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We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This

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The thing is, Santana isn’t the only member of her cobbled together family of ‘Incredibles’ that leads a double life. Her adopted mother, the unassuming Martha Kent, often takes off without warning to Washington DC, because (surprise surprise) the quiet pretty red-headed widow farmer is also a former Senator. There’s a story there, and Santana’s heard it, but it doesn’t explain why Martha is constantly flying around (in a jet, not ‘al fresco’ like Santana does) in her veil of secrecy doing who knows what. Santana has long since discovered that sometimes secrets are kept secrets for a reason.

Not that she can’t be damn bitter about it. It’s ten tons of ironic that her Grandmother (or the lady she thought was her grandmother) kicked her out onto the streets as a kid not because she was an alien, but because she found out she was gay.

Maybe that’s why she stayed with Martha Kent, even after Clark dropped her off and she had nothing forcing her to stay in Kansas. Martha didn’t give a crap about her liking girls. She was more worried about making sure Santana learned how to milk a cow without bruising the udders with her awesome Super-strength.

And maybe that’s why she’s where she is now, settling down lightly on Chloe Sullivan’s particular balcony in the hi-rise condo she now calls home in Chicago, hair wild and tangled from the high winds she wind-surfed to get here. Martha isn’t in town, but Santana has been told more than once that there is no excuse to miss the bi-weekly family dinner. When the farmhouse is empty, Chloe Sullivan’s posh highrise is the mandatory next destination.

The sliding glass door is unlocked, but that doesn’t mean that Chloe isn’t aware that she’s here the moment she sets foot inside the condo.

“You’re late!” Chloe Sullivan is dressed casual today. There are no power suits, no imposing heels, but instead just a smile that is surprisingly sweet, a pair of soft sweats, and a t-shirt that’s too large to be hers. Her blonde hair, usually sweeping across her chin in a jagged cut that exudes power, is pulled back in a casual ponytail. She looks homey and comfortable, and not at all surprised at Santana’s cavalier entrance. “For someone with your kind of speed it’s ridiculous that you can’t actually keep an appointment.”

Santana’s only apology is a bottle of white wine that has been chilled by the earth’s frosty atmosphere.

“Please. It’s not as if you’ve spent any time dressing up for me. Are those actually sweats?” she snaps at the other woman, who rolls her eyes and huffs in response. “And I can’t stay too late. I have a date tonight.”

Chloe takes the bottle from her outstretched fingers with an arched, bemused brow. “What, did that fat cat finally make it official?” Santana doesn’t appreciate the skeptical mocking.

“Actually, it’s a charity gala,” she says, and finds herself biting her lower lip in a moment of hesitation before she takes a nervous breath and carries on. “Chloe,” she calls, and waits until the other woman turns back. “I need to borrow a dress.”

--

Mercedes Jones has been most recently hailed as the new up and coming Whitney Houston. She’s known for belting out these insanely complicated songs that would make even Mariah Carey pass out (and came close to it, at the last VH1 Divas concert). When she’s difficult, she’s got an attitude that rivals Aretha Franklin. She lives in Metropolis because she has a rich husband who is based here. But she comes from Brittany’s small town and is one of Brittany’s old Glee Club buddies, and one of the few people in high school who never treated her like she was the Village Idiot.

They’ve both come a long way from those days of belting out show tunes at McKinley, but sometimes, it honestly doesn’t feel very different at all. Mercedes’ Victorian mansion is a ridiculous sort of paradise in which Brittany Pierce can lounge on a massive foam mattress bed and eat Ruffles Cheddar and Sour Cream chips straight from the bag, chomping loudly and complaining boisterously about the ridiculously huge fly that has somehow managed to get into the bedroom and is now making it it’s personal mission to drive Brittany absolutely bonkers.

“I swear to God, Mercedes,” she shudders, as the thing buzzes near her face. “This thing is huge! It’s like… a superfly!”

Mercedes, however, seems less concerned about the mutant fly and more concerned with trying on the outfit her stylist has chosen for her to wear tonight. That and her bed. At least, that’s more or less what Brittany thinks, as all she can actually make out as Mercedes barks from the closet is something about crumbs on her sheets.

Mercedes has no actual bite when it comes to Brittany, so instead of caring Brittany kicks off her heels and resettles herself. “I have to fill up now,” she mutters matter-of-factly, stuffing another chip into her mouth. “The last time you had one of these things the best thing you served was that thing I thought was chocolate and turned to be goose liver.” Just the memory of the gross, meaty mess spreading over her tongue is enough to make her grimace and put aside the rest of the chips.

Mercedes pokes her head out to offer her a good Mercedes-patented glare. “You didn’t tell that to Sam, did you?”

“No, why?”

“He put himself in charge of the menu this time. I’ll be lucky if the appetizers aren’t corn dogs, pigs in a blanket and Cost Co pizza. With Slurpees to wash them all down.”

Brittany contemplates the thought. “That sounds really good though. He should have done that.” The fly buzzes again, this time nearly landing on her finger. “Oh my God!” she squeals in disgust, flapping at it with her Ruffles bag. “Mercedes, this thing is gross!”

“It’s a FLY, Brittany.”

“It’s MASSIVE,” she retorts, eyes narrowed as she tracks it’s flight across the room. “It’s like the size of a … DUNG beetle.”

“How the hell do you even know what a dung beetle looks like?”

That’s actually a very good question. Brittany has no idea. She frowns as she thinks upon the answer. “Oh,” she mutters, and finds herself oddly unsettled as she admits, “Santana told me.”

“Who the hell is Santana?”

The fly seems to have found something near Mercedes’ vanity that has it’s attention, and it’s only then that Brittany feels safe enough to reopen her bag of chips. It helps give her a distraction as she explains, “My friend from work I told you about. She lived on a farm growing up. They eat the cow poop.”

For some reason, this little detail brings Mercedes out of the closet, with enough swagger in her walk to completely take Brittany’s breath away and forget about her chips altogether. “Your friend eats cow poop?”

“Oh-mi-God it doesn’t matter!” she breathes. “You look amazing!” She does. Mercedes is a vision in her blue gown, the perfect choice that’s cut for her gorgeous curves and generous cleavage. “God, I miss my fake boobs sometimes,” Brittany admits, as she stumbles off the bed to admire her friend’s rack. “You’re so banging!”

Mercedes is positively adorable when she’s humble. She wipes her hands nervously on her dress and swishes around in front of the mirror. “You think?”

“Totally!” she gushes, and finds herself smirking as a petty thought comes to her. “Quinn Fabray is going to be so frickin’ jealous.”

Mercedes’ pretty smile goes immediately south. “Yeah well, ’Gay’ Fabray better keep her hands off my man if she knows what’s good for her.”

It’s an unfortunate secret nickname they share for the rival debutant, and Brittany does feel sorta bad about it. But really, it’s Quinn’s own fault. The brief history that they share isn’t exactly cheery. Honestly, how was Brittany supposed to know when they hooked up that one time that Quinn was so deep in the closet Narnia was tourist destination?

“Yeah well, I’m pretty sure she’s gay so…” Journalistic integrity and a fierce sense of morals is what kept Brittany’s mouth shut about it, but she had a hard time understanding the lengths someone will go to in order to preserve a double life.

Too many lies are involved to make it worth it. How can you trust anyone? Ever?

“Makes her twice as desperate, if you ask me,” Mercedes grumbles.

There’s genuine insecurity, hidden in Mercedes’ voice and Brittany gets it. She does. Quinn is gorgeous. She’s like one of those IT glamour girls from the twenties brought to real life, and whether or not she prefers the ladies has nothing to do with her various attempts to snag a catch like Sam Evans, even if he is already married and ‘new money’.

Still, Sam has proven to be a stand up guy, and seems hopelessly devoted to his R&B wifey.

“She doesn’t stand a chance,” Brittany promises. “Sam won’t be able to keep his eyes off of you.”

The way Mercedes softens when she looks at her, the way she squeezes her like she appreciates every single word that comes out of her mouth? That’s why they’re friends. Brittany can’t help but hug back just as tightly.

“You always know what to say, Britt-y,” Mercedes says, and then reaches for a golden dress with a killer neckline that’s been hanging for Brittany by the bed. “And a deal’s a deal. You sing for me, I get the dress. Now it’s your turn.”

With an excited squeal, Brittany immediately tugs her shirt over her head, fumbling with her bra clasp.

“I always forget that you have no concept of modesty,” Mercedes sighs, averting her eyes as the other woman gleefully strips. “Not everyone wants to see your nipples girlie. Oh, and before I forget? I’ve already warned the bartenders. You’re not drinking tonight.“

The ban has been put in place at Mercedes sponsored events due to Brittany’s tendency to lose her clothes when she’s inebriated. “Whatever,” Brittany says, and shimmies her skirt down her hips. “Just because you don’t appreciate the view doesn’t mean other people don’t.”

“I appreciate it just fine in an ‘I hate you – how do you eat chips and maintain a six-pack’ way.” Brittany just winks, and Mercedes rolls her eyes and settles back on the bed. “So what time is Roger getting here?”

Brittany falters, nearly tripping as she slides her leg into the dress. She hopes that Mercedes does not notice her odd moment of clumsiness.

“I cancelled,” she says, as carelessly as she can manage, and turns away from Mercedes to tug the strap over her shoulder. “I’m bringing Santana instead. Can you zip me up?”

But Mercedes is like a dog with a bone, and it’s infuriating to have to stand straight while Mercedes decides that this little change of date is something worth pursuing. “Wait… Santana, Farm-Girl-Who-Eats-Cow-Poop Santana?”

“She doesn’t eat cow poop,” she mumbles. “And she’s just a friend. I thought it might be nice to bring her.”

“You never bring ‘just friends’ to my party.”

Brittany grimaces, because that’s true. She doesn’t. An invite to Mercedes’ charity galas are reserved for the special guests of Brittany’s that she wants to impress (i.e – sleep with). She should have known that changing her mind at the last minute and inviting Santana would invoke this particular line of questioning.

“Shut up. It’s not like that.” But her cheeks are flaming and her ears are hot because it could be. Honestly, it could. Santana is a dorky, adorable, sexy mess, and Brittany’s considered that enough to understand that she does have a certain attraction, even if the other woman isn’t her normal put together type.

But she’s also the first real friend that Brittany’s made at work, and because of that, sex will not be a part of their partnership. Too many friendships have been ruined because Brittany can’t keep her sexual curiosity in her pants. “Can’t I just have a friend that I don’t sleep with?”

“Yes. Me. Everyone else has been banged.”

“Well maybe I don’t think of her like that,” she mumbles, and God, it sounds lame even to her. She can practically feel Mercedes’ eyes boring into the back of her head.

“Brittany S. Pierce if you’re suddenly playing shy with me-“

“Santana Lopez is my partner from work!” she snaps, and doesn’t understand why she’s snapping at all. “That’s all. Now can we drop it and zip me up?”

But the outburst seems to be enough. Mercedes quiets down and pushes off the bed, gathering the material at her back and closing the dress around her.

Brittany whispers a relieved thanks, and then appraises herself in the mirror. The gown is perfect. Of course it would be. Sleek and long, making the most of her curves and athletic body; she looks feminine and strong. With make up and hair? She’ll look stunning. “This is awesome.” When Mercedes doesn’t respond, Brittany turns, only to discover her friend now has an IPAD in her hands. “What are you doing?”

“Googling Santana Lopez.” Mercedes has this glint in her eye – a dangerous one that she only gets when she thinks she’s got something on Brittany.

“Mercedes,” she warns. “Stop it! It’s not like that!”

It’s too late. Mercedes has already scrambled on top of her mattress and is bouncing lightly as she views her results. “Santana Lopez!” she reads out lout with entirely too much gusto. “Graduated from the University of Kansas – columnist in the school paper- “

“She’s just a girl from work! She’s not even my type!”

“Oooh here’s a picture!” Mercedes stops abruptly. “Wow.”

“Wow what?” Brittany spits, already mid-climb and taking advantage of Mercedes’ sudden immobility to yank the tablet away. There on the screen is a picture of Santana, wearing her now familiar glasses, but dressed in a tailored blue-collared button down with a fitted vested over it. Her hair, which Brittany has only ever seen in a haphazard ponytail or too-tight bun, hangs loose in wavy curls, framing her face perfectly. She’s smiling with brilliant white teeth, leaning back on a desk and looking so casually sexy it’s flabbergasting. “Oh.”

“This girl isn’t your type?” Mercedes asks skeptically, and takes her tablet back. “Cause that’s a hot cow-poop-eater.”

“No… I mean…” Brittany finds herself itching to snatch the picture back, because it doesn’t make sense. Santana Lopez, that girl in the picture, looks calm and at ease, with a gorgeous smile and a comfortable grace that she’s never actually seen in person. “That’s… that can’t be Santana. Santana never wears clothes that fit. She’s like… super clumsy and her hair is never that shiny and -”

“So why’d you cancel on your man-candy?” Mercedes asks, and keeps reading. “Did you know your girl was in Glee Club in high school? It says so here in her school paper bio.”

Brittany frowns, so overtaken by the gorgeous picture that’s still burned in her brain she can only focus on Mercedes’ first question. “It doesn’t matter. She’s coming because she’s my partner and my friend and you know I want to get close to Sebastian Smythe.”

Mercedes lowers the tablet and glares suspiciously. “What have I told you about using my parties to get one of your scoops?”

“If I do it, make sure it’s people you don’t like?”

Mercedes considers that. “Okay fair enough. I do hate him.” She goes back to her stalking of Santana, and grins. “Did you know she was in Future Farmers of America? She raised cows. I guess that explains eating the poop.”

“She doesn’t eat poop! The dung beetles do!”

“Well, pop a breathmint when you make out with her, just in case.”

“Mercedes!” she huffs, suddenly exasperated. “She’s not even my TYPE!” Brittany’s dangerous close to whining, and she has no idea why. “Come on.”

“Brunette and gorgeous and big boobs isn’t your type?”

“Augh. Fine,” she mumbles. Mercedes should have been a lawyer. “I do have a type. And maybe Santana is kinda cute, but she’s a friend. And you know I kinda got my eye on someone else.”

The tablet lowers again. “If we’re going to talk about your creepy fantasy-relationship with Superwoman I’d rather go back to googling the hot reporter.”

The heat comes back to her cheeks, this time spreading all the way to her ears. “It’s not creepy. She saved my life. Again.”

“The woman is a stalker, Brittany.”

“No, she’s not!” Brittany insists. “She’s… really, really hot.”

“She may have super hearing and super speed but there ain’t no way anyone can just randomly be in the right place and the right time FOUR times. She’s STALKING YOU.”

Brittany finds herself grinning at the thought. “Well if she is, then she’s free to get up on all this. I’m just saying.”

“How would that even work?”

“What do you mean?”

“Doesn’t she have like… laser vision?” Mercedes asks, bored enough with the conversation to go back to her tablet. “What if she got like… too excited? Heat of the moment? She’d chop your head off!”

“Way to be a romantic, Mercedes,” she growls.

“This is real life! You gotta think of the dangers!” Mercedes tuts. “You don’t even know who she really is!”

“Everyone’s allowed to have secrets!”

Mercedes suddenly grabs hold of her arm. “Holy crap.”

“Yes, I’ve thought of the X-Ray vision, and it’s not invasive, it’s kinda HOT, okay?”

“No, forget that!” Mercedes squeals, and shoves the tablet underneath her nose. “Look at this.”

The picture shown on the screen is so close she can’t quite focus on it, and Brittany can only huff in exasperation and push back to get a good view.

When she does, she can’t believe what she’s seeing.

“What the fuck?!” she snaps, because on screen, stolen from a facebook picture is a college-age Santana Lopez with her arms curled around a college-age Quinn Fabray’s waist. They look snuggled and… intimate.

“Looks like your girl Superwoman isn’t the only one with a few secrets,” Mercedes says, very annoyingly stating the obvious.

To add insult to injury, that damn fly chooses that exact moment to land on Brittany’s cheek.

--

Chloe has a husband; a millionaire stud who has a penchant for arrows and is currently off saving the world. That means that the family dinner that would have involved four or five people is just the two of them, and honestly, Santana likes it that way. With candles lit and the take-out in the trash, there’s nothing to do but settle down on the couch and talk.

Usually, Santana isn’t good at talking, but Chloe has wormed her way into her very soul, with her smile and her big-sister snark. She’s got this teasing spark in her eye that makes Santana blush, because she knows how she sounds when she talks about Brittany, and she knows Chloe understands what it means.

“You like this woman,” Chloe says, with a sip of wine and a palm against her slender neck. “You like this woman a lot.”

Santana buys herself a few seconds by taking a gulp of wine. “There’s a lot of strange,” she admits, “But there’s a lot to like.”

Chloe catches the secret word. “But?”

“But she likes Superwoman,” Santana admits.

Chloe dips her head and smiles demurely. “Well, who wouldn’t?” she answers reasonably. “Superwoman is kinda hot.”

It’s supposed to be a compliment. Santana understands that. It still irritates the hell out of her. “Fuck Superwoman,” Santana snaps.

The outburst breaks the calm, sweet haze that’s taken over the evening. Chloe’s smile falters, but to her credit, that’s the only visible sign of her surprise. “Well, that’s new,” she says after a moment, and reaches to set her glass of wine on the coffee table before turning back to the younger woman. “Why don’t we talk about that?”

Santana doesn’t feel like talking about it. She chooses instead to be sullen, plucking off the eyeglasses that mark her identity as Santana Lopez and twirling them by the stem.

“Santana… it’s okay to be frustrated.” Santana doesn’t respond. “You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t.”

“But I’m not, though,” she admits. “Right? I’m not human.“ Chloe presses her lips together, but keeps silent, allowing her to keep going. So Santana does. “I’m just this… shell… hiding behind glasses. Tripping and falling and pretending to be this lovable loser, this… cartoon of a person, and for what? Ten seconds where I get to save the girl and fly away.” She laughs bitterly. “God, and you know what’s even worse? That’s who she prefers! THAT! That cardboard cut out of a superhero who barely speaks!”

“Then maybe she’s not the one for you, Santana.”

Chloe sounds so reasonable and logical. It’s infuriating. “But she could be, Chloe,” she argues, because she can. Brittany fills her mind… fills every part of her, and Chloe has to understand it. “She could be. You know, she just so…” She let’s go of the glasses, closing her eyes and huffing as they fall into her lap. “She doesn’t think anyone sees how scared she gets, that people are going to see who she really is. She puts on this bitch act because somewhere, someone told her she was dumb, and now, everything she does, everything she says – it’s to prove that she’s not.”

Chloe reaches into her lap, and grabs hold of the glasses, studying them in the flickering light afforded by the snapping flames of the faux fireplace.

“You have no idea what it’s like,” Santana manages, lost in her own self-pity, “To stare at someone every day and know there’s nothing you can do to make them really see you.”

“You’d be surprised,” Chloe mumbles, sounding surprisingly bitter. When Santana looks, she sees Chloe with shining eyes, and a sweet, sad smile. “Honey, density isn’t limited to the human population. Trust me when I say alien superheroes can be just as thick in the head. But,” she continues, before Santana can dwell too much on what exactly that means. “What I do know is that life has this ridiculously silly way of working itself out, if you have a few tricks up your sleeve.” Chloe shrugs, and leans forward to shake Santana’s knee with a familiar sweetness that makes Santana ache, because Chloe KNOWS her. She looks at her and knows exactly who she is. There is no circus act, no busted heels and over exaggerated clumsiness. She knows her in a way that Santana feels that Brittany could, and it’s devastating, to hope with such pathetic yearning. “Santana,” Chloe nudges, stubborn to the end. “What’s the deal? This pining, insecure girl? This isn’t you, okay? I know you. You may be an alien refugee, but that’s never stopped you from snagging some seriously hot human lady tail.”

Santana grimaces at the reminder of just how intimate her friendship with Chloe is. “Yeah,” she agrees, but quickly raises her hand. “And don’t remind me that you know that. Because I’m still cringing over the hella awkward ‘This is how super-powered aliens can have sex’ chat you gave me back in high school.”

“Hey! It wasn’t a picnic for me either, believe me.” Chloe snaps, offended of all things. “I had to do a hell of a lot of research into lesbian sex, and the only thing I got out of it is that it’s a very wet process if you’re doing it right. Well,” she continues, “That and long nails are generally considered a no-no.”

Santana tilts her head, suddenly curious. “Really? No experimentation? Not even in college?”

Chloe’s eyes narrow. “Santana. You’re deflecting.” Santana sighs, her brief amusement fading. It’s irritating that this woman knows her so well. “What’s the problem?”

Santana stares at the glasses still in Chloe’s hand, feels her toes curl in Brittany’s shoes. “The problem is that ever since I became Superwoman I’ve had to lead this … double life!” she spits, lost in a burst of frustration.

“You’ve always had secrets.” Chloe is reasonable, so fucking reasonable.

“Superwoman didn’t exist,” she points out. “Okay? It was just me. I could be… myself. Now that Superwoman’s flying around I’m just… I feel like I have to pretend harder to make sure no one knows, because really? Chloe? A pair of glasses and some badly tailored clothes is the only thing keeping them from finding out that I’m a Superhero. And Brittany… she could see me, you know? She’s smart and the way she LOOKS at me when I’m Superwoman… she could see me. She could see right through me. It scares the hell out of me.” Chloe keeps quiet, absorbing her words. “So… I overcompensate. I trip a little. I… break a heel or two. But lately… it doesn’t feel like… it doesn’t feel like I’m acting. She’s turning me into a dork, and a clumsy dork can’t compete with Superwoman.”

“Let me get this straight,” Chloe says after a moment, reaching for her wine glass and taking a calculated sip. “You think that someone can finger you as Superwoman. That the clothes and the glasses aren’t enough. So your big solution to that is to be… clumsy.”

“Okay,” Santana huffs, “When you say it like that it sounds stupid.”

“That’s because it is,” is the matter-of-fact response. “And darling Santana, you don’t need kabuki when you have these glasses.”

Santana blinks, suddenly lost. “What do you mean?”

Chloe smiles mysteriously, and without preamble slips on Santana’s glasses.

The change is slight… ever so slight… but in a moment Santana finds herself staring at a stranger. It’s flabbergasting, because Chloe is still there, and yet… in her place is a person who is NOT Chloe, could NOT be Chloe. “What the fuck?!” she whispers, and The Person Who Is Not Chloe laughs, before the glasses come off and Chloe is there again.

“What the hell was that?!” Santana whispers, snatching back her glasses, and staring at them with sudden horror.

“A little Watchtower Magic,” Chloe says proudly. “I fixed up something similar for Clark when he was playing the double act. It’s nothing harmful,” she assures her. “Just emits a frequency that scrambles the part of the brain that processes recognition. Safely,” she adds, when Santana frowns. “Why do you think I get so pissed when you break your glasses?” she asks suddenly.

“… so even if someone knew who I really was they wouldn’t make the connection?” The very idea is somehow simultaneously comforting and very, very frightening.

“Not necessarily,” Chloe says, and reaches for her wine again. “I still know who you are, don’t I? And so does your mother.” Santana stares at those glasses, suddenly strange in Chloe’s hand, despite the fact she’s been wearing them for the better part of a year. “Santana, if they truly KNOW you, then it won’t work. The frequency isn’t that strong.”

It’s a damn bombshell, and Chloe’s saying it with such casual disregard, as if she hasn’t just turned Santana’s life upside down. “What does that even mean?” she sputters. “And why the hell haven’t you told me this before?!”

“I’m sorry,” Chloe says, and though she sounds sincere, it’s not nearly sincere enough. “I would have,” she insists. “If I thought for one moment that you were doing live performance art on the side.”

“You’re such a bitch.”

“Noted,” Chloe nods, but pushes forward anyway. “And what it means is that you don’t have to be a clumsy clown when you’re Santana Lopez,” Chloe tells her. “Unless that’s exactly who you are.” Carefully she takes Santana’s glasses by the stems, and with the gentle kindness of a dearest friend, she fits them back onto Santana’s face, putting her mask back in place. “Superwoman is hot. But so is Santana Lopez. So give Superwoman a run for her money. It’s time to bring sexy back.” Chloe stands, and holds out her hand, a shit-eating grin on her face. “And I’ve got just the dress to do it.”

--

The fun thing about having a rich and famous friend with a competitive streak is that the parties? Are crazy awesome.

Mercedes knows how to throw a charity shindig, and each and every one is overblown to the point of ridiculousness because she’s always half-afraid that Quinn Fabray is going to have one the next week that’s going to be twice as awesome.

The result is a fundraiser that becomes an event, and this one, meant to raise awareness and money for the arts in public schools, features among other things, an exotic petting zoo (with a freaking sloth!) and a stage with full band that’s meant to feature the talents of not just Mercedes, but her celebrity friends. There’s a method to the madness – she says showing off is meant to show people what the arts in school can do, but Brittany knows the only reason she’s dressed up like the Ringleader of a Sex Circus is because Mercedes loves to put on a show.

That and Quinn Fabray probably never thought of it.

Right now, Brittany knows that the band is playing elevator music, big band swing that’s meant to entertain while waiters in black tie mingle with trays of appetizers, offering a mixture of fancy pigs-in-a-blanket and doctored up teeny tiny tacos and empanadas.

Brittany feels itchy and finds she doesn’t quite care as much as she should about the treats.

Instead, she waits in Mercedes’ living room; an improvised backstage area. She eases herself into a split and keeps her eyes on that damn picture of a Santana Lopez she doesn’t know.

And that’s the problem. Because she does know Santana. Doesn’t she? The Santana who follows her from assignment to assignment, who trips over everything but always has a snappy and cutting comment for any interview who gets a little too uppity, that’s HER Santana.

Just because she took one good picture and somehow knew Quinn Fabray doesn’t change any of that…

Their friendship is a partnership and that means they trust each other, and it’s a good thing… right? This picture proves that Santana does have clothes that fit somewhere… there’s hope and that beautiful woman can become even more… beautiful-er.

That’s a good thing.

“Will you STOP with that?” Mercedes snaps, snatching the tablet from her hands.

“Hey!”

Mercedes keeps it away. “Listen girl, I coulda gotten Christina Aguilera for this, and instead I got you. And let’s be honest, you barely count as a celebrity.”

“Hey!”

“Show some grace and appreciation and focus on the damn opening number.”

“Christina Aguilera hates your guts,” Brittany points out helpfully. “She wouldn’t step foot in here.”

Her phone buzzes, indicating she has a text. Brittany identifies the sender.

It’s Santana. For some reason she can’t quite fathom, she finds herself hesitating to respond.

“What are you doing?” Mercedes asks, clearly as confused as she is by her staring at the phone like an idiot.

“Santana’s here,” she says dumbly, and it’s exactly the wrong thing to say, because Mercedes has built up her partner like she’s some kind of second coming of Christ.

“Really?!” she squeals, and scrambles to the curtain that hides them from the band. “Where?!”

“Mercedes!” she snaps, fingers tapping as she forms her reply. “Would you stop? You’re being really annoying!”

“HOLY CRAP,” Mercedes yelps. It’s loud enough to get the attention of the entire background group, who stare at BRITTANY like she’s the crazy one. “Brittany, get over here.”

Curiosity overcomes her temptation to be contrary, and so Brittany goes, pushing at Mercedes just enough to peer into the small opening afforded by the curtain.

She looks for the glasses, because that’s what she knows, but it’s not what she sees first.

First there is a red dress. A red dress and cleavage. Lots of cleavage. And long dark hair. Red lipstick.

And glasses.

Brittany finds herself suddenly lightheaded.

“Holy crap,” she breathes.

As she scrambles to get a better view, she tangles in the drapes and trips, nearly bringing the entire curtain down with her.

--

It’s appropriate, Santana supposes, that the charity event that’s run by Brittany’s famous friend is themed to be some kind of vaudeville spectacle.

She feels like she’s on display.

It’s been years since Santana’s worn anything nearly as tight as Chloe’s borrowed dress, except for when she’s Superwoman of course, but that never actually counts. She feels like some sort of supervillain vamp, and the thought occurs to her as she accepts a mini bagel pizza and a mini chocolate milkshake served in a shot glass from a passing waiter, that maybe dressing to this level of slutty is a little unpatriotic.

Particularly since being able to hear the whispered lewd remarks a few of the men are making as she passes by them makes her want to be particularly un-heroic.

She settles for a scathing glare as her phone buzzes. Santana fumbles a bit, transferring her food to one hand as she glances at the screen.

I see you. Be with you soon. Watch the stage until I get there.

It’s a weird text to get, but no weirder than the usual. Still, Brittany has never seen her quite like this, and her reaction… or lack of it… seems… disheartening.

It’s a reminder, and a sorely needed one. No matter what Chloe thinks may happen, for Brittany, tonight is about Sebastian Smythe.

Santana is only here as a back up date. Her work partner.

She may not being wearing the Superwoman uniform, but old habits die hard.

So she does her job, blows out a casual steadying breath and helps Brittany by scanning the room, looking and listening for any sign of the Playboy Bachelor.

She sees him in a corner, in an expensive Armani tux, holding court over a gaggle of young men, drinking beer from the bottle and wearing a shit-eating grin that portrays him immediately as a self-important hot-air balloon.

But there’s motion on the stage as the band finishes up to polite clapping. Santana moves with the crowd, edging toward the stage before a familiar scent catches her notice.

Across the floor, on the arm of a handsome man, but looking straight at her is none other than Quinn Fabray.

She gets a moment to process that, nothing more, before the room quiets and suddenly darkens.

One powerful note plays… lingers, and suddenly the curtains part to reveal a spotlight on a blonde in the skimpiest ring leader outfit she’s ever seen.

“There’s only two types of people in this world.” She swings, seducing the room with a single lyric, before Brittany swivels with a dancer’s ease. “The ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.” Blue eyes lock on her own.

The shot glass splinters in Santana’s hand.