in, Santana stopped by the kitchen, already tasting the salt, grease, and cheese combination of her favorite snack food, coupled with the yeastiness coolness of her alcohol. Instead of a nice red box of Sunshine Cheez-It snack crackers sitting front and prominent on the eye level shelf, there was an orange and white box of Trader Joe’s Cheddar Cheese Squares. To make matters worse, when she opened the fridge, instead of finding her trusty after work beer there (or even a decent trade beer), there was a six pack of some golden apple crap. “Like, what the hell…?” Santana demanded. The only thing stopping her from firing off a text to Quinn to let her know her displeasure about her switching Santana’s beer without permission was that it would let Quinn know that she’d gotten off work an hour earlier than usual. And was drinking beer at 3:30 in the afternoon.

                “Oh, but we will have words once you bring your sexy ass home, Quinn Fabray-Lopez,” Santana promised the air. A woman’s beer was sacred, and as many times as Santana went on about how the only thing that was a Cheez-It was a Cheez-It Quinn not getting the right snack had to be on purpose.  

                “Quinn knows I don’t drink this shit,” she mumbled, grabbing two bottles of the hard cider. She rolled her eyes just at the thought.

                Puck was already waiting for her when she signed in. “Flopez! I thought I lost you!”

                “Not quite yet. I hope you’ve told Quinn enough times that you love her, though.”

                 “Why’s that?”

                “Cause I’m going to kill her when she gets home.”

                Puck chuckled. “Ha. It was only a matter of time. But what’d she do?”

                “She replaced my Sam Adams with some damn Strongbow. Have you even heard of that shit before? And she refuses flat out refuses to buy my Cheez-Its! She went shopping, and instead of not buying the Trader Joe’s brand, and just telling me so I can just pick up a box , she bought the TJ version knowing that I hate the crap! It’s cause I didn’t go grocery shopping with her. She does this whenever she goes shopping alone, which is completely bullshit because I always  get everything on her freaking list when I go by myself. And I mean everything. Including her damn organic gourmet paprika and Cayenne pepper.”

                She was aware that Puck was laughing at her.

                “Welcome to marriage, bro.”

                Santana rolled her eyes. “In case you forgot, bro, I’ve been married longer than you.”

                “By like two weeks! Me and Shells have been living together longer than you have, so I got this head start on the whole cohabitation thing, which reminds me…how’s that working out for you?”

                “Q and I were living together since we’ve been married. Really, since I popped the question.”

                “Yeah, but you both had your own places, and now you don’t.”

                “It’s nice coming home to the same place every day, but I miss half of my stuff. We’re going to start looking at houses just as soon as Thanksgiving is over, though, so it’s only for a little while. Actually, our real estate agent wants us to look at a house the Monday before Thanksgiving, and then we’ll see from there. We made a list,” she added as an afterthought.

                “Going to check it twice?” he teased. “You’re a good one, Flopez, cause I don’t envy you having to go house hunting with Quinn! Lucky for me, Shells is as low maintenance as they come. Sort of.”

                “Ah, Quinn’s not so bad. So, are we doing this or what? I’m in a kick butt mood.”

                Puck gave a grunt of assent, and they started the game. The level that they were on was like a perfect level. Since the censor was on, it was the kind of level that required a lot of physical activity: running, jumping, ducking plus plenty of sword action. The sword was probably the best purchase Santana had ever made, because it made a cool whishing sound on the game when she beheaded certain creatures, and it lit up, and seriously just looked awesome.  She looked fierce, too, because she was dressed from head to toe, war paint make up included. The only unfortunate thing was that whenever she put on her costume (or thought about it) she got turned on, which made all of the physicality of the whole thing a little uncomfortable.  

                She and Puck were making good headway on their quest when she was thrown off by a loud, unfamiliar knock. All of the people who mattered each had their own distinctive knocking style. Santana gave a confused look at the door. Was Quinn expecting a package or something? But no, those were supposed to be left downstairs at the desk during the day time. “Timeout, Puck, someone’s on the door.”

                “Dope. I’m goinna grab a beer.”

                “No, you’re like supposed to stay and listen to make sure that I’m not being killed, or something.”

                He snorted. “Dude, I feel bad for anyone stupid enough to try and kill you. Getting a beer. Don’t die or anything.”

                “You suck as a friend, just want you to know,” Santana muttered, hoping that it really was just like a package or something, because if it wasn’t she was screwed.  She checked the peep hole before she opened the door, but she wasn’t certain she was seeing who she thought she was seeing until she opened the door and was greeted by blonde hair and big lips.  

                “Oh hell no,” Santana said, slamming the door in the face of her guest.

                “Santana?” was heard muffled through the door.

                Santana sighed, opening it up again, but only because Quinn was certain to say something to her if she didn’t. She wasn’t about to be hospitable, though. “No, guppy lips. We made a deal when I let you marry my girl that you don’t get to hang out here unless Mercedes is with you.”

                Sam held up the cardboard pizza he carried along with a DVD as if they were peace offerings. Curiously, she read the title: Shaun of the Dead.

                 Sam seized on her moment of hesitation. His eyes took in her appearance. “Hey cool, Santana, I didn’t know you played Knights of Adventure!” Sam looked over her costume, blushing, and it was then that she remembered that she had donned her rain warrior outfit. The one that had an exposed chest that was hardly covered by her bra with a belt that went diagonally across her upper abdomen. Santana quickly went to collect her discarded shirt and pulled it angrily down over her torso.

                “What are you doing here?” Santana demanded. “Did something happen to Mercedes?!”

                Sam stepped into their apartment. “Um…no. Why would you ask if something happened to Mercy?”

                “Because you are standing here in my apartment.”

                Sam looked over said apartment, taking it in. Santana tried to remember if he had ever been inside before.  

                “Oh, yeah, I just came over to see if we could hang.”

                She stared at him without blinking for a full minute. “If we could what?”

                “Hang. Puck said that you two gamed together all the time, and since I game I figured…”

                She cut him off. “You figured wrong, Lips.”

                 Ignoring Santana’s outrage, Sam took a seat on the love seat. Santana balked at the sight of this. “W-what’re you doing? The door is that way.” She pointed, as if she expected that to change anything. She swore that if he actually touched her game she would kill him; even if it would make her wife really, really mad at her, and leave the TroutyTot without a daddy.

                He appeared to be getting comfortable. Santana could tell that he wanted to grab a slice of pizza, but wouldn’t before Santana relented. “One game and I’ll leave.”

                It was a battle for her to tamp down on her emotions. “Puck and I are playing. We’re in the middle of a mission!”

                “So, I’ll watch.”

                “Or…you’ll get out!” 

                “That’s kind of harsh, bro” he declared.

                “I’m not a bro.”

                “Well, duh, Santana. Obviously. I just meant that in solidarity, you know. You’ve got a wife, I’ve got a wife. We’re hanging out.”

                “No, we are not hanging out,” she said fiercely. “There are many things that I have done and will do since I got married, but this is not in the contract.”

                “But I brought you pizza.” He pointed, in case she forget. Santana glowered, and then glowered some more when Sam didn’t seem fazed by the scathing look that she was giving him. When did her scowl break?

                And damn it if the pizza didn’t smell like heaven. “And that means what?”

                “You still alive over there, Flopez? I’m back.”

                “Yeah, no thanks to you!”

                “Who’s at the door?”

                “Sam Evans,” she answered, saying his full name.

                “Hey, tell him ‘congrats’ and apologize for me. I couldn’t get leave.”

                She started to relay Puck’s words until she realized what she was doing and stopped. “I’m not a damn relay service. Sam’s just about to leave, so you can call him and tell him yourself.”

                “Why am I leaving?” Sam questioned. “I thought we were about to dig into this pie.”     

                “Puck, give me a second okay?” Santana muted the headset. She was prepping herself to go into this spiel, but Sam stopped her.

                “Look, I just need some place to hang out for a few hours, and I knew you’d be home. We don’t have to talk or anything. I just need a little space from Mercy, for like an hour or so, and you guys are the only ones I know out here.”

                “You’re here because you’re trying to hide from your wife?” Which, she totally understood that. But as a woman, that was so not cool. Mercedes was pregnant.

                Sam didn’t look particularly pleased with himself. “I love her, but pregnant Mercedes is worse than Mercedes on her period with the mood swings, and…I just need a little time away.”

                “She’s that way because she’s carrying your spawn!”

                Sam threw his hands up in the air. “I know, okay! I just…needed a break.”

                “What does she think you’re doing right now?”

                “Out looking for a job, but don’t tell her, please,” he pleaded. “I know you don’t like me for whatever reason, and that’s fine, but just cause you don’t like me, doesn’t mean that you have to be so rude about it. If you needed just to hang, I wouldn’t kick you out, and I don’t even get why you don’t like me in the first place.”

                “You don’t know why I don’t like you?”

                He shook his head. “I really don’t, Santana.  There’s no basis for it. I’m a good guy. I was a good boyfriend to you even though you were just using me. Actually, I was a good boyfriend to all of your friends-”

                “Yes, that’s right, all of them. You kind of made your rounds, didn’t you?”

                “Who didn’t in Glee? You, Quinn, and Rachel all dated or had sex with both Finn and Puck. Mercedes dated Puck, too. Hell the only one who didn’t date Puck was Finn and Kurt, and I’m not so sure that that didn’t happen.”

                Santana bit back the urge to laugh, because she wouldn’t be surprised if Puck ever told her that he’d gotten with a dude before.

                “Even though you were mean and insulting, I’ve still been a good friend to you. When someone we loved needed help, I asked for it from you even though I knew it wouldn’t help me, and would raise you up in Brittany’s eyes. I’ve even defended you, even after you came out with that horrible song, so please tell me what I did to earn your ire?”

                Did Trouty just say ‘ire’. “Hey, that song was brilliant! You know what you did? You put Cheerios on the floor for Brittany to eat! And you married her!”

                “Fake married her! And is that what this is about? Brittany? You’re going to hold a grudge against me because I started dating the girl that you broke up with? Does that even make sense when you say it in your head? If everyone in Glee acted like you’re acting right now, none of us would even still be talking to each other anymore!  

                “And don’t you think that it’s a little bit immature that you don’t like me because of my relationship with Brittany when you’re married to Quinn? Brittany’s not your wife, or your girlfriend, so the fact that you still hate me for that just doesn’t make sense! Maybe my gestures didn’t make sense to you, but Brittany got it, and that’s all that matters because she was the one that the gesture was for in the first place! You and Quinn were complete bitches to each other all throughout high school, and some of college, and yet you don’t see any one of us refusing to be friends with either of you because of it.”

                Well, when it gets put that way. Santana didn’t really dislike, dislike Sam. She had told Mercedes on more than one occasion that the two of them needed to work their shit out because she always thought they were perfect for each other…she just didn’t really want to be friends with him. She didn’t want to have to add him to her life (the list was getting pretty full as it was). She didn’t really have a reason other than that by now her dislike was pretty much out of tradition. He was her wife’s best friend’s (oh who was she kidding, Mercedes was one of her best friends too) husband, so at the least she should tolerate him. And he was a good guy; had been a good guy with and to the people that she loved. And all of that stuff was so very long ago. And shit, Brittany had eaten a snickers bar from a litter box so the Cheerios on the floor was a step up.         

                “Pepperoni?” she demanded.

                An eager grin quickly took over Sam’s face. She could see, slightly, how it could be endearing. It was like having a 6’0 puppy. “Chorizo, jalapeno and salsa.”

                Santana winced. Damn.

                “Alright, you can stay.”

                If possible the smile grew, and he instantly reached into the box to grab a slice. Santana chewed through her own before unmuting her headset. “Still there, Puck?”

                “Roger that. I haven’t gotten a call from Sam yet, so he must still be there, hunh?”

                “Shut up,” Santana hissed.

                “That’s a yup. You want to just call it?”

                “Hell, no. This is the only day this week I can get on the game!”

                But Santana and Puck did end up calling the game less than half an hour later because Sam was looking like a lost puppy, and Santana did have a heart.

                “So how’s the Diva and the TroutyTot?” she questioned, as she was shutting off the game. “Still cooking?”

                She went to change out of her costume while Sam thought it over. When she came back she really looked at him. He was looking a bit on the drawn side. She could see stress markers a mile away.

                “Yeah…our little bean’s still cooking.” He gave the dopiest smile, one reminiscent of Finn. “This morning, I wake up with my arm around Mercedes waist, and I-I couldn’t help but smile because…this is real. I woke up from a dream, yet it’s real, and we’re married. She’s my wife. She has my name, and we’re about to have a kid. Like a living, breathing …thing! I heard its heart beat. It’s real, and it’s mine, you know? Like we did that!”

                Santana was very careful to school her features. “But then it hit me: I’m about to be a dad! In May. That’s only six months from now! And I’m going to be someone’s dad. How do you…how do you wrap your head around it?”

                It was purely rhetorical; Santana knew that Sam wasn’t expecting her to answer, but she couldn’t stop herself from answering him anyway. “You don’t. Until you actually hold them, you can’t wrap your head around it. But hen that first time…the first time you hold them, actually hold them in your arms, and they look up at you, and even though they can’t see you, they know you’re you. And that moment that you realize that this little miracle in your hands trust you without question, you know that you’ll do everything that you can for them. And then it just kind of makes sense.”

                “What if I mess up?”

                Santana could see how that particular thought had been troubling him. “You will,” Santana assured him. “You’re going to mess up, and you’re not going to do the right thing, because you’re not perfect, and no one does parenthood without messing up. So you have to get over that right now. You will drop your child, at least once. You will probably drop your phone on them. You’re going to get upset with them, and lose your temper because they’ll be days that they never seem to stop crying no matter what you do. You may miss feeding them a meal or two, and all of that is okay, Sam. It happens.”

                Santana was aware of the look Sam was giving her, a look that was curious, surprised, but that showed he was listening raptly. “You’re not going to have the perfect kid,” (although Phil came pretty close to it), “and you’re not going to be the perfect parent, because there’s no such thing. But as long as you love them, and you raise them to be as kind and considerate as their parents are, you’re going to be alright. You’re going to be a good dad, Sam.”

                Silence fell after Santana’s pronouncement as they both sat and contemplated her words. “Thank you, Santana.”

                She grimaced, “Don’t mention it. I mean that seriously. Don’t mention it.”