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Girlfriend for Hire

Chapter Text

"what are you doing?"

"Just lying down on my bed."

"really? What are you wearing?"

"A pair of panties…"

"and…?"

"And nothing else."

"what kind of panties?"

"A lacy thong"

"What color are they?"

Mercedes leaned down to scratch her yoga-pant clad leg while she cradled the phone in between her ear and shoulder, using her other hand to stir the sauce on the stove. She took a quick taste of the spoon she was using, thought for a moment, then reached for the pepper on the counter never losing her place in the conversation. "They're a pretty pink. Soft, sweet…" she paused for effect. "...and a little bit wet."

She heard a heavy groan from the other end of the line. "could they perhaps be hiding something else pink and soft?"

Mercedes rolled her eyes even as she answered in the affirmative. She could tell what was coming next.

"Will you let me see for myself? Just a picture? I want to see how pink and soft and wet you really are."

"I'm sorry, John. Unfortunately, that's against the rules. And your time's almost up." Thank god, she silently said to herself. "We'll have to start again another time."

"Oh please. Just a little longer."

"It'll be another $40. You know the rules." Her rules.

"Ok. I'll call you next week."

"I'll be waiting. Good night, John. I'll dream about you."

"Good night, Mercedes." Mercedes waited until she heard the soft click before she hung up. She disconnected the handset from the wall. As she put it away, she got a twinge of pain in her neck. She really needed to get a hands-free headset.

When I get a bit more money, she promised herself. She glanced at the clock. Good. She had enough time for a shower before he was due to arrive. She turned the sauce on low, checked the water for the lasagna noodles and set the timer. She couldn't stay in the shower for more than 10 minutes. She wanted to make a good impression. It was important that this meal go well. It made all the difference in impressing her date.

As she turned on the shower and began to undress, she ran through his likes and dislikes in her head like a litany.

Dislikes:

Body piercings

People who talk at movies

People who move their lips when reading

Burned bread

The color orange

People who pretend to like sports

Too much makeup

Pretentiousness

Likes:

Golf (of course)

Comfort food

Music

Good conversation

Stepping inside the shower, she thought about the evening before her. It was important that it went well. Rarely did she get the opportunity to date, especially since her line of work tended to turn guys off. What guy really like the fact that she made her living talking dirty and moaning over the phone to random guys? Coupled with the fact that she is far from model thin, dates have been few and far between longer than she cared to admit. Oh, she got the occasional chubby chasers but nothing that would make a girl swoon with delight.

Uncapping a bottle of Dove body wash, unscented in an effort to cut down on any possible offending odors, Mercedes quickly soaped up a loofah and ran it over her body. Thank god she didn't have to shave her legs. She had just visited her best friend's salon a few days before where she got her ends trimmed and got some much needed waxing done courtesy of Kurt. Just because she was the only who saw her naked didn't mean she should be scared at the sight.

Quickly rinsing off the suds, she pulled back the curtain and stepped out of the shower. She took a towel from the shelf next to the door and dried herself off before wrapping it around her. With an eye on the small clock she kept on the bathroom counter, she grabbed the almost completely empty bottle of lotion and unscrewed the top. With precision and a lot of practice, she whacked the open bottle against her palm. Funds were so scarce that a bottle of Jergens was considered a luxury.

She thought with a flash of guilt about her salon visit. It was brushed off. "That was an investment." She told herself as she rubbed the lotion on her legs and arms. This new client would appreciate the effort.

Looking in the mirror, she reached up and unpinned the bun she had wrapped her hair in before taking her shower. Grabbing her brush in her right hand and her long black hair in the other hand she started to brush it into soft waves. It wasn't quite waist-length but it was full and thick. Her friend Theresa made her promise that if she ever cut it she would donate it to Locks of Love.

"Hair like that deserves to be shared with the world." Her friend said in awe upon her first sight of it hanging down. Unfortunately, Mercedes didn't know how to give it the proper care it needed so bimonthly visits to the salon was a must. The rest of the time, it stayed up in a ponytail. Reaching for a hair tie, she wondered if she should cut it. Then an unbidden memory of her with a "Demi Moore" haircut from 7th grade crept into her head. It had taken 6 months to stop looking like a boy from the neck up. 3 months after that cut, she could have doubled for a member of Hanson, the black cousin in the back, playing the tambourine.

She put down the brush and walked into her bedroom where on the bed lay her previously chosen outfit for tonight. She grabbed her underwear out of the drawer and quickly got dressed. The jeans were old and broken in and the built-in underwire in the tank top provided some much needed support. Her breasts were double-Ds. Always having to wear a bra got very tiresome very quickly.

She pulled the old sweatshirt from Columbia over her head with a rueful chuckle as she walked back out to the kitchen to check the noodles progress. It had seemed like such a good idea getting a business degree from such a prestigious university. Her parents had been so proud to see her graduate. Of course this was before they stopped talking to her. If they only knew where 4 years and a mountain of student loans had got her: a phone-sex operator living in a 1-bedroom apartment in a less than trendy part of town.

She bent down in search for her colander to strain the noodles and preheated the oven. He liked comfort food so she decided to make her world famous lasagna. Ok, it was only famous her own little world but she always got compliments on it. Her motto: when it comes to pasta, you can never have too much meat or too much cheese.

Grabbing a bottle of wine and a cork screw, she opened the bottle of red wine that she had picked up when shopping for dinner. She had gotten a deal on 2 bottles and the sommelier at the local shop had assured her that it would go well with a red sauce. It cost her half a day's pay but again, it was an investment. Letting the wine breathe, she turned on some blues. He hadn't stated a music preference so she was taking a chance but figured it was appropriate for the mood. There were candles on the table and counter, a small fire in her much beloved fireplace, and the faint aroma of wine in the air.

Mercedes turned off the noodles as she heard a knock at the door. "Oh god", she said to herself. He was here. There was no going back now. She did a quick check in the reflective door of the microwave, considered herself presentable and crossed the small apartment to open the door.

"Here we go." She quickly opened the door.

Mercedes had not been sure what to expect from the man she looked at. While there had been emails exchanged along with a picture of her, she had not received a picture from him. In fact, she didn't even know his name. He stated in his emails that he didn't want their arrangement to reach the ears of those who liked to gossip. Although she assured him of complete discretion on her part, he still remained mum. Frankly, the insinuation that she couldn't be trusted rankled her. But she had to concede his point. If he was as important as he thought he was, she could see why he would want to take precautions. So she had no idea who was going to show up at her door.

He was not what she expected.

She stood there for a second, dumbstruck. Luckily she had always been the type to bounce back quick so she plastered a smile on her face and waved him in. He walked in and she shut the door behind him.

Turning around to face him, she offered to take his coat, using the time it took for him to shrug off the cashmere overcoat to do a quick assessment. Only when she turned to hang the coat on the rack did she allow herself a lustful sigh. "There is a god and he made this man in his image," she thought to herself. She suddenly felt self-conscious and underdressed in his presence.

She turned to see him studying her apartment. "Would you like to sit down? Dinner is not quite ready yet."

Without a word, he walked over to her overstuffed couch that she picked up at an estate sale her sophomore year in college and sat down. She grabbed the wine bottle and a glass and showed him the label. Surely, he would be the type of man who would be picky about his wine. The price tag on this particular vintage had definitely impressed her.

He nodded at the label and watched her pour the wine. She handed him the glass and set the bottle down on the coffee table within easy reach. "It's just going to be a little bit longer. I still have to make it up and put it in the oven. I made lasagna. Is that ok?" She looked at him and held her breath, waiting for the gorgeous but mute man to give his approval.

He smiled a little smile and politely nodded his head. Mercedes walked back into the kitchen, which was only 10 feet away in her tiny apartment, and proceeded to check the sauce.

Sam Evans didn't know what he was expecting from this woman who was moving around the tiny kitchen with a practiced ease. When he first thought up this idea of hiring a woman, it seemed like the best solution to his problem. At 6'3" with blond hair and green eyes with a great-paying job, he had no trouble attracting woman. That was the problem. He needed a professional. Someone who wouldn't get attached.

He sipped his wine while he studied Mercedes in her pony-tail and ratty sweatshirt and jeans. She was bigger than he normally dated. He didn't know much about women's clothes sizes but he figured her to be about a 14 or 16, just big enough to be called plus-sized. He had the opportunity to date a few Victoria Secret models on occasion. She was never gonna be one of those girls. When his friend Puck suggested her, he expected her to be an obese woman with nothing but rolls. However, the first picture she submitted held a pleasant face framed by thick dark hair and chocolate eyes lidded by dark lashes. It was a candid photo, obviously taken when she wasn't expecting it but in a moment of pure joy. It wasn't a frozen expression like so many of the pictures he reviewed were. Those pictures were products of a hair stylist, a make-up artist and exceptional lighting. Her picture was a rare novelty. It was that picture that piqued his interest. Standing with her back to him now, he could fully assess her other attributes. Her bare feet revealed a preference for blue nail polish. Her well-worn jeans hugged her curves, accentuating her full hips and rounded bottom. The pony-tail sat high on her head, revealing a long neck leading to a nice shoulder peeking out from under that sweatshirt. He could just seek a hint of a tattoo between her shoulder blades. She stood on one foot as she scratched her leg with the other foot. Good balance. He couldn't get a good look at her breasts but it didn't really matter. He wasn't looking for sex, he wanted companionship. As he had requested, she was girl-next-door, free of pretentions. In his experience, that was a luxury.

This might work out after all. He thought. He stood up with his glass of wine and walked over to the kitchen. There was a stool in the corner. He sat down to watch her assemble the lasagna.

She was stirring the sauce while turning off the noodles she had cooked while he had been watching her. Suddenly, she whirled around to face him.

"You're not a vegetarian, are you?" She asked him with a horrified look on her face.

He broke into a genuine smile and chuckled. "No, I'm not a vegetarian. Definitely a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy." She sagged in relief.

"Good. Because other than the salad in the fridge, you would have been out of luck." She turned back and took a quick taste of the sauce and paused. Snapping her fingers, she turned to the refrigerator and pulled out a container of heavy cream. "Hope you're not on a diet." She said as she poured a few tablespoons into the red sauce.

"Cream in a red sauce?" Sam asked disbelievingly.

She vigorously stirred the sauce and gave it a quick taste. "Let the master work, please." She tossed him a quick grin even as she studied the sauce. "It's still missing something."

She looked around her small kitchen and couldn't figure it out until she looked at him.

"Aah. There it is."

Without a word, she plucked the half empty glass of wine out of his hand and dumped the contents in the sauce. He watched in fascination as she mixed in a little more cream and gave it a taste. "Got it." She proclaimed with a note of satisfaction. She held out the spoon.

"Wanna taste?" She asked the question with a teasing tone.

Sam took it as a dare so she could size him up. Without taking his eyes off of hers, he accepted the challenge and opened his mouth. The second the sauce hit his tongue, he gave a little moan. The spices exploded on his tongue, most of which he couldn't identify. He rolled it around in his mouth, tasting the tomatoes, a little pepper, basil and yes, there was the red wine she added. He was surprised to find virtually no trace of the cream in his sample.

"That's amazing." She laughed and pulled out a pan to start layering her ingredients. "Where did you learn how to do that?"

"My roommate in college was Italian. She had been making red sauce since she was little. I already knew how to make the lasagna but I was using supermarket jar sauce." She used a pair of tongs to grab the noodles out of the hot water and onto the pan. "It was good but I was always experimenting with trying to make it better." She spooned some cooked crumbled hamburger on top of the arranged noodles. "So one day, I begged her to teach me how to make her sauce. She wouldn't give me the recipe. I begged and begged her, but she wouldn't do it."

Sam sat mesmerized by how deftly she added the sauce and cheese. He counted 3 different shredded cheeses not including the ricotta cheese she mixed in with the meat. Then she began the process again with the noodles.

"She kept saying no but at the end of the year, she finally said yes. She showed me the basics: blanching fresh tomatoes, chopping them, thickening the sauce, when to add oil, that type of thing. But when it came to seasoning, she wouldn't tell me what she put in it." Mercedes laughed. "She said the only way I would ever get the full recipe is if I married her brother and her mother gave it to me on her deathbed." She smirked at him. "Her brother's 9 and her mother was a teen mother. She's not kicking for years." She finished the top layer of cheese and fresh spinach and basil, opened the oven and slid the pan in. She then put all of the pots in some soapy water in the sink to let soak for cleanup later. Gesturing towards the couch, she picked up the other wine glass and sat cross legged on the couch. He followed her to the couch, picked up the wine and poured them both a glass and waited for her to continue.

She took a sip of wine. "Wow that is good. I'm glad I listened to that guy." She sighed for a moment then resumed her story.

"Theresa told me that the best way to make a sauce your own is to make it up. All the great cooks have to experiment." She affected a Brooklyn accent. "'Like life, you have to figure out what works for you and make adjustments as needed.'" Mercedes shook her head. "She could be a pain in the butt sometimes. But that didn't make her any less right." She took a sip. "So that summer, I ate nothing but red sauce. Some were sweet, some savory. One had me running to stick my tongue under the kitchen faucet because it was so hot. I tried everything in different combinations. Finally, I decided to keep it simple and only add things if I think about it. That was 6 years ago and I still haven't figured out my ultimate recipe." She took another sip.

"But I think this wine is definitely going on the list."

He agreed. While he was definitely more at home with a beer in his hand, he could appreciate a good wine and this one is of some note.

They sat in silence for a few minutes while watching the fire. It occurred to him that he didn't feel like making small talk. Usually, he didn't like silence. It was one reason he moved off of his grandparent's farm. He liked noise and not the noise of a rooster crowing at the crack of dawn. Street noise was calming to him, like a lullaby, but here he sat with a pleasant woman drinking wine, waiting for dinner to finish. And it didn't bother him.

He glanced at her. Yes, she would do nicely.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer:
I own nothing. Glee is the property of those other people who seem to make arbitrary decisions and keep us Samcedes fans bald from pulling out our hair in frustration! *pants hard*
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"It's only me." Mercedes called out as she walked through the door of the brownstone.

Blaine came around the corner with a bottle of champagne in one hand and a rapidly filling glass in the other. He filled it to the top and handed it off to her. "Here."

Mercedes eyed the glass and then Blaine. "I'm not going to like this, am I?" They opened the champagne they kept in the refrigerator for special occasions or really shitty days. From the look on Blaine's face, it was the latter.

"Let me put it this way." He turned her shoulders in the direction of the kitchen and gently but determinedly pushed her forward. "Just get it over with."

Mercedes entered the kitchen of the work-in-progress home. As neither her best friend nor his husband Blaine cooked often, it was not a priority on their list. Therefore, it was usually a bit ramshackle.

Today, though, it was a garish shade of bubblegum pink, paired with deep purple accents and lime green chairs. There was a retro avocado fridge and purple cabinets. It looked like Willy Wonka's factory had threw up.

It. Was. Hideous.

Mercedes stood in the kitchen, mouth agape. She looked over to her friend, standing with the demeanor of a man defeated and broken.

"So, Mercedes. What do you think of my new kitchen?"

Unable to say anything, Mercedes merely lifted her glass of expensive champagne and downed the entire contents.

"Yep. That was my reaction too." Blaine said at her back. He took her empty glass from her hand and refilled it.

"Who did this? Who…?"

"Murdered my kitchen?" Kurt asked drily. He nodded his head and sighed. "That queen who swore up and down that she was a decorator. The upside, she did it all in just 2 days."

"Wait a minute. You hired Cacique to decorate? Are you out of your mind?"

"She said she had a degree in design."

"Clowns used to get a degree before they worked in the circus! What made you think this would be a good idea? Have you seen her outfits?"

"She's a drag queen!"

"And an ugly one at that." This comment came from Blaine, who with a loud pop, opened a 2nd bottle.

"He did this without telling you, didn't he?" Mercedes asked Blaine.

"It was supposed to be a surprise," Kurt said in a small voice.

"Well, it was certainly that." Blaine said in a dry voice before he took a swig.

Mercedes saw Kurt's eyes start to water. Before she could move, Blaine was at his side, with his arms around him. She couldn't hear Kurt's shaky voice as his face was muffled in Blaine's chest, but she could hear Blaine reassure her best friend that he loved that he wanted to give him a surprise and that it would be ok.

Leaning up against a vinyl (Vinyl?) counter top, Mercedes watched the two men. Life with the two of them was never predictable. They looked and acted like a contradiction.
Kurt had been her best friend since elementary. They were born only 4 days apart so he was more like her brother than just a classmate. They grew up together in the small podunk and somewhat prejudiced town of Lima, Ohio and he was the one she always ran to when it was "tease the fat girl day" at school. He helped her with her homework and took her to prom. He was the shoulder she cried on and she never forgot to offer hers in return. He was always there for her, through thick and thin. So when he came out to his super conservative family at Sunday dinner, she stood by his side without hesitation to dismay and anger of her own family. November 8th would be 4 years, and she hadn't spoken to her mother or siblings since that day. Every Christmas and birthday, she sends a card with an updated photograph of them to both families, but there has been no reply. Not even a postcard.

Kurt and her packed up their stuff that day and moved to Atlanta. Kurt found work sweeping up hair in a salon until one of the cosmetologists quit in a snit and a chair became available. Later that week, Blaine in walked. Blaine was 29, a lawyer on the fast track to making partner at one of the most respected law firms in the city, and most importantly, single. Two haircuts later, they were dating. 6 months later, they were living together. 1 year and a commitment ceremony later, they bought this brownstone with the intent of completely rehabbing it themselves.

In the meantime, Kurt had opened a salon of his own, fairly modest in size and revenue, and Blaine had made partner. While they weren't exactly rolling in it, they were very comfortable.

They were also complete opposites. Blaine loved to dress his tall, athletic body in sharp suits and designer jeans that his personal dresser picked out for him. His shoes have their own wall in the walk-in closet. His brown eyes could cut you right to the quick or make you feel like you were the only person in the room. He was manicured, manscaped and manly.

Kurt, on the other hand was like her. He was most comfortable in a pair of old ratty jeans, bare feet, and oil stains. He was very creative and was interested in anything and everything. When he wasn't at work, he could usually be found in his studio in the back of the house. It had a half-finished sculpture in one corner, a darkroom in the bathroom and an engine he's in the middle of rebuilding. Blaine gave up trying to get him interested in suits. Back in school, he was the ultimate fashionista. There wasn't a designer he didn't know about and a label he didn't own. Now that he grew up and had to learn to get his hands dirty occasionally, clothes became less important. "Why wear something that
I'd be afraid to touch, in case I didn't get all the dirt from under my nails?" he once told Mercedes.

Though, for all his messy hobbies, he kept a meticulously clean workspace. In fact, he once fired a technician on the spot for not disinfecting his tools. And considering his propensity to tear up, he was no pushover. He used to let a student from the local cosmetology school come sweep up hair in his salon. One day he found a sample bottle of hairspray sticking out of her bag. When confronted, she claimed it was hers. When he showed her the store logo on the bottom of the bottom to differentiate it from the for sale bottles, she said it was just a bottle of hairspray. He fired her, and then called the school and told them that he was dissolving their partnership immediately. Even after they offered increased marketing in their school and publication for a discounted rate, he said no. It was virtually unheard of for a small salon to turn down this prestigious school but Kurt stuck to his principles and refused to hire anyone who graduated from that particular school.

Once you were on his bad side, it was hard to get off.

Kurt seemed to calm down in the arms of his lover. Mercedes caught Blaine's eye and he gave her a wink. She smiled and once again was grateful that her closest friend and brother was able to find somebody who absolutely adored him.

Now if only she could find someone like that for her.

Kurt sniffed, pressed a quick kiss to Blaine lips and smiled a wavered at Mercedes. She returned the smile. "Today, on Passions…" she referenced their favorite soap opera in her announcer voice.

"Oh, why'd you have to bring that up? You know I'm still a wreck over that."

Blaine rolled his eyes. "It went off the air 4 years ago." He was not a fan of soaps.

Mercedes walked around the island and linked arms with Kurt in solidarity. "But we still mourn its passing."

"I just can't believe they gave Gwen a happy ending. I hated that bitch."

"But at least Ethan and Theresa finally got together." Mercedes reminded him.

"Yes, they got together…after such cartoonish dilemmas as false paternities, faked deaths, marriage to every male member of a family, witches, and dolls that dream of being real little boys." Blaine shook his head in dismay.

Mercedes and Kurt looked at each other and said in unison, "It's a soap opera!"

"Whatever."

"We can't all watch the highbrow stuff you watch. What was that you was watching the other night? Ghost Hunters?"

Mercedes burst out laughing. "You watch Ghost Hunters? Oh my god. I thought you had better taste than that!"

"Everyone's entitled to a few lapses in judgment, my dear sister." Then Kurt turned to her and muttered, "Thank god we have 2 tvs."

Mercedes laughed with pure joy. She loved coming over here. Until the subject turned to her, which it did right then.

"So how was the big date?"

At his question, Mercedes eased away from Kurt and sat down on the other side of the island in the kitchen. "It wasn't a date."

"What was it then?"

"A business meeting."

"Fine. How did the 'business meeting' go?"

"Yeah", Blaine chimed in. "Was he old and fat, dressed like a pimp, ugly as hell, or what?"

"No he wasn't." Mercedes picked up a recent issue of Jezebel magazine and began to turn the pages.

"Wasn't what?"

"Old and fat, dressed like a pimp, ugly as hell, or what." Mercedes replied with a great deal of cheekiness.

"So then what was he", Kurt leaned forward on the counter top.

"Yeah, tell us all about it!" Despite his highbrow habits, Blaine was not above a little girl talk.

She continued to thumb through the pages of the magazine, knowing her silence would drive them insane.

"It was fine. He came, I made dinner, he ate, we chatted and he's gonna contact me later in the week."

"That's it?" Blaine and Kurt said in unison with a tone of disbelief.

"That's it."

Blaine said nothing. He merely walked to the freezer, pulled out the half gallon of Rocky Road ice cream, got 3 spoons out of the hideous green drawer, set them out so they could reach them.

Mercedes kept her head down under the guise of browsing the magazine. She bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. By the way Blaine broke out the full-fat, full-flavored ice cream, they assumed the man was a troll and nothing was gonna happen. Next would come the comforting.

Blaine and Kurt sat across from her with the Rocky Road on the table and waited for here to elaborate. She calmly turned the page in her magazine.

Now she was just being rude. It was the etiquette of the group that when the good ice cream gets trotted out, the person in pain takes the first bite. And Rocky Road was Kurt's favorite and he hardly got to eat it, so it was especially tortuous for him that she refrained from picking up the spoon.

Mercedes waited. She didn't have to wait for long.

"Will you please put the magazine down and tell us what happened!" Kurt shouted across the kitchen island.

Her cheek now aching with her attempt to keep her laughter in, Mercedes finally looked up. Besides, she had found what she was looking for.

"It was a nice night." Taking pity on Kurt, she picked up a spoon and dipped it into the open carton of ice cream. She wrapped her lips around the spoon, licking it clean. Now that she had began to eat, they could too.

"He got there before I finished cooking so while the lasagna was in the oven, we got to know each other. He's an executive at a local advertising agency and he's looking for a girlfriend. He doesn't want sex, but companionship."

"What's the point of that?" Kurt asked as he spooned a heaping spoonful out of the carton.

"It's legal, for one thing." Blaine said dryly. Kurt waved the spoon in the air.

"Minor point."

"So what does he look like? If he has to buy a girlfriend, chances are he's not someone you would want to sleep with anyway."

"He's….nice."

"Just nice?" Kurt's voice held a note of disbelief. "Nice is for describing cars or houses, not people."

Mercedes chuckled and glanced at her watch. "Shoot, I gotta go. I got a class."

"But you haven't finished telling us about the guy." Kurt said in protest.

Mercedes walked around the island, magazine in hand. She gave each of them a quick kiss, laid the magazine out face-down on the page she had been looking for, and walked to the door.

"I'll talk to you guys later." She reached the door and opened it. Casually, she said over her shoulder, "you might want to take a look at that magazine and the picture on the left. It may answer any questions you have about my mystery man." She closed the door behind her.

She walked slowly down the block in the direction of her early evening class. "5, 4, 3, 2, 1…."

Even though she wasn't standing in front of the house, she heard the 'oh my god' spoken at the top of the couple's lungs. She turned in time to see the front door fly open and her two favorite people in the world stuck their heads out, with their mouths gaped open.

"You're going out with him?"

Mercedes simply smiled, gave a wave good-bye, and turned the corner.

Chapter Text

Mercedes sat on the couch in front of the fire, completely engrossed in the Catching Fire, the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss had just become aware of the mist surrounding her and her allies inside the dome when there was a knock at her door.

If that's Kurt, I'm gonna kill him. If it's Blaine, I'm gonna kiss him and then kill him.

They knew she enjoyed her "Mercy time". After 7:00, they never came over without first calling. There was another knock. She sighed and threw back the blanket covering her legs after setting down her NookColor, yanked down the hem of her over sized shirt stood up and stomped to the door. With a growl, she jerked open the door and barked at the person standing on the other side.

"What?"

Sam blinked and gave a low chuckle at her obvious irritation. "I come in peace." He held up the bag he had in his hand.

"Look. I even brought an offering. Chinese." He watched as the look of aggravation slowly turned into mortification and then a smile covered the chocolate face that seemed to light up with the action. He felt something stirring in his lower stomach but quickly dismissed it.

Mercedes eyed the bag holding the takeout and said the first thing that came into her head. "If there's no sesame chicken, I'm kicking you back out."

"Fair enough."

She stepped back to allow him entry. He made his way to her kitchen.

"No, take it to the couch. I'll get napkins. Water okay?"

"Great." She grabbed two bottles of water, a roll of paper towels and some utensils and made her way back to the couch where he was unpacking the takeout bag.
They moved in a comfortable and startling familiar rhythm, considering they had only met each other once before. In one of their emails prior to meeting they discussed they kinds of food they liked. It seemed Sam had been paying attention. He had indeed remembered her sesame chicken along with lo mein and egg drop soup. She opened the beef and broccoli and handed to him with no comment to break the silence. They soon settled with their containers and began to eat. Several minutes passed, during which the only sound that could be heard in the small apartment was the sound of the utensils scraping against the sides of the cardboard which held their bounty.

Eventually the initial hunger had been taken care of and they settled back in their seats. Again no attempt was made to break the silence that seemed to stretch. Sam was intrigued. He knew the last time he was on a date with a woman and the silence stretched, it made him uncomfortable. He itched to find something to say to fill up the gulf between them. But this silence, like last time, was warm. He gazed at his companion and for the first time since his arrival, really looked at her. In the soft light, her skin had taken on a glow. Her long eyelashes surrounded brown orbs that seemed to be shrewd but not calculating. Her cute, upturned nose was obviously natural and suited her. It sat above full lips that slightly parted to allow a pink tongue to peek through to dab at a bit of sauce that rested on the bottom half. He barely held in a groan at the sight. That sight alone was enough to tempt any man into temptation.

He forced himself to move on. Slowly he moved his eyes down from her rounded face, past her neck and shoulders until it came to the middle of her chest. When he had been there the week before, he didn't have the opportunity to study her breasts because of her sweatshirt. Now she was wearing a nightshirt that kept little to the realm of imagination. Fairly modest as far as nightwear went, this particular shirt covered all the interesting bits leading him to wonder what she would look like in the soft light of the fire, lying on the floor with nothing on, waiting for him to join her.

He closed his eyes and swiftly shook himself to banish the thoughts creeping through his head.

This is a business relationship. I'm not paying for sex.

At the mental mention of business, he opened his eyes and settled on Mercedes face which appeared to be holding in a laugh.

"Penny for your thoughts."

"They're not worth much more than that." The laugh escaped her and he watched her with a look of admiration and gratitude. She noticed and cocked her head to the side.

"What?"

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For showing me a real expression." At her quizzical look, he elaborated. "The women I've dated in the past have never truly showed their true expressions. When they smiled, it was calculating and practiced. They smiled for cameras at openings or salesladies while handing over my credit card. They never smiled for me. I don't think I've ever experienced a true smile that actually reached a person's eyes until you. Even back in high school."

"Were you popular in high school?"

He took a bite of broccoli before answering. "I was an interesting mix of jock and geek, still am to some extent. I was the quarterback, so I should've "ruled the school". I had pretty girls and some guys throwing themselves at me. It was a heady experience for a teenage boy. They hung on my every word…as long as it was about being cool and popular. When I tried to talk to them about things I cared about or found interesting, the subject would change or they'd check out. I figured out early to keep my real interests hidden if I wanted friends. I didn't really care for football but it was an easy way to get friends and a scholarship to college. As a teenage boy, that's all I cared about."

"Wow. That's…completely different than my high school experience."

"What were you like?"

"I was the fat black girl." She said simply with no real sense of disappointment or disgust in her voice.

"You're not fat." He protested. She smiled at him indulgently.

"Yes I am, by other people's standards. But thank you for saying it."

"By my standards you are a beautiful woman with her curves right where they need to be. You got a lot more confidence than some models I've dated."

"Yeah, I'm full of confidence. That's why I didn't get a date until I was a sophomore in college...or my first boyfriend dumped after taking my virginity…or my only real friend growing up was my gay best friend who joined show choir with me just so we had something to do after school." She gave a rueful chuckle. "I had good grades, a gay best friend, was black, had a big stomach, and grew up in a bigoted racist small town in middle America. Even in show choir, I had one of the best voices there and I would almost never get the chance to show it off. There was a girl in there with me and the supervising teacher love to put her front and center even though she couldn't sing worth a damn if it wasn't a show tune. She was gonna be a 'big star on Broadway' and she needed the exposure. I got trotted out for the high notes that needed to be belted out loudly but she was in the front with her big nose and reedy voice. Combine all of that with the fact that show choir was on the bottom of the social rung at West McKinley which made even the AV geeks slushy us on a regular basis, and you could say that my high school experience left a lot to be desired."

"Slushy? Like actual slushies?"

"Like actual slushies." She comfirmed with a nod. "Right in the face. It got so bad that I came to school with an extra outfit everyday and wouldn't unwrap my hair until almost lunchtime. I always had to go shopping at least once a week to replace something ruined by red dye #5."

"Jeez. Suddenly, I have a newfound affection for my school days."

"Well at least I won the 'I had it worse than you' game."

"You might've."

"No 'might' about it! I won fair and square, buster. Now I claim my prize."

"I already brought you Chinese food. What more do you want?"

"That was a peace offering not a prize. For my prize…." She trailed off.

He lifted an eyebrow that reminded her eerily of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies. "Yesssssssss?" He drawled.

"I want to know why you chose me."
________________________________________

Chapter Text

Sam sat at his desk going over a proposed pitch for a potential client. As he marked X on a number of mockups from the art department, he barely looked up when his door swung open to admit his assistant. Santana Lopez was 5'6", beautiful, and possessed a temperament that match the fire red color on her expertly manicured nails. Her glare had even the senior partners quaking in their $600 shoes. She may be young and had little experience when he hired her, but he couldn't imagine getting through his day without her.
As she stopped in front of his desk, a pile of paper landed in front of him.

"You need to tell those chicken heads you date to stop calling the office. This is a place of business, and definitely not a brothel. If they want to sell their ass to get their photograph taken, they need to peddle their wares elsewhere. You got 22 messages from 4 different women, 1 of which you dumped recently." She gave him a pointed look.

"I told you not to dump her with jewelry. Now she thinks you just 'need more time'."

"I was trying to let her down easy. And I know she likes diamonds."

"Yeah. Especially when they're bought with Your money." Santana said with a snort.

Sam dropped his red pencil, gathered the loose bits of paper and dropped them into the trash can by his desk. "You have my complete permission to tell them whatever you want from now on."

Santana stared at him completely shocked. For years she had been telling him everything that was wrong with the women he dated. Big boobs, spray tans and blow jobs only got you so far. He needed a girl to smooth over the rough spots not someone who went out to buy a new dress when she found one.

"Why now?" Then she narrowed her eyes. "Don't tell me you actually went through with your stupid plan?"

Sam quickly picked up his pencil and went back to marking. He wasn't gonna stare at the Gorgon sitting across his desk lest he get turned to stone.

"Sam, what the fuck were you thinking? Instead a handful of chicken heads, you went and found you an alpha chicken head? What's wrong with you? Is the lemon juice seeping into your scalp again?" Sam tuned her out as she went on her usual spiel about he don't know how to pick a woman and her offer to find him a girl. The last girl she set him up with, a little blonde girl named Brittany was a disaster. She kept talking about some dolphins that were in her dance troupe and what her cat said to her. Sam didn't follow anything she said.

Hell of a dancer though.

When Santana started lapsing into Spanish, Sam knew it was time to interrupt. "I don't need you to set me up with anyone. I made my choice and I'm happy with it." His voice held a note of finality to it. She sighed.

"So what's so special about this one? She actually has a brain bigger than her breasts?"

Sam reached into the bottom drawer of his desk and took out the picture Puck gave him. He gave a little smile before handing it over to Santana. She looked at him suspiciously before taking a long look at Mercedes. The only sign of her thoughts she gave was a raised eyebrow. For a few minutes, she didn't say anything. Finally, she looked up with a newly appraising eye.

'Maybe he can be taught'. She thought to herself.

"So…" She placed the picture back on the desk. "Why'd you choose her?" unknowingly echoing the question Mercedes asked him just a few nights ago.

FLASHBACK

"I want to know why you chose me."

Sam took a long drink of his water in order to put off answering the question while he really thought about it. He didn't want to give her some trite answer about her beauty or something equally superficial. While she was beautiful and sexy as hell, somehow he sensed that she wouldn't be entirely comfortable hearing something like that from him so early in their relati…Arrangement…fuck. 'I gotta watch that'.

She sat waiting patiently while he formulated an answer that would suffice. He sat back on the couch.

"First, let me ask you a question." At her nod of assent, he posed his query.

"What did you do with the advance I gave you that first night?" He watched her face carefully, looking to see if his faith was justified.

She had a mild look of confusion but no sense of subterfuge. "I put most of it in the bank. I got a few bills that I took care of, I bought a few books like the one you interrupted tonight…" he gave her a mild sheepish look of apology. "… and the rest I put in my savings account." He nodded.

"That's why I chose you."

"Ok, what does the balance on my bank account has to do with anything?"

"You put the money in the bank. You paid your bills, you bought a few mild luxuries and you saved the rest. You didn't go out and blow it on a new pair of shoes or go to the spa and get the works because you thought you could come back with your hand out for more. You're not depending on me to take care of you, even though our arrangement is almost exactly set up for it. Did you quit your job?"

"The aural facilitator position?" Her mouth twitched. "Yeah I quit my phone sex job. But I'm still working part-time at my friend Tina's place."

"Exactly. I have dated women in the past. Beautiful women that the whole world knew was beautiful, including themselves. Everything was about trading up. One of my exes broke up with me because even though I was the quarterback, dating a college guy would make her more popular. One is now married to my millionaire boss and is currently recuperating from an ass job in Brazil and another is his mistress. There is only 1 woman I've dated in the last 15 years that was even somewhat worth my time and if I ever get married, she'll be the best man at my wedding." He chuckled, thinking of Quinn.

'I should introduce them.' He shook his head and continued.

" You first caught my attention because you had a picture that was sincere and honest. It wasn't posed and fake. Then we chatted online and you actually had something to say and you didn't tune out or change the subject when we started talking about something I wanted to talk about. Alternatively, you didn't let me do all the talking. We were open with one another and even though we didn't chat online for an extended period of time, I knew that I wanted to get to know you better. You have beautiful eyes, an adorable nose, and a mouth that can drive a sane man to distraction and you don't seem to have any idea of the effect you have. While this arrangement isn't for sex, if it ever happened, I don't think I'd have any reservations or regrets. But that's not what I'm here for. If it was that I could find that for a hell of a lot cheaper than what I'm paying you. I want your company and I'm willing to pay for it. I have a feeling that I could get it for free but it makes me happy to do something for someone because I want to and not because they expect it. If I ever bought you a diamond tennis bracelet, it'd be because I'd want to buy it for you and not because you've been dropping hints or withholding sex to get it. I'm tired of being used, I'm tired of games and I'm tired of pretending that sex is the be all and end of all of everything. I'm almost 30 years old and I want to get to know a person and truly be known by them."

There was a stretch of silence as she stared at him in slight disbelief. He shifted on the couch, waiting to see what her response will be. Finally she smirked and said,

"Drive a sane man to distraction, huh? I wonder if I should put that on my business cards. Mercedes 'the mouth that drives a sane man to distraction' Jones." She considered it for a moment and then shook her head.

"Nah. Too long."

END FLASHBACK

"Looks like you actually like this girl." Santana said to him, shaking him out of his reverie.

"huh? Why you say that?"

"Because you got a dopey look on your face while you listed all of her good qualities in your head. I hope for your sake that you drop your 'prince charming' act and actually let this girl get to know you. Because if she's everything you claim she is, you break the terms of the contract, you will lose her. Better make sure she likes you too."

"I won't break it. Which reminds me..." He reached into his briefcase and pulled out an official-looking document. "This is the contract we signed. Make sure its notarized."

Santana stared at the document in disbelief. "You actually signed a contract? An Actual Contract?"

He shrugged. "Her idea."

"I like this girl more and more." Santana said in approval. "You know I'm going over this with a fine tooth comb looking for loopholes."

"I'd expect nothing less."

Suddenly, there was a banging noise outside the door. Santana closed her eyes and shook her head in annoyance and stood to open the door. Yanking it open she barked, "What do you want, Crip?"

"To take you over my knee and spank that ass. You need one badly followed by your mouth washed out with soap."

"You ain't getting near my ass or my mouth and you ain't got the balls to try." She stared down at Artie Abrams, who rolled into Sam's office in his custom wheelchair.

"I would show you my balls anytime you want, sweetheart but I'd be afraid you'd want to show me yours."

"I guarantee they're bigger than yours."

"I don't doubt it. Even the most talented surgeon wouldn't be able to get all of them chopped off during the sex change operation. How many times did you have to go under the knife before they gave up?"

"I could ask the same of you, Crip."

"My balls are just big enough to choke a bitch. If you're so interested, I'd be happy to demonstrate."

"I have no interest in digging out my magnifying glass, thanks." She turned to Sam. "I'm checking this contract and while you're at lunch I'm fumigating the office." She looked at Artie. "The stench of a waste of space can't be covered with Lysol." She turned on her heel and slammed the door.

Artie looked at Sam and smirked. "She wants me."

"Is that what it is? I thought it was utter and complete loathing."

"You need to learn how to read women, white bread." Artie rolled up the other side of Sam's desk, where Mercedes' picture lay. He gave a low whistle.

"Who's the hot mama?" Sam smiled and leaned back in his chair.

"My new girlfriend."

Chapter Text

Mercedes walked down the block towards Rory's new restaurant, half-listening to the discussion/argument between Tina and Mike. It was the about the gym as usual. Something about offering strip aerobics and who would teach it.

Tina was one of her best friends and gave her a job when she really needed the extra money. Her gym, Whipped Into Shape, was one the hottest businesses in the Atlanta area. Besides the usual offerings available at most gyms like yoga and spin, WhISe had karate, belly-dancing, water aerobics for seniors and P90X. Her partner, and love of her life, Mike Chang, was a 6'3" sweetheart that could set the dance floor on fire. Between the 2 of them, they were quickly becoming a power couple to be reckoned with. Mercedes snorted to herself. Tina and Mike were becoming known in the community. Kurt had built a successful salon from nothing. Blaine was a partner in his firm. She was surrounded by successful people and what is she doing? Even her "employer" had to be accomplished enough to be able to pay her her check every 2 weeks.

Thinking of Sam, a smile graced her lips. It had been almost 3 months since they signed that contract Blaine had drawn up. 3 months of being able to pay her rent in a way that doesn't make her have to take a shower and scrub off a layer of skin when it was over. At least 3 nights a week was spent on her couch, drinking wine and talking about nothing and everything. They watched movies and played poker or just read. It was nice and comfortable…and frustrating as hell!

Why did the man have to be so damn sexy? When she first heard about this arrangement, she immediately resigned herself to the man in question being old, ugly, boring, lecherous, or all of the above. Instead there was a blonde haired, green eyed intellectual who could discuss this week's episode of Doctor Who with the same fervor as the upcoming political elections while looking like sex on legs. He would be her IBM, or IWM in this case. If only he would show some kind of attraction to her.

It's one thing to be told that you're attractive. The comment about her mouth let her know that he wasn't completely unaffected by her. But since then, he has shied away from making any kind of follow-up comment or action that would suggest he wanted to see if her bra matched her panties.

Which they did, of course…just in case.

Mercedes sighed in resignation and followed Mike and Tina into Rory's Bistro where she caught the eye of the owner who began to make his way over. Rory was an exchange student who lived with Mike's family in high school and they became great friends. The roomed together in college and Mike's parents gave him the start-up money to open his restaurant. The reviews and the buzz had all been good and Rory was shaping up to be as successful as the rest of Mercedes' friends.

'Like I need yet another reason to feel inferior.'

Rory walked up and grabbed her arm and pulled her to the bar. Mike and Tina followed behind to find out why Rory cornered her.

Mercedes looked at Rory and saw the gleam in his eye. Mike groaned as he recognized that look. The sweet Irish boy in front of her, who would give the shirt off his back to a person in need, was nosy as hell and the biggest gossip in the south. That look never bode well.

"You guys got here just in time. You would not believe what's been happening." Or at least that's what Mercedes heard. Rory's thick Irish brogue made it difficult to understand at the best of times but even more so when faced with juicy gossip. Tina, another worshipper at the altar of got-to-know-everything-that's-none-of-her-business, leaned in to get all the dirt.

"What happened?"

Rory tried, unsuccessfully, to not be obvious in pointing out a booth against the far wall. In sat a petite dark-haired woman who was dressed in some unfortunate but still designer clothing sitting across a man who from the material of the suit sleeve, had taste. Mercedes brow furrowed as she thought she recognized that suit. She shook it off as Rory started talking.

"Those two have been here for the last hour. From what I could hear," Rory said without an ounce of shame. "He broke up with her but she's not taking no for an answer. Apparently, he's the best she ever had and he gave her jewelry when he broke it off."

"No! Really?" Tina lit up at the chance to practice her armchair psychology. "Well obviously he has a problem with commitment and want to keep her around. I mean, what guy breaks up with a girl with jewelry? Did you hear what it was?"

"I think it was that bracelet she has on." Everybody craned their necks around in a completely obvious way in order to catch a glimpse of said bracelet. Mercedes sucked in a breath as she also caught sight of the elegant hands that she would recognize from anywhere. They were the same hands she imagined all over her body for the last 3 months. She imagined those hands cradling her face, teasing her nipples, spanking her ass, rubbing her clit, bruising her hips, pulling her hair, and everything in between. She shook her head at an attempt to clear it to refocus on the conversation.

Rory shook his head. "Poor boy just doesn't seem to be getting through to her. Short of him having sex with someone else on the table in front of her, she won't get the message…and even then she might ask to join in."

At that, Mercedes got a truly stupid idea.

Without acknowledging any of her friends, she walked over to the booth.


Sam couldn't believe he was actually sitting across from his ex having this conversation. He always knew she was little more than arm candy, lacking a bit of intelligence but despite having being told that he didn't want her anymore, she still couldn't seem to take the hint. She actually started talking about "a great little place" that her dad owns and would be secluded enough for a honeymoon. When that was said, he had to tune her out in order to keep from reaching across the table and squeezing his hands around her throat.

Just as his temper reached his boiling point, he saw a flash of purple out the corner of his eye. Before he knew what was happening, a curvy figure sat down beside him and plump lips were affixed firmly to his. He was too shocked to do anything but let the kiss continue and when a tongue licked his lips he instinctively opened his mouth to welcome it. When he did, he automatically groaned.

This was a kiss not so much of welcome as it was of dominance. This kiss was designed to leave a mark. This kiss laid claim to him and all who witnessed it. He felt arms wrap around his neck and hands snake up into his hair. His shock having worn off, he returned the kiss with equal fervor. He licked the mouth that drove him wild and felt a shudder in response. He had no idea how long the kiss lasted, all he knew is he wanted to see what other reactions he could cause to owner of this delicious mouth.

Unfortunately, this owner began to pull back. Barely suppressing a groan, he released the face he held between his hands and got a good look at his 'attacker'.

Chocolate orbs stared back at him, looking a little glassy but mostly shocked and definitely aroused. The same chocolate orbs that seem to be dominating his dreams of late. He blinked as Mercedes gave him a sultry smile with her swollen lips.

"Hey honey," she purred. "Sorry I'm late."

Another blink.

Mercedes turned to the brunette who sat across the table, gaping at the display that was before her. Mercedes smiled a friendly smile and stuck her hand out in greeting.

"Sorry to interrupt your conversation. I'm Mercedes." The girl seemed to come back to herself and shook the offered hand.

"I'm Sugar Motta, of the Georgia Mottas." Mercedes raised her eyebrows.

"Sugar?" Her tone held a note of disbelief. Mercedes shook her head slightly and took her hand back. "It's nice to meet you, Suga." She deliberately dropped the 'r'.

She turned back to Sam.

"Sammy, I know that we were supposed to eat before we go but I just left the gym and I need to go get cleaned up."

"You were at the gym?" Sugar sneered.

Mercedes turned her head back to the obviously spoiled bitch and smiled her warmest smile like she was her best friend.

"Yeah, my friends Tina and Mike Chang own a place down the street. Sammy and I were supposed to meet up here for lunch but I was busy talking to Rory." She looked around at the restaurant like she hadn't just name-dropped some of the most popular and successful people in town.

"His place seems to be doing well, don't you think?"

"um…" Sugar took a sip of her water to hide her astonishment. Mercedes took this opportunity to address Sam again.

"So like I was saying, I thought we could skip lunch and go straight to my place so I can get cleaned up. I know we told my parents we'd be there at 5 but by the time we eat here, we'd be cutting it real close and you know daddy is a stickler for being on time." Mercedes stared into Sam's eyes as if telling him to play along. Now that he realized what she was doing, he de-clenched.

"We got plenty of time to eat."

"But Sammy…" It was amazing how she could simultaneously make her voice whiny and sexy. "You know how I like my baths. I wanted to take a long one with that bubble bath you gave me. You know, the one with your favorite scent. Wouldn't it make you so happy to be able to lean over in the middle of dinner and get a small whiff of my scent in anticipation of later when you could cover yourself in it?" She licked her lips and his green eyes zeroed in on the movement.

"Um…."

Mercedes gave him a self-satisfied smirk and reached over him to the keys lying on the table. She stood up and looked down.

"I'm driving." He barely registered what she was saying and just stood up after her. Once it sunk in that she had the keys to his beloved car, he went to object. Sugar, who had pretty much been forgotten at this point, chose this moment to squeak.

"How long you've been together?"

"A little over 3 months." Mercedes said in a dreamy voice.

"3 months and he's meeting your parents? And he lets you drive the wagon?" Sugar looked at them in shock. "He never lets anyone drive the wagon. We're practically engaged and I still can't drive the wagon."

Mercedes eyebrows rose to the top of her head. "Engaged?"

Sugar flashed her diamond bracelet in front of Mercedes' face. "My honey gave me this a few months ago. It's our pre-engagment present." She had a smug look on her face.

Mercedes turned to Sam. "Care to explain?"

Sam hesitated like a deer in headlights trying to think of a way out of this increasingly befuddling situation. Finally, he turned to Sugar.

"Sugar, I gave you that as a parting gift. You don't mean anything to me now and I'm not sure you ever did. You're selfish, spoiled, bitchy, egotistical, and a walking testament to the fact that just because you have money don't mean you have a fashion sense." Sugar lips thinned in anger.

"I suppose you want this fat bitch instead." Mercedes said nothing. Sam, being around Santana for the last few years in all moods, quickly stopped her hands from reaching up to take out her earrings. He barely registered the movement of a pretty Asian girl being held back by a guy out the corner of his eye. He looked directly at Mercedes.

"She is beautiful inside and out. She makes me groan at the sight of her and it doesn't take much more than a breeze carrying her scent to make me hard enough to pound nails." He looked at Sugar. "Her body in sweats does more for me than you ever did in La Perla. Maybe you should take a page from her book. Gain a little perspective…and a few pounds. Fucking you was like trying to fuck a hole in a pine tree. There was nothing for me to hold on to." He dismissed her and (just to drive the point home) turned Mercedes around in his arms and gave her a mind-blowing kiss. He pressed his body up against her and let her feel his arousal. Not knowing if she never let him do this again, he would make sure that this memory would be a good one to last him for a long time. His hands kneaded into her round hips. A cough behind him brought him back to Earth. He broke this kiss and looked at the person who dared to interrupt his idea of heaven.

"Everything ok here?" An amused Irish accent washed over them.

Mercedes shook her head slightly, as if clearing fog out.

"Um, yeah Rory. Can you put their meal on my tab?" Mercedes looked at Sam with barely concealed lust in her face. "I find myself in a rush to get home."

Rory laughed and waved her out. "If you sing this weekend, it's on the house."

"Deal." Sam tried to take advantage of her distracted attention to grab his keys as they started walking to the door but she was quicker.

"Sammy, I told you I was driving."

"Uh…"

"Yeah, Sammy." Sugar's voice dripped with malice. "Let her drive your wagon. Let a woman you've known for 3 months, who I still don't believe you could possibly be interested in, drive the car that you won't even let valet drivers touch. The car where you made me take my shoes off so I wouldn't mess up the carpet. Let her drive the wagon."

By this point, they were standing outside the restaurant getting ready to head to the car in question. They also included Rory, Tina, and Mike who followed the drama unfolding in front of them. Mercedes knew without a doubt they would be banging on her door as soon as they regain some of their ability to think clearly. She made a mental note to start cooking for 7 as soon as she got home. No doubt they wouldn't want Blaine and Kurt to feel left out.

Rory turned to Sam. "Wagon? What kind of horse and buggy you driving?"

Sam gestured across the parking lot. Both Rory and Mike's eyes widened. "You have a Lexus LFA?" They jumped up and down like kids in a toy store. Tina actually reached over and wiped the drool off of Mike's face. It took a few minutes to calm them down but finally Rory regained enough breath to choke out, "You call that a wagon?"

"It's short for Pussy Wagon, isn't it?" Tina questioned with a laugh. Sam nodded

Mercedes made a great show in front of Sugar of rolling her eyes. "I thought I told you to change her name."

"What is he supposed to call it now? You're just another notch on his bedpost…if you haven't broken it."

Mercedes barely spared the bitch a glance.

"Her name is Mercy." Sam fought hard to keep the frown off his face but the question must have been communicated through his eyes which were focused on Mercedes. Fortunately, Sugar asked the question he wanted to ask.

"Why the hell would he call it Mercy?"

A heated look came over Mercedes face and she licked her lips.

"Because mine is the pussy that has him crying out for Mercy." Rory's jaw dropped open, followed quickly by Mike's. Tina cracked up. Mercedes took the opportunity to steer Sam to the car and quickly got in on the other side. The engine roared to life and Tina stepped up to knock on the window. When it rolled down, Tina looked over at Mercedes.

"I'll just call your parents and let them know you're on your way." Tina gave a pointed look. She was referring to Blaine and Kurt, as she was well aware that Mercedes' parents weren't speaking to her. Mercedes had a pained expression on her face as Tina continued.

"In fact, I think Rory, Mike and I will confirm our attendance while I'm at it. It'd be nice to sit with them and catch up." Mercedes just nodded.

"We got to go the store."

"Why? You got to get your side of beef for your pre-dinner snack?" Sugar's irritating voice interrupted Sam's attempt to speak. Mercedes gave her the evil eye.

"No. We gotta go get ice cream."

"Why you want ice cream?"

Mercedes had an innocent look on her face.

"I never said it was for me." Tina burst out laughing at that while Sam just looked confused.

"Why would I want ice cream?"

Mercedes gave him a positively lascivious smile. "I figure since I got to take a shower anyway, it won't matter if I get a bit sticky." Sam could do nothing but groan.

"Drive."

Chapter Text

There was silence in the car as Mercedes drove down the highway. Sam didn't know exactly what to say to the woman beside him. She had saved him from the horror of the ex-girlfriend with questionable fashion choices while not resorting to kicking and scratching. She only became argumentative in when Sugar didn't let it go. She laid claim to him, in public no less, with her mind-shattering kisses. Anyone who saw that couldn't deny they were together. They might as well have lit up a billboard screaming to the world "WE'RE FUCKING!"

Except they weren't. And Sam wanted to change that.

He needed to change that. Pulling away from her mouth was like removing a cup of ambrosia from a man who had been surviving on bread and butter. Her curves were like the lines of a classic muscle car that he couldn't make himself stop tracing.

He wanted her. He wanted her underneath him, sinking into her body. He wanted her over him, watching her hot wet pussy swallow his very hard throbbing cock. He wanted her on all fours, thrusting her hips back to match his thrust forward. He wanted his hands back on her ample ass, only this time he wanted no clothing impeding his touch. He wanted his hands roaming over every inch of her skin, starting in her long thick hair, entangling his fist and pulling her hair back to gain access to her neck where he would leave his mark for the world to see. He wanted to bend his head down and slide his tongue around her light blue toes. He wanted to raise his head, and led by his nose, find himself entangled in her sweet smell to discover the treasure that lies beneath. He wanted to feel her hands on his head pressing him deeper into her wet pussy and making her explode all over his face. It wouldn't matter if he had to work to be given the opportunity to find it. He had feeling that would make it all the sweeter.

Surely, he wasn't the only one affected.

He shifted in the passenger seat of his car to hide his erection from the beauty at the wheel. He opened his mouth to ask her her views on changing the terms of their arrangement, when she glanced at him.

"Think we pulled it off?" Sam blinked his wide green eyes like an owl.

"What?"

"You think we convinced everyone we're a couple? I think we convinced Sugar and if I know girls like her, she'll be on the phone telling everyone about how she dumped you and all you could pull was the fat bitch." Mercedes rolled her eyes.

"Who dumped, huh?" Sam couldn't seem to understand what she was talking about.

Mercedes gestured with her hand. "Girls like that have a reputation to maintain. They've always got to have the next big thing. If their relationship ended, it's because the guy had something wrong with him that made him below par and there not good enough for her even if they're the ones at fault. Basically, they are perfect and everyone is beneath them."

Sam had to take a minute to get his mind focused on the conversation that he seemed to be having with Mercedes. He couldn't believe that she wanted to talk about Sugar after that kiss. He shook his head and taking a deep breath, tried to will his erection away. But then he smelled her natural scent and it came back in an almost painful way.

"Um, I'm not going to worry about it." Mercedes gave him a puzzled look.

"I don't feel the need to live my life to please Sugar Motta. If she wants to delude herself, that's her business. I'm not going to put on a show for her or her simple-minded friends." Mercedes pulled into a spot in front of her building.

"I guess that's one way to do it." Mercedes seemed a bit subdued.

"What are you going to tell your friends?"

"The truth."

At Sam's raised eyebrow, she quickly added, "I'm not going to tell them about our arrangement but I'll tell them that we're friends and I was helping you out. There's no need to tell them anything else. Especially since there's really nothing else to tell."

"Right."

'Dammit, she doesn't seem to want anything more than the agreement. I guess she wasn't as affected by the kiss as I was.'

'But this is what you wanted.' A little voice in Sam's head reminded him. That voice sounded familiar. 'You didn't want someone who would become attached to you. You went to great pains to make sure they weren't attracted and that you wouldn't become attracted to them. Face it, Mercedes is not your type.'

'Well maybe I just didn't know what I was missing.' Sam argued.

'Are you willing to take her out and show her off and introduce her to your family, friends, and coworkers?'

'I don't have a problem doing it now.'

'But now, she can be passed off as a friend. Are you willing to declare your feelings for her?'

'I'm not even sure what my feelings are.'

'Well, maybe you should figure it out before trying to convince her of them.'

' We could figure them out together.'

'Remember, she has had men disappoint her in the past. Don't you think she deserves something more than friends-with-benefits? Like someone who would actually stay the night and make her breakfast the next day?'

'I don't stay the night with anyone.' That's the kind of commitment that Sam never seemed to be able to make.

'Don't you think she'd be the one to make you reconsider?' Santana's voice softly made her point. 'Figure out what you want before you try to make her see you differently. Don't hurt her.'

'I would never hurt her.'

'But you could and you know it. So make sure you don't.'

Sam looked over at Mercedes who had been watching him while he had his internal debate. He gave her a soft smile and got out of the car and walked around to the driver's side, opening the door for her.

"I got to go take care of some things. Let your friends know I'll make time to meet them properly later." Mercedes' face took on a worried look.

"Are you ok? Did I overstep the bounds of our agreement? I really was just trying to help. I know you don't like feeling cornered and I could tell that she was badgering you and pushing and I didn't want you to blow up at her because that wouldn't be good and she was making me angry because she wouldn't let it go when you were obviously trying to be nice and make sure her feelings weren't hurt and I didn't think before I did it and I just…" Sam's hand covered her mouth to stop her babble.

"It's ok. I appreciate what you did. It's not often I get rescued. It's quite nice to be the damsel." Mercedes chuckled. "I don't have many friends who would do that for me."

Mercedes' eyes briefly displayed an emotion that Sam didn't quite understand but it was quickly gone and a smile broke out on her face.

"If nothing else, you can count me as a friend. You know that."

He gave her hand a little squeeze.

"I do now." She stepped back and allowed him to get in the car. He waited until she was inside the building before he drove off to think about what his Santana-conscience said.

It had been 2 weeks since he last saw Mercedes. Other than a quick phone call, letting her know that he wasn't coming for their regular "date night", he hadn't gotten in touch with her at all. No phone, no email, no text, no nothing.

He lost himself in a big account and when he could finally breathe again, he took himself off to see his family in Memphis. He spent 3 days surrounded by family, including his sister and brother and their families. He had been the only one to make it out of Tennessee and the only one who's work didn't involve farm animals in some way. But he loved coming home and being with the ones he loved.

He avoided thinking about his new feelings for Mercedes as long as possible but after talking with his little sister Stacey, he realized he missed the easy friendship he had with Mercedes. He didn't have to try to impress her and he could be his dorky self and she didn't judge. He could throw out an obscure pop culture reference and she knew exactly what he was talking about. The girl went to a Halloween party dressed as River Song, for Gallifrey's sake! As much as he wanted to sink balls deep inside her, he wouldn't chance his friendship with her for anything. Sex was common, true camaraderie was as rare as a frakking unicorn.

As he entered back into the city limits of Atlanta, he made the decision to not let Mercedes know that he wanted anything more. But first he needed to apologize for disappearing.

Sam made a left, driving in the direction of Mercedes' apartment. He ran through the words he wanted to say in his head over and over again to make sure they were perfect. He was so engrossed in what he was planning that he almost didn't notice that he had almost arrived at her place.

He did however notice the massive blaze that engulfed the building.

Chapter Text

It was the smell at first that told her that something wasn’t right.  She never was the type to go for overly feminine perfumes.  She had no desire to smell like somebody’s garden and the artificial smell of vanilla that seem to creep into most scents always made her nauseous.  That being said, she never went in for the completely masculine scents like sandalwood and musk.  So the scent of clean with the slightest hint of wood threw her.  There were no embellishments in the scent.  It smelled of safety.  It smelled of comfort.  It smelled of home.

But not her home.

So where the hell was she?  And how did she get there?

She looked down.

And why the Frell was she naked?!


 

Sam started at the sound of a knock on the door.  He looked down at his now cold coffee with a hint of disgust and rose to pour it out.  Before his butt cleared the chair, he heard Santana’s signature knock, or bang to be more accurate, on the door.  He yanked open the door.

“Keep it down.  We’re not trying to wake up the whole damn state.”

“Um, excuse me but when I get a phone call at 5am telling me to go shopping for someone I never met and get over here as fast as possible without any kind of explanation whatsoever, I think you should on your knees and kiss my feet that I didn’t hang up on your ass and go back to sleep.  Now say ‘Thank you Auntie Santana for cutting into your precious beauty sleep to do this for me without the slightest bit of caffeine in your system’ and get the hell out of my way.”  Santana brushed past him and sat her bags down in the kitchen. 

With more than a passing sense of familiarity, she grabbed a cup, filled it to the brim with hot coffee, closed her eyes and proceeded to ignore everything around her for the next few minutes while she savored her much deserve ambrosial brew.  When the last drop passed her lips, she took a deep breath and she opened her eyes.  She looked at Sam who had been standing by waiting patiently for her to finish.

“Now what the hell is going on?”


 

She remembered chaos.

Men in yellow suits ran around, alternating between fighting the blaze and keeping the onlookers from getting too close.  People in the street were crying out as the fire consumed the building in front of them.  The cries and screams of the people who saw the building being consumed before their eyes were almost drowned out by the roar of the fire.

Mercedes could only stand and watch.  The building that had been her apartment ever since she first moved to Atlanta was burning.  Her comfy couch was now gone.  Her clothes were gone.  Her books were gone.  The only thing she had left was the robe protecting her modesty from the crowd.  A bathrobe.  That’s all that was left of her life.  Everything else would soon be ash.

It’s amazing how severely a life can change in the span of a few hours.  At 7:00, she enjoyed a delightful dinner chicken tikka marsala from the neighborhood Indian restaurant.  At 8:00, she was catching up on Merlin, wishing that the Unresolved Sexual Tension between the king and his magical manservant would resolve itself and Gwen would just go away.  At 9:00, she settled down into her overstuffed mattress looking forward to a good night’s sleep so that she could go to fill-in at WhISe in the early morning and proceeded to block out the world. 

At 11:00, all hell broke loose.  

The space between waking up to a loudly shrieking smoke detector to finding herself outside but still close enough to the fire to not feel the cold was blank.  There was no memory of any action of hers.  No memory of getting from there to here, wherever here was. 

No memory except…

Safety. 

Her life was literally up in smoke and she felt…safe?


 

 

Sam finished his story and leaned back in the chair.  Santana was quietly processing everything that happened.  She took a deep breath and slowly let it out.  She looked at Sam.

“Is she gonna stay here?”

“I dunno.” Sam shrugged.  He ran his hands over his face and linked his fingers behind his head.  “I want her to stay.  I think she needs someone to help her through this.  You should’ve seen her last night.  It was like a light had been turned off inside her.  There was nobody there.  I know it was just shock, but it scared me.  It terrified me, Santana, to see this warm, vivacious person just stand there.  Her life is upside down and I want to help her.  I need to help her.”

“Help her do what?”

“Whatever she needs.  I came so close to losing my friend Santana.  So close.  I don’t ever want to go through that again.  She has literally become my best friend.  I know she would do it for me.  I want to do this for her.”

“And you say she’s just a friend?” Santana pierced him with a look, like she could see right through him.

“She’s my best friend and I won’t jeopardize that for anything.  I’m not gonna scare her away.” Sam vowed.

“Some of the best relationships start with friends.” Santana pointed out.

“I won’t take that chance.” Sam whispered, staring at the tabletop.  “I can’t.” 

He lifted his head. 

“I’d rather have a part of her than nothing at all.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Mercedes was startled out of her disorienting thoughts by a knock on the door.  She had barely covered herself up with the Really soft sheet before a young Latina with bright yellow nails poked her head through the door.

Mercedes was still trying to place the somewhat familiar woman when she quickly came in with a shopping bag and closed the door.

“Good. You’re up.”  She looked at Mercedes with a critical eye and nodded.

“I brought you some clothes.  I had to base them on your picture so they might be a bit big.  You look like you’ve lost weight.”  She began pulling items out of the bag.  “I got some essentials: toothbrush, deodorant, tampons, I didn’t know if you’d need them or not, brush, comb, underwear, again, might be a little big, a pair of sweats and a tank with a support bra built in.  You can wear these out so we can pick you up some more stuff which you’re gonna need.  There’s breakfast in the kitchen and coffee for when you get out of the shower.  After you’re done, we can leave and rack up some truly impressive balances on the credit card I’m about to liberate from the wallet on the dresser.  If you don’t have any id, let me know, we’ll swing by and pick up your birth certificate so we can your license and the forms for a replacement social security card.  While you’re eating breakfast, I want you to make a list of people you need to contact or items you need to get. Now any question?”

Mercedes stared at her open-mouthed.  “Um….”  She shook her head to clear it.  “Just one- who are you?”

Santana gave her a warm smile.  “I guess I do need to introduce myself.  I’m Santana Lopez.  I’m Sam’s secretary.  I’m the one who runs his life and for today, I’m extending that courtesy to you.  So get up, get in the shower and I’ll answer any questions you have over my fifth cup of coffee.  I’m gonna go ahead and drink my third one now.  See you out there.”

Without another word, Santana walked out the room.

 


 

Twenty minutes later, Mercedes stepped out of a steam-filled shower into a bathroom that was decadent enough to fuel a dozen wet dreams.  After being massaged by 6 showerheads in a space that could easily accommodate 3 people or a pair of very enthusiastic lovers, Mercedes made use of the supplies Santana had given her.  She made a mental note to thank Santana for being so thorough.  While getting ready to brush her teeth, Mercedes caught her reflection in the bathroom mirror and was shocked by what she saw.  There were bags under her eyes deeply accentuated by the dark circles she was sporting.  Her long hair fell like a curtain around her face as if eager to hide her from the world.  Her face seemed devoid of color and even emotion.  There was a stranger looking back at her.  She dropped the toothbrush in the sink and braced her hands against the side.  Mercedes closed her eyes and slowly forced a breath in through her nose, out through her mouth.  She repeated this exercise a few more times before opening her eyes, reaching for the toothbrush and resuming her task, taking care not to look in the mirror.

She could break down later when she didn’t have people waiting on her down the hall.

Grabbing a hold of that thought like it was a lifeline, she quickly finished in the bathroom, pulling on the clothes she was given and locating her purse which was thoughtfully put by the bed sometime during the night from hell.  She strode over to the door, took a deep breath, opened it and followed the muffled sound of Sam’s deep voice reverberating through the apartment.  She calmed upon reaching the kitchen and clapping eyes on him for the first time in over 2 weeks, at least consciously.  Even though she knew that she was in his apartment, she didn’t completely relax until she actually saw him and then all she could think was, “Sam’s here. He’ll take care of me.”  In the back of her mind, the feminist in her stood up, burning bra in hand, shouting about regressing to a damsel in distress.  Then Sam smiled a smile that lit up his face at the sight of her.  The next sound she heard from the mini-fem was a yelp as the bra burned her hand while the intense green eyes of the man that stood before her took her in.  Mini-fem shook her head, said “screw it” and sprinted over to the rest of her minis that was completely in love with Sam.

Mercedes only broke her gaze when a cup suddenly appeared in front of her nose.  She smiled in thanks at Santana who gave her a curiously smug look in return.  Mercedes didn’t dwell on that look as she didn’t know the woman that well.  As she sat down at the round breakfast table, a plate filled with strawberries and orange slices was placed in front of her. 
Santana pulled out a pad and pen out of her oversized bag and turned to a page that was already half-full.

“Look over this and see what I have listed and make changes is necessary.  After you’re finished eating, we’re gonna go shopping since Sam’s very kindly given me the day off, with pay.”  Santana smiled sweetly at Sam who just looked pained.  It didn’t take a genius to realize that the day off wasn’t Sam’s idea.

Mercedes swallowed her bite of berry and attempted to reassure Sam.

“Don’t worry.  After we get this stuff, I’ll be out of your hair.  I can go stay at Kurt’s place.”

“That’s your friend with the salon, right?  Is he home?  Do you want to go see him while we’re out?”

“Well, no.”  Mercedes squinted at the clock on the oven.  “They should actually still be in the air right now.  Blaine surprised Kurt with a European vacation for their anniversary.  They’ll be gone for the next 3 weeks.  But I got a key.  I can let myself in.”

“You’re gonna stay there alone?”  Sam asked.  Mercedes shrugged.

“Yeah.  I’ll be ok.  It’s not like haven’t lived alone for the last few years.” She pointed out.

“No but you haven’t had all of your things destroyed by fire before either.  You’ve just been through an enormous shock.  You don’t need to be alone.”  Santana snapped her fingers.

“You should stay here with Sam.”

Mercedes glanced at him. “No, I don’t want to impose any further.  You’ve done so much already.”

Sam raised his hand to silence her.  “You are welcomed to stay here as long as you need.  I got a guest room that no one ever uses.  You can sleep in there.”

Mercedes felt her resolve weakening.  She really didn’t want to be alone in that big house for the next few weeks.  Plus there was the added bonus of being around Sam a lot more.  Maybe he’ll do something disgusting to rid her of her stupid schoolgirl crush. 

One could only hope. 

She looked at his expectant face and agreed.  “…but just until Kurt and Blaine get back.  I don’t want to overstay my welcome.”

“Good, that’s done.”  Santana crossed a line of text off of her list and turned to Sam. “You’re gonna be late.  You got a meeting with the art department in an hour.” 

Sam looked at the clock and gulped the rest of his coffee down.  He stood up from the table and straightened his tie.  He started walking to the door, a briefcase in his hand that Mercedes had never seen before.  He stopped at the closet and pulled out his cashmere coat and shrugged into it.

“I’ll see you this evening, yeah? I’ll pick up dinner.  Indian sound good?”  Mercedes nodded.

A grin crossed Sam’s face as he opened the door.

“Have fun.”  Sam disappeared into the cold morning air, leaving Mercedes and Santana sitting at the table.

Santana looked at Mercedes and smiled. 

“Time to spend some money!”

Chapter Text

Since Sam's place was in a somewhat affluent neighborhood, Santana insisted on shopping at the nearby affluent mall. The kind of mall where designer's didn't have their own section in the corner of a Macy's but had their own store—and no Macy's.

Mercedes never looked twice at those type of places because she never found anything that would fit her not size 0 body and had grown accustomed to her local Ross and Tj Maxx. Santana was determined to make the most out of her no-work weekday and her boss' credit card. Mercedes protested but Santana overruled her by saying, "When a man offers you a diamond the size of a rock or a black plastic card, YOU DO NOT REFUSE!" That shut Mercedes right up.

Santana was a little scary.

They walked into the enclosed building and just stood in awe before them. Pristine floors, natural sunlight, and well-dressed shoppers all beckoned them forward. At one point, Mercedes thought she heard a little voice behind her say 'Come. Shop. Spend.' But when she looked behind her, there was no one there. She shook it off and caught up to Santana who was walking forward with purpose.

As she passed through the increasingly thickening crowd, Mercedes began to feel self-conscious in her baggy sweats, cheap flip-flops and simple ponytail. She caught more than one disapproving stare from the women around her that did nothing to help her stress levels. She followed Santana into a store, not taking note of her surroundings. She stood behind the Latin diva feeling more and more uncomfortable.

"Mercedes, what do you think about this?" Santana held up a gorgeous one-shouldered red dress that looked like liquid, dangerous, but oh-so-worth-it sex. It was the kind of dress that would cover everything and leave nothing to the imagination.

Mercedes discreetly wiped away a little drool from the corner of her mouth. Santana caught the action and smiled.

"That's what I thought."

A saleslady came over at that moment. Having grown up in a prejudiced town, being her size, Mercedes instantly recognized the upturned nose and slight curl in the woman's thin lips as she looked Mercedes up and down and instantly dismissed her. She turned to Santana apparently assuming that Santana would be easier to deal with.

"May I help you?" She drawled with a superior air.

"We're in need of a dressing room for my friend here. If you would stick this in there while we continue looking, we'd appreciate it." Santana held out the red dress for the woman to take.

The saleslady –Gloria, her name tag said—sniffed and ran an eye over the dress and another over Mercedes.

"I'm afraid this dress doesn't stretch quite enough to accommodate your friend. If you damaged the dress, you would be obligated to buy it and I think it might be a bit out of your price range. I think there's a Lane Bryant a few miles east of here." She said in a patently fake helpful tone.

Oh…Hell…No.

Mercedes felt Santana stiffen beside her and knew they had matching death glares on their faces. Before she could open her mouth, Mercedes was interrupted by a voice made of pure silk.

"Gloria." They all turned to the owner of the voice. There stood a petite blond with a pouty mouth, dressed in blue skinny jeans, a soft yellow button-up, brown leather jacket and match stiletto boots. She topped off the look with a Louis Vuitton handbag. She looked like she was born to wear those clothes and she obviously came from money. By the way Gloria's face turned obliging and welcoming, she was a regular at this place. Mercedes felt ready to let loose on this person as well just for being there. But the woman's attention was centered on Gloria and thus Santana and Mercedes was deftly ignored.

"Yes Ms. Fabray." Definitely a regular then.

"I just stopped by to leave a message for Jackie. I know she's not in today but I won't be able to give it to her directly." Gloria immediately developed a look of intense concentration.

'This Jackie person must be important', mused Mercedes

"Please let her know that I will be closing out my account effective immediately and to send the bill to my office. And also, cancel any orders pending. I won't be needing them." Mercedes saw Santana grin out the corner of her eye and wondered about that. Santana almost looked smug. Mercedes focused back on Gloria just in time to see her sputter.

"Ms. Fabray, you've been a customer here for years. Are you moving? I can assure you that we would do anything to keep one of our most valued customers."

"But apparently, you lack the skills to be polite to any potential new customers. You should check your attitude. You never know who you're dealing with or who might overhear." With that, she turned her back on the alarmed Gloria and smiled at Santana.

"Quinn." Santana nodded in her direction.

"Satan. You shopping for Sam?"

"I'm spending his money, yes."

"He give you the platinum?" Santana held up the black card. Gloria whimpered. Quinn whistled.

"Nice. What's the occasion?"

Santana jerked her head in Mercedes' direction. "Quinn Fabray. Mercedes Jones." Quinn's eyes flickered over to Mercedes.

"So you're Mercedes. Sam's told me about you."

"He told you about me? Why?"

"Sam tells me about all his girlfriends. Ever since we figured out that we work better as friends than lovers, we're the best communicators. He tells me all about his girlfriends and I tell him about mine." Mercedes blinked at that. Before she thought about that, Quinn had moved on.

"Puck set you guys up?"

"Um, yeah."

"Damn, now I owe him a bottle of Scotch."

"Huh?"

"Puck bet me he could find both Sam and me girlfriends that the other one would approve of. I thought it would be a sucker's bet…for him. I'm kind of hoping he doesn't find anyone for me. He'll be impossible after winning half of the bet." She sighed.

"I really wanted those shoes, too."

"What say we find a new location to have this conversation, ladies? This place is making my skin crawl and we still got to buy a whole new wardrobe for Mercedes."

At the sound of Gloria's squeak from the realization at the amount of lost revenue she just experienced, Quinn smiled a smile to match Santana's at her most devious. She linked an arm through each of theirs and turned them to the door. "Yes, lets."

The next few hours were a blur to Mercedes. After hearing about the fire, Quinn called her cancelled her appointments and declared this girl's day now. Between the two-of-them, Mercedes obtained a wardrobe that would've made high-school Kurt blackout from a bliss induced orgasm at the sight of it. Two trips to the car to stores bag and they still shopping. If it weren't for regular workouts at Mike and Tina's, Mercedes would've dropped dead after the first hour. As it was, she couldn't understand how the hell Quinn could still walk in those damn boots.

"Good quality footwear, skill and a whole lot of practice." Came the answer from the blond with a smirk.

After she balked at the price tag of a sweater she had her eye on, they refused to let her look at another for the rest of the day. They even went so far as to be in the dressing room with her while she changed. They both seemed to have the same idea. Santana wouldn't allow Mercedes near the register or the credit card and hid the receipts. For her part, Quinn pulled the tags off of everything after they were rung up. "So there's no way to return them later out of misplaced pride or guilt."

Mercedes had a sneaking suspicion that they saw her as a black Barbie and any resistance would result in forced manipulation of her limbs and possibly premature balding by angry swipes of a hairbrush. Mercedes surrendered.

After a long lunch, the afternoon was spent buying shoes and accessories. At one point, Mercedes she tried on a pair of shoes with a tell-tell red sole and actually started crying. The sales assistant simply smiled and offered an actual cloth handkerchief.

Santana promptly bought the shoes…and 6 pairs more.

At about 3pm, Quinn ushered them to the west side of the mall into a storefront called Paradis D'or spa. She decided that what they needed was facials, massages and pedicures. Mercedes had never felt so decadent in her life. She agreed to everything but a new hairdo. The only person she trusted was Kurt and he would consider it the ultimate betrayal if she let someone else wreck what he built.

It was just what she needed. All in all it was the perfect follow up to a horrible night.

And now she got to go home to Sam.

Chapter Text

“Sure.  As long as he needs.”

It wasn’t that he was an introvert or agoraphobic. He had his work, his friends, his women (or actually only one woman now.) He embraced the outside world but when he was home, he relished the quiet It was the reason he bought a home instead of an apartment.  It was big for just one person but the trade-off was no noisy neighbors on the other side of the wall.  It was equipped with the latest and greatest electronics, games and all the toys his little geek could ever want.  It was here that the Superbowl, World Cup, World Series and playoffs were eagerly observed by him and his friends and payouts was made by bookie Artie.

It had a 3 car garage, a hot tub on the back patio, a chef’s wet dream of a kitchen and a master suite about the size of his first apartment.  It was large, spacious and just this side of obnoxious.  After growing up sharing a room with his little brother and 3 cousins who moved in when his uncle lost his job, having his own space was crucial to him.  As long as he could afford to do so, he had no intention of sharing his sanctuary outside of occasional visits until he decided to settle down.

Then 3 weeks ago, Mercedes’ life went up in ashes.

And she invaded his sanctuary. Except…

She didn’t.

Instead of moving in, disturbing his precious equilibrium, she seemed to mold herself around it, her warmth seeping in and around the house, soft and comforting, as if she had always been there.  The house began to smell like her and it took all of his will power to not stay in bed all day, just breathing. (There’s also the fact that he would have to wash his sheets twice a day if he stayed in the house with her all day.)

They quickly developed a routine: he would wake to the smell of the pre-programmed coffee before shuffling off to the shower.  By the time he was dressed for the day, she would be finishing breakfast which he kept telling her she didn’t have to make but was privately ecstatic that she kept ignoring him.  He recalled that the first proper sight she had of the kitchen had Mercedes in tears because she loved to cook. Before her arrival, the kitchen was mainly a place to store leftover but now the counters were repeatedly covered in flour for homemade bread, pies, cakes, and such.  At one point, there were donuts.  Santana keeps threatening to stick her letter opener in his chest if she gains weight from the treats made especially for her but it doesn’t stop her from snatching the container out of his hands to what Mercedes had baked the night before and hiss at anyone who would dare to look twice at it.

It didn’t stop there.  Mercedes was a huge fan of Bitchin’ Kitchen with the funny Italian chick hosting the show in heels and tight dresses.  After watching a piece of a funny but odd music video about bridezillas, (on a cooking show?) Sam became a fan as well.  They would mix it up with Iron Chef and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives with the dude with the funky hair.  Sam quickly recognized a direct correlation between his vocal approval of the televised meals and dinner a few days later.  And it never failed to disappoint.

Not that all Mercedes did was cook for him and wait around for him to get home.  There were nights he found Quinn in his leather armchair, Santana and Mercedes’ friend Tina on the couch and Mercedes sandwiched between them with what used to be a full bottle of wine chatting like they were old friends reunited.  It figured that as soon as he gets a ‘fake’ girlfriend the two most opinionated and cherished women outside of his family in his life would latch on in approval.

Normally this air of domesticity would cause him to itch and start planning his escape route but this time he just accepted it with a sigh and a grin.

Damn, he’s getting sappy.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad situation to stumble into.  Then Kurt came back from Europe with red eyes.

Things were looking grim in Mudville.

Even though he had never met the man, Sam could see that something major had happened.  Kurt had shown up on his doorstep after first driving by Mercedes’ burnt out shell of an apartment.  Since he was privy to their arrangement, Mercedes gave him Sam’s contact information, with Sam’s permission accepting the wisdom of ‘you can never be too careful’. 

It was 2 days after he had returned and he needed his best friend.  Mercedes’ phone had been destroyed in the fire and she said she was in no hurry to buy a new one.  The only person who would know to call the house was Kurt and he was an ocean away.  Unfortunately, this also meant that she didn’t think to check her voicemails and as such upon purchasing a brand new phone the next day, she had a completely full mailbox and hundreds of missing texts from her slightly hysterical best friend.  Therefore, he wasted no time and as soon as Sam had the door open, he choked out “Where is she?”

Without waiting for an answer, Kurt muscled his way past Sam and rushed in the house calling out for Mercedes.  He found her in front of the tv and she was given no warning before he was wrapped around her in relief.

Sam smiled at the pair and started to enter the room but then he remember the look on the man’s face and realized that concern for Mercedes only made up a part of the anguish on his face.  The smile faded and he took a deep breath and made a decision.  Sam retreated to the kitchen where he made a pot of tea and set up a tray.  While the tea was steeping in the pot, he got out the ‘good’ cookies that Quinn always preferred when she came to cry on his shoulder.  As he was opening them up, the muffled voices from the next room increased in intensity and volume.  There was a definite bite to the discussion and with that thought, Sam reached under the counter for the bottle with the black and silver label and set it on the tray next to the sugar.

Turns out that Sam was a genius.  It went like this.

Kurt’s partner Blaine surprised him with a trip to Europe for their anniversary.  First class tickets, 4-star hotels, theatre tickets with VIP seating and other luxuries.  They went to the opera in Paris, rode in a gondola in Venice, saw Phantom in the original theatre in London, and drove by Adele and Madonna’s houses.  It was the perfect trip.  It wasn’t until they got back that Blaine revealed how they had been able to afford the trip. 

His parents.

“I don’t get it.” Sam interrupted.  By the looks on their faces, it was trouble.  “Why would his parents giving him the money be a bad thing?”

Kurt finished his tea and refilled his cup from the now half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels as Mercedes explained.

“Blaine’s parents come from old money, like Plymouth Rock old money, and he’s an only child.” Sam furrowed his eyebrows.  “They don’t approve of his ‘lifestyle’ but to save face, they can’t disown him publicly either because their society friends are a little more modern.  Gay is the new black and everyone must be seen as fashionable.” Mercedes rolled her eyes in disgust.  “So when they see him, they acknowledge Kurt as his roommate and don’t correct their friends when they make the correct assumptions.  Luckily, they keep out of sight, out of mind for the most part but they pop up around Christmas and Blaine’s birthday.  They can’t really stand to be around more than that and if Blaine wasn’t actually bisexual, I don’t think they would be around that much.  Even though Kurt isn’t the first boyfriend he’s had, he’s definitely the most serious relationship Blaine’s ever had male or female.”

“So the fact they helped to pay for an extravagant romantic trip to Europe for Blaine and his ‘roommate’…” he trailed off.

“…Means they’re getting something Big in return.” Mercedes finished.

“So what was it?”

Kurt took a deep gulp of his drink and mumbled just loud enough for Mercedes to hear.  Mercedes flinched violently.

“Oh shit.”

She grabbed Kurt’s cup and finished off the remaining liquid off and wrapped her arms around him.  This was enough to cause Kurt to break down completely.  Mercedes held him close and rubbed his back encouraging him to let it out.  She met Sam’s eye over Kurt’s shaking head.

“Grandchildren.” She simply said.

“He promised them grandchildren.”

Chapter Text

Sam turned from the counter holding up the coffee pot as Mercedes walked back into the kitchen.

"Want some?" Mercedes turn a grateful look onto him.

"Please and thank you."

Sam simply nodded and took another cup from the cabinet and filled it up. He put a spoonful of sugar in it and quietly stirred. Grabbing his own cup, he took both to the table where Mercedes now sat and set hers in front of her and sat in the chair across from her. For a few minutes, there was no sound in the kitchen except an occasional slurp. Finally, Sam broke the silence.

"Is he alright?"

"Yeah," Mercedes nodded. "He should be out until morning. That was a good call with the JD."

"That's how we solve problems on the Evans family farm, drinking until it makes sense." Sam shrugged in response to Mercedes' incredulous look and drawled, "We be country folk. We stick with tradition. It worked for my grandfather, so it works for us. The only condition is that we are forbidden to drink alone."

"To make sure you don't poison yourself."

"To make sure there are pictures to share with the rest of the family when we do something stupid." Mercedes couldn't quite hold in her laughter but she tried valiantly in an effort not to disturb Kurt down the hall.

"And are there any pictures of one Samuel Evans?"

Sam raised that damn sexy eyebrow at her and deadpanned. "I absolutely do not know of the existence of a picture featuring a young Samuel Evans running away from the bull in the field after deciding to go cow tipping at midnight and mixed up which pen was which." He paused to take a sip of coffee. "And I can guarantee that if such a picture did exist, you would not be seeing it."

"Awww. Is him embarrassed?"

"'Him' has nothing to be embarrassed about. It never happened." Mercedes nodded.

"So if I were to call Sarah and ask her to email it to me, she wouldn't know what I was talking about?"

A horrified look spread across Sam's face at the thought. Aw, hell. He was just trying to cheer her up. He mumbled to himself.

"Sorry?"

"I said, 'women are evil.' And when did you get so cozy with my sister?" Mercedes simply blew him a kiss from across the table. Sam mock scowled in return.

A comfortable silence hung in the air as they enjoyed their coffee. Eventually, curiosity got the better of him.

"So why is Kurt so against kids?" Mercedes kept her eyes on her cup and didn't answer. "Or is that too personal?"

"No." she sighed. "I was trying to think of a way to explain it. I'm not sure of a lot of the details myself, so it's hard for me to make sense of it enough to tell someone else."

"Hey, I don't want you to break Kurt's confidence here. You don't have to tell me anything."

"No, it's fine. He told me to do it. I just…" she trailed off. Sam patiently waited for her to gather her thoughts. Finally, she shifted in her seat.

"Ok." She set the cup to the side. "First thing you gotta understand is Kurt loves kids. Even when he played the part of the prissy bitch in high school, he never hesitated to hug a child or play with them even if they were covered in things that Marc Jacobs should never come into contact with. His dad used to joke about the mocha-colored grandchildren he was gonna spoil when we finally got old enough to get married." Sam gave her an incredulous look.

"You? …and Kurt?" She nodded. "Have they met him?"

"De Nile is a wide and very long river and they were dog-paddling against the current all the way down. Kurt didn't officially come out until after college, just before we moved here. It was one of the reasons why we moved here. We taped a map to the wall, threw a dart and ended up here. We threw the dart, packed our bags, told the family, and came straight here." She shook her head. "It's sad that we didn't have faith in our families but apparently it was justified."

"Have you spoken to them at all?"

"Not even a birthday card in four years. We write them sometimes when something good happens, if only to remind ourselves and them as well that we didn't throw them away. If I got a postcard with any kind of message to indicate they were ready to talk, I'd be on the first plane back. They're my family no matter what. As long as they don't ask me to choose between them and Kurt. He'll win every time."

Sam gave her a small smile. He recognized the bond between Mercedes and Kurt. It was similar to the bond he shared with his own siblings. He would kill for them and would protect them from anyone up to and including other members of the family. He understood them completely.

"So, children…?"

"Ah." Mercedes got up and walked over to the coffee pot and freshened up her cup. "Kurt and I went to different universities in different states. I went to Columbia and he went to Carnegie Mellon. While it wasn't a huge distance away from each other, we really on saw each other or our families on holiday trips home. So we both expanded our social groups and he felt comfortable enough, and far enough away from his family, to come out in his new environment."

She settled back in her chair and clasped the hot cup lightly between her hands.

"He was happy in college. He wasn't afraid to be himself…or at least figure out what himself actually entailed. As such, he got his first boyfriend in his Sophomore year. They had had a few classes together Freshman year but didn't move in the same circles. The guy was a jock, known around campus as a ladies' man and was kind of obnoxious, and Kurt was just starting to grow out of his Princess Diva phase." Sam could hear the capitals in that sentence.

"Princess Diva?"

"Kurt's nightly skin care regimen is over an hour long from start to finish. It used to be double that. There was a designer he didn't own and was actually considering wearing a kilt to prom." Sam's eyebrows shot up at that.

"And you say his parents had to be told he was gay?"

"I prefer to think of it as 'willful ignorance'" Mercedes took a sip from her cup.

"Anyway, 2nd years they ended up in an auto maintenance class together. Kurt's dad is a mechanic and taught Kurt everything he knows so Kurt was really only there to get access to the tools and relieve some stress since he could rebuild an engine by the time he was 6 years old. The guy needed a tutor and the teacher assigned Kurt."

"Let me guess. Love at first sight?"

"Sort of, if you substitute love for loathe. Kurt hated him and the guy was mean but Kurt told me later that he admitted liking the sight of Kurt's flushed face when he was angry and kept aggravating him because of it."

"Pulling pigtails essentially." Mercedes nodded.

"Essentially. So this happened for a few months until Kurt had to cancel a tutoring session because he had the flu. Less than 3 hours later, the guy shows up with homemade chicken noodle soup and a huge box of Kleenex. Every day Kurt was sick, he would show up with a new box and a meal and just sit for a few hours. The next tutoring session, they got along a bit better and it evolved from there. Every time I talked to Kurt, he just went on and on about the guy. I mean, when we saw each other on holidays, he had hearts in his eyes. This guy was like, IT, for Kurt."

"So what happened? I assume we're not talking about Blaine?"

"No. Blaine came later." Mercedes took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"It was nearing graduation and they were pretty much inseparable. Everyone knew they were together. Everyone, except anyone in Kurt's family. I never even met the guy. The family kept hinting about settling down with a nice girl and having a couple of kids, maybe opening a branch of his dad's business. He didn't feel like he could tell them he had already picked out the names of his kids with a guy he was madly in love with. Then one day, the guy proposed."

"Whoa."

"Yep. And Kurt panicked. He had just had a long 'expectations' conversation with his dad and he loved his dad. His mom died when he was 6 so until his dad remarried when he was 16, they were all each other had. He didn't want to disappoint him. So what should have been one of the happiest days of his life, a proposal of marriage turned into a break up."

"I can see a fight, but breaking up?" Sam looked adorably puzzled.

"Kurt accused him of trying to take him away from his family by putting him in a situation where he'd have to come out to them. The whole fight wasn't exactly rational but it did the job and they split. It took 2 weeks and many hangovers and empty cartons of ice cream before Kurt realized he was an idiot and gathered up the courage to face his family." Mercedes topped off her top up with a little JD from the almost empty bottle on the table. "Before he could do it, he got a call. His father was in the hospital from a heart attack." Sam's eyes widened.

"Shit." Mercedes gave a low chuckle.

"He ended up missing graduation and lost the chance to make up with the guy."

"Is his dad all right?"

"He lived but it was a slow recovery. Meanwhile Kurt became the ideal son. The ideal straight son. That closet door was not only shut, it was welded."

"So what changed?"

"I think it all got to be a bit much: his dad's health, worrying about the business, the increasingly unsubtle hints about marriage and babies. Then a girl from his university called to check on him and let it slip that she saw the guy with a pretty blond on his arm and they looked real cozy. I think that made him realize he wasn't happy at all. And he may have thrown away the opportunity for true love by not being true to himself. So he and I quietly began making plans to leave and a week later, we were in a car travelling to Atlanta with our families raised angry voices still ringing in our ears. That's the last time we spoke to them." Mercedes looked sad and he could see tears starting to form.

Same quickly stood and walked around the table where his folded his arms tightly around her offering comfort. He couldn't imagine being shut out of his family and he admired her for sticking up for a friend against everyone else. He wanted to help her, to be there for her, to support her when she was too tired to support herself. In that moment, he was grateful towards his own family and friends for they had accepted her into their circle, some without even meeting her and he knew they would do the same with Kurt.

After a few minutes, Sam softly asked, "You ok?"

There was a small sniffle. "Yeah." She let go of him. "Thanks. I needed that."

Sam smiled.

"Anytime." He returned to his seat and there was silence between them for awhile. At that point, a puzzled look came on Sam's face.

"What?" Mercedes asked.

"Why are grandchildren such a deal-breaker for Kurt?"

"Ah." Mercedes looked at the table gather her thoughts.

"I told you he had names picked out for the children he was gonna have with his ex. Well, they had a dream for their future and it was very detailed. They had already started working towards it with various decisions, like sorting through job offers and the like. The proposal wasn't a surprise so much as bad timing. When they broke up, the guy basically disappeared after graduation and all Kurt had left was that dream. I kept telling him to track the guy down but so much time had passed, that he was sure the guy wouldn't forgive him. He tried a little while, searching in all the places they had considered to work and live but he struck out. Then we had been here a short time before he met Blaine and Blaine was nothing like his ex so he threw himself into that relationship. One of the things they bonded over was that they both didn't want kids. Blaine had his own reasons but it'd probably be more accurate to say Kurt didn't want kids with Blaine." A look of understanding crossed Sam's face.

"He's still in love with his ex."

"I'm not sure he'll ever stop loving that guy. Don't get me wrong, he loves Blaine but it's nothing like what he feels for the ex. He may date, may even get married but a huge chunk of his heart will always keep that dream close. I think he sees kids with another man as the ultimate betrayal and he feels guilty enough."

"Jeez." Sam leaned back into his chair. "So there's very little chance of getting back together with Blaine. At least as long as there's a chance of children."

"I can pretty much guarantee they won't be getting back together, since Blaine is an Anderson and 'Andersons do not have illegitimate children.'" Mercedes intoned with a snooty voice.

"So they're well and truly broken up." Sam surmised. "Because I can't see Kurt as someone's bit on the side." Mercedes nodded in agreement.

"There's a better chance of finding the TARDIS in your backyard and running away with the Doctor."

Sam burst out laughing. They tried to keep it down as Mercedes joined in but some of their tension from the night's events seeped away amidst their chuckles. They slowly winded down to a few short giggles.

Same glanced to the direction of the guest room where Kurt lay, hopefully sleeping.

"Is there anything we can do for him?"

"Got a toolbox and a car that needs restoring?" Sam patted his pockets and came up empty.

"Not on me." Mercedes rolled her eyes in amusement.

"Well, I guess there's always plan B."

"What's plan B?"