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We Really Shouldn't Be Doing This

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“-I feel the adrenaline moving through my veins- Spotlight on me and I'm ready to break- I'm like a performer, the dance floor is my stage - Better be ready, hope that you feel the same-“

Fun fact about Santana Lopez: she actually really hates Britney Spears.

“All the eyes on me in the center of the ring - Just like a circus-”

It’s nothing against Britney personally. She knows a lot of people like to rag on Britney for her many (MANY) flaws, but really Santana’s only problem is that there was an incident in college. Chloe wasn’t kidding about the hot human lady tail. Truth of the matter is that Santana found herself accidentally cheating on a one night stand after she failed to realize that the girl thought that their drunken late night bang meant they were exclusive. The girl, a music major with a seriously killer voice, was so upset by Santana’s perceived infidelity that she gathered together the KU girl’s a capella group and serenaded Santana with a fantastically emotional rendition of Womanizer literally everywhere she went.

“-When I crack that whip, everybody gonna trip - Just like a circus-”

Everywhere. Including but not limited to: the library, the newspaper office, a random frat party, the cafeteria, and in one particularly mortifying event - the third stall in the upstairs bathroom in Santana’s dorm while Santana was trying to pee.

Santana remembers that at the time, Quinn (the girl Santana was purported to have cheated with) thought the entire thing was hilarious, and even went so far to upload it all in an edited compilation on youtube. It got nearly a million views until just two years ago, when Rachel Berry, now a Tony Award nominee but still dramatic as hell, had her lawyer issue a takedown notice, citing defamation of character, even if it was her own damn crazy that was responsible for the mess to begin with.

“-Don't stand there watching me, follow me - Show me what you can do-“

But the damage was done and to this day, even the whisper of a Britney Spears song sends a tick in Santana’s jaw and a crick in her neck.

The reaction to this number…

It’s not the same thing.

In this ballroom, the room has come alive with the music. Speakers thump with heavy bass, sending shockwaves and vibrations through the floor and walls that seem to make it all pulse. The song becomes this living, breathing thing that growls with intent, infecting the crowd with its pure, raw, animal passion.

Cursed with sensitive senses, to put it mildly, Santana feels almost overtaken with the aggressive notes and the visual spectacle before her.

At its center is Brittany, its own bleeding heart.

Milkshake drips through Santana’s fingertips. She doesn’t register the chill. Her fingers are curled around shards of glass, and yet Santana does not feel the pain. What consumes her is panic, because she’s startled in a way she hasn’t been startled in years.

Brittany, larger than life in her over-the-top costume, curls into herself, only to pop out, chest thrusting with the rhythm. Blue eyes close, lost in the count as a perfect body twists back into the strong arms of a male dancer that has sidled up to press in behind her.

Those eyes snap open. Santana is breathless at the blueness of them, glowing in a way that seems visceral in the spotlight.

She’s pinned by the stare, and does not move as Brittany, possessed by the music, swivels and pivots in her direction.

As she comes off the stage and into the crowd, the mass parts for her. Her menagerie of worshipping dancers follow behind her, who appear as entranced as Santana. They crawl on their hands and knees, growl with their teeth, purr against Brittany’s legs, every inch the wild animals they have been made up to be. A woman with whiskers keens under Brittany’s touch, then suddenly hisses as Brittany snaps her ring master whip, keeping the wild woman at bay.

Brittany looks at no one but her.

Santana feels her heart beat; it pounds.

The number ends as quickly as it has begun.

The notes die away, and the entire room is eerily quiet. Brittany waits, chest heaving up and down with her exertion. She’s flanked by her animal dancers, and everyone waits. Her eyes break from Santana’s the second the applause starts. It’s deafening. The crowd breaks their propriety. Santana hears wolf whistles, cheers and shouts.

They’ve been spellbound, and Brittany’s face lights up with the recognition. She’s transformed, suddenly nothing like the seductress who took control of the room. She’s almost childlike in her happiness.

Brittany looks at her. Santana finds she is frozen. So consumed with her own desperate need for control; in the face of her own lust, the most she can offer is a tight smile to the performer.

She regrets it immediately. The shine in Brittany’s eyes dull and that proud, gorgeous smile falters.

She looks away.

A passing waiter notices the mess Santana has made. He apologizes like it’s his fault, pressing cocktail napkins into her hands and pushing her lightly away from the puddle. By the time Santana looks back, she discovers Brittany has gone. In her place is their famous host, Mercedes Jones. The R&B songstress looks glamorous and gorgeous, speaking into her bedazzled microphone, welcoming the well-funded attendees.

“You know, in high school not a lot of people believed in people like me and Brittany,” Mercedes says, growing somber for a moment. “We were different. I thought I was too fat- I know!” she hears, when a blonde man with huge lips boos loudly. “That shit cray!” There’s laughter, and she shrugs over-dramatically. “But thanks to Mr. Schuester and the Glee Club, both Brittany and I found somewhere to belong. We found our voice, and honestly, I know that if I hadn’t had that outlet in high school to express myself, I would have never had the courage to go for my dreams. The arts ARE important, and so we thank you for being here to support such a great cause.”

Polite applause once again fills the room. Santana inhales and then blanches when she realizes that she’s actually trying to sniff Brittany out… like some sort of bloodhound.

The sudden insecurity brings with it a nervous tick. Santana adjusts her glasses, shoves them back up her nose, and in the process finds herself the subject of another patron’s attention.

It’s Quinn, obviously, who stays on her side of the room. The smirk on her face spreads into a smile when Santana catches her staring.

The years have been good to Quinn. But to see her here, after all this time…

It’s odd and a little disconcerting.

Distraction comes in the form of Mercedes Jones, who it appears has finished her introduction and has welcomed on stage what looks to be Big-Lipped Blonde Guy and a group of guys his age that gyrate their hips a little too enthusiastically to the beat of the song.

They’re singing a version of some generic Boy band song, and judging by the way some of these debutantes react, doing it well? At least she thinks they are.

Santana isn’t sure if it’s the Gay Gene or the Alien thing that has gifted her with the ability to feel absolutely nothing when Frat Boys pump their hips and make the grown women turn into fangirly idiots, but she’s grateful for it.

The woman beside her sighs loudly. Santana blinks when she discovers that it’s Mercedes Jones herself, who smiles admiringly at the Blonde Guy and his humping hips.

“That’s Sam. He’s my husband,” she says, her tone a mixture of affection and exasperation. Mercedes offers Santana a smile that’s wide and sincere. “A self-made boy with a mop of blonde hair and an addiction to chap stick.”

Santana frowns when she realizes Sam has started removing his bowtie, swinging it above his head like a stripper with a bra.

“He’s embarrassing, but he’s mine,” Mercedes concludes flatly.

“Congratulations,” is all Santana can think to say to that. “He has very big lips.”

“That he does,” Mercedes replies after a moment.

“Do you call him Trouty Mouth?” she can’t help but ask.

“… No, but I’m gonna!” Mercedes squeals, and smiles like Santana is brilliant. “Mercedes Jones. I’m a friend of Brittany’s.”

Santana takes her hand. Mercedes has a strong, firm hold. She’s unafraid and unrepentant and appears to be exactly who she presents herself to be. Santana decides that she likes her.

“Santana Lopez,” she answers, warmer than she would usually be. “I’m a colleague of Brittany’s. And I’m actually a fan.”

“Really?” Mercedes’ brow rises. She’s pleased, as anyone with a big ego would be. “Brittany never told me that.”

It occurs to Santana that she and Brittany haven’t actually talked much about friends. Somehow, the thought saddens her. “Well,” she begins hesitantly as she struggles to keep the warm smile on her face. “I guess Britts and I never really talked about music.” Trouty Mouth sashays on stage, distracting Santana when she realizes he’s lost his shirt. “Did you know that your husband is stripping right now?”

Mercedes arches a brow and glances back to the stage. “You can take the boy out of the Strip Club but you can’t take the strip club out of the boy,” she sighs matter-of-factly, and then turns back to Santana. “So… you’re Brittany’s date.”

The title makes Santana flush. It feels like something she hasn’t quite earned.

“Sort of,” she says. “I’m her colleague and work partner, and she’s here for-“

“Sebastian Smythe,” Mercedes sighs, surprising Santana. At her expression, Mercedes sighs knowingly. “She’s kind one-track about some things.”

“Well, what she does is important.” Santana shrugs. “It’s important to me, too. Sebastian and his family have made their stance on Superwoman and people like her quite clear. It’s time they answer for those views.”

“Two peas in a pod, huh?” Mercedes appraises her. “At least you seem to have the good sense to keep your ass off of rooftops.”

“Brittany is braver than me.”

“I don’t know if ‘brave’ is the right word,” Mercedes growls, shaking her head in wonder. “That girl… She talks but sometimes I don’t know if she’s speaking English or that made up language she invented in grade school.”

That little morsel of information digs deep into Santana’s brain, and brings with it a sudden memory of Brittany having an entire conversation in some sort of gibberish with another flustered reporter who was trying to scoop her. The frustrated man nearly tried to clobber her in the wake of it. “Is that what that is?” she asks, fighting the laughter that threatens to spill into her voice.

Mercedes nods. “She does it to piss people off now.”

It’s really fucking charming, in a bitchy kind of way. “Good to know,” she comments. And the lovestruck stupid, goofy expression must be really obvious, because the way Mercedes looks at her changes. The new softness in her face makes her really nervous. “What?”

“You like working with her, don’t you?”

That damn flush will NOT go away. It makes Santana wish she had more covering her face than just her Chloe-tinkered glasses. But it’s kind of refreshing that about THIS at least, she can be honest. “I do. She’s one of a kind.”

“She likes working with you too, Santana,” Mercedes says, and then grins at her, this big Cheshire Cat grin that only makes Santana nervous. “Brittany killed it tonight, didn’t she?.”

The remind of Brittany twisting and turning in front of her is enough to leave Santana breathless. “Yes, she did,” as politely and appropriately as she can manage. “I didn’t even know she could sing.”

“Girl may not have my pipes, but what she lacks in range, she makes up for in moves,” Mercedes agrees. “You were in Glee Club in high school too, weren’t you?”

That Mercedes knows such a detailed fact about her past throws her mind off of Brittany and back on Mercedes. “How did you know that?” she asks, fiddling with the stem of her glasses as they threaten to slip down her nose. Suddenly insecure, she grabs another shot glass of chocolate milkshake from a passing waiter and prepares to down it.

“Doesn’t matter, I have a better question to ask you.” Mercedes’ eyes squint as she leans forward in a conspirator’s whisper. “Is it true you eat cow poop?”

She misses her aim and ends up with chocolate milkshake on her nose. “What?!” she sputters, and wrinkles her nose. The liquid tickles her nostrils, and she has to hold her breath to keep from sneezing and quite possibly blowing Mercedes away like a cannonball. “No?! Who said that?”

“Oh My God, Santana!” A rich velvety chuckle interrupts any answer Mercedes might have given her. Quinn Fabray carries a cocktail napkin, eyes dancing with amusement. “When did you become a klutz?”

It’s a blast from the past that Santana isn’t sure she needs right now, but like always, Quinn doesn’t ask Santana what she needs.

Instead, she steps forward, directly into Santana’s personal space, until there’s only a hairsbreadth between them, and with careful, deliberate movements, she begins to clean off Santana’s face. It’s familiar and intimate, and Santana’s head swims with realization that after all this time, Quinn still uses the same perfume.

“Quinn Fabray,” she breathes, a smile breaking across her face as the other woman gives her a squeeze of genuine affection.

Quinn pulls back only slightly. Her fingers lock loosely around her waist, keeping her close as she studies her old friend from head to toe. “Santana Lopez,” she returns with a happy laugh. “Of all the gin joints in all the world.”

It’s been a long time, but the distance has been good for them. After all this time, there’s no bitterness in Quinn’s gaze.

When the woman beside them coughs suddenly, the moment is broken and she remembers exactly who it is that she is supposed to be conversing with. She flushes, gently pushing Quinn back to an appropriate distance before turning to her new friend,

“Mercedes,” Quinn says easily. Her posture is perfect. Her smile is easy. Her tone, however, reeks of hostile civility. “Great party.”

It’s almost comical the way Mercedes plays along, air kissing Quinn’s cheek and offering a razor-toothed grin of her own. “Quinn, I’m so happy you could come.”

“Oh, you know me. I never miss a party.”

“Yes, I do,” Mercedes twitters, and Quinn’s smile falters at the obvious meaning behind it.

Santana arches a brow, but Quinn just turns in her direction and hooks her arm through Santana’s elbow. It’s exaggerated and purely for show and Santana has to resist the urge to roll her eyes, because she knows exactly what Quinn is doing. She’s turning into Regina George. “I’m a sucker for a good charity. Especially with one with such... lively entertainment.”

She means, of course, Mercedes’ husband Trouty Mouth, who finishes his number in his boxers, and nearly trips off the stage thanks to the pants currently around his ankles.

Mercedes flushes obviously, pink tinting her dark cheeks in a way that clearly isn’t her blush. “Nothing wrong with a man showing off what the Good Lord gave him.”

“And to the entire room!” Quinn’s eyes widen comically. “Sam’s so generous!”

Here’s the thing: Santana actually loves a good bitchfest. It was one of the reasons she and Quinn were so close in college – the bitchiness was damned attractive when directed at anyone but her.

But Santana has discovered more than once since those college years that she is not the same person she was. She’s a damned superhero and has learned that everyone has their own insecurities; their own masks.

Some of the people Superwoman saved seemed to see the woman as their own personal Catholic Priest and confessed accordingly. Santana knows way more about the sex life of their City Mayor than she would ever care to.

It involves a dungeon and a Mistress named Denna.

More selfishly, it probably isn’t a good idea if one is trying to get into Brittany’s Sexy Ring Leader Shorts to piss off her best friend.

“Mercedes, Quinn and I were in college together.”

The lone sentence is enough to break the silent staring match between the two aggressive women. Mercedes seems to remember her duties, because she gives Santana a polite grin and says quickly, “Well then I’ll let you two catch up.”

“It was nice to meet you, Mercedes.”

Mercedes pauses, turns back and finally, Santana is given a genuine smile. “Ditto.” Once again, her eyes flicker to Quinn at Santana’s side, and her voice gets louder. “I’ll tell Brittany you’re looking for her? I’m sure it would be nice to spend some time with your date.”

Quinn hums against her, fighting an obvious chuckle. Santana reverts to old habits and pinches her, feeling Quinn stiffen and hiss in reaction. “That would be great, thanks.”

As they watch Mercedes leave, Santana feels the breath of an old friend and lover against her ear. “So…” Quinn says quietly, “How long have you been dating Brittany S. Pierce?”

Left alone with a woman with whom she’s intimately familiar, Santana feels oddly annoyed. She pushes Quinn gently away, putting space between them. “I’m not dating Brittany,” she informs her old friend firmly.

“Oh, but you want to be,” Quinn says, never one for being subtle. “You want all up and down that nosy reporter. Nothing used to turn you on more than a good ole lap dance from a woman in a barely there bra.”

Santana flushes, and finds she can’t resist throwing her own barb back, “And at last check, it was the same for you. Still bearding, Fabray?”

The music is loud. No one can hear them. It doesn’t stop Quinn from breaking her composure and glancing around frantically. “Well, we all have our little secrets, don’t we?” Quinn answers carefully.

It’s a pointed remark. Santana should have seen it coming.

“God, you never stop being a bitch, do you?” she asks, almost admiringly.

Quinn lips form into a pleased smile and the hardness leaves her eyes. Santana can almost hear the mask shatter. “There you are.”

“Hi,” Santana tells her, and Quinn laughs a gorgeous, sincere laugh as she opens her arms once again. This time, Santana falls into the embrace gladly.


It’s been a long time since Brittany has felt like the insecure girl in high school who cringed anytime anyone looked at her oddly, waiting to be called stupid.

She’s a reporter now, successful enough to be considered a celebrity by Mercedes’ standards. She’s enough of a show-stopper for Mercedes to trust her to open up her charity gig.

She’s Brittany S. Pierce and that means she’s fabulous and amazing – she’s got brains and she’s got sex appeal. She knows it.

So why does she feel so weird?

Brittany sits in her evening gown, staring at herself in the makeshift vanity. Every swipe of blush is carefully considered. Her false eyelashes have been meticulously glued into place.

She looks, for the lack of a better word: perfect. Gorgeous. Brittany may not be the most beautiful woman in the world, but she knows how to work with what she’s got, and she knows damn well that what she has is a helluva lot more than most of the female population.

She should be feeling triumphant. Ready to take on the world.

Fingers tighten around the edge of the desk and her heart pounds, but it’s not with the usual adrenaline that hits Brittany after one of her impromptu performances.

It’s a thing of hers, and a main reason why Brittany usually invites a Bang Buddy to one of Mercedes’ events. She always gets horny after she performs. It’s because of the endorphins. The rush of the applause, the way her blood pumps through her veins. It feels like wild horses running in and out of her heart and through her brain. Synapses snap and pop and every single emotion she’s ever felt all at once rushes inside of her and begs for release.

It’s a high she’s addicted to and it only comes from the success of a great story or one of these rare performances, and that means she wants to savor that feeling, cherish and celebrate it.

But tonight…

She kinda feels like shit.

And all because of Santana.

Not that she invited Santana to be her Bang Buddy, but at the very least, she wants to impress her. She cares about her, really she does, because Santana could probably be the best friend she ever had, and somehow Brittany is still waiting for that moment when that smart, gorgeous woman will look at her and realize she’s as stupid as everyone says she is.

That thought terrifies her.

She doesn’t want Santana to think she’s stupid. She wants Santana to keep looking at her the way she does – like she’s some sort of special, amazing person. A genius.

Santana’s reaction to her performance was a frozen smile that looked … disappointed of all things.

“Girl, you got a problem.”

Brittany’s blue eyes flicker from her own reflection to that of Mercedes coming up behind her. Her friend’s eyes are narrow in concerned focus. She’s not smiling.

The pit in Brittany’s stomach hardens.

“Did I suck that bad?” she asks, voice weak with dread.

Mercedes’ jaw drops for a moment, before she shakes her head immediately. “Are you crazy?” she hisses, hand falling on Brittany’s shoulder and squeezing reassuringly. “You killed it! You had the entire room drooling! Two of the waiters tripped from the puddles on the floor!”

“That’s sweet,” Brittany says distractedly, and it does make her feel better, because Mercedes isn’t a liar. She never sugar coats the truth, even though sometimes Brittany really wishes she would.

But if Mercedes is telling the truth and Brittany really did kill it tonight, then what the hell is wrong with Santana? Santana isn’t her Bang Buddy, but she is Brittany’s date, and isn’t it only polite to at least clap when your date performs a hot Circus number that makes the whole room drool and waiters trip?

“What’s the matter with you?” Mercedes eyes her.

Brittany inhales deeply. She’s Brittany S. Pierce and she’s gorgeous and really, it’s stupid to feel bad. Honestly, it is. She’s so good at her job she’s practically a damned celebrity, and just because a gorgeous dork in glasses didn’t clap or look pleased –

She lifts the eyeliner to her face, and then the movement falters as she latches onto a desperate thought. Maybe Santana just forgot how to clap. Maybe no one ever taught how to clap. Who knows what they teach a person on a farm?

It’s not the first time Brittany has had to teach Santana about big city living.

Maybe this is just another first.

Santana can apologize to her for not thinking she kills Britney Spears better than Britney herself and then Brittany can ask her how the hell she got a dress that fits and why she looks so gorgeous, and once that’s sorted and Brittany can figure out how go back to being herself and not this insecure idiot that keeps wondering if that red lipstick Santana is wearing tonight is flavored.

No. She needs to get her head on straight, and then she and her work partner Santana can double team Sebastian Smythe and ask him about the controversial statements he’s made. It’s what she should be focused on anyway.

She feels emboldened; more like herself. “Nothing,” she decides, and straightens her back, squaring her shoulders as she reapplies her lipstick. It feels like she’s applying war paint. “I’m fine. Did you see Santana?”

Brittany immediately frowns. She actually meant to ask if Mercedes had seen Sebastian, not Santana.

“Mmhmm,” Mercedes says, and leans down over her shoulder, staring at her through the mirror. “She likes you, Brittany. I saw her jaw hanging open during your performance. She dropped a shot glass!”

That doesn’t make sense at all. “Okay,” Brittany whispers. That rock in the pit of her stomach turns a bit, but it’s not an unpleasant feeling. “So she liked it?”

“Of course she liked it,” Mercedes says, eyes rolling. “Her glasses looked like they had steamed over. But you got bigger issues. Guess who’s with her?”

In the light of this new bit of information, Brittany discovers that she’s optimistic. “Sebastian?”

Mercedes gives her that look that she gives her when she’s thinks Brittany is messing with her. “No,” she snaps, “Not Sebastian. Forget about Sebastian.”

Brittany pouts. Mercedes has always been disapproving of her methods of scoring interviews, but she’s never actually forbid it. “But I don’t want to.”

Palms slam down hard on her vanity, disrupting her makeup and making her nearly stab herself with her lipstick. “Gay Fabray is totally hanging all over your date.”

Oh. OH.

The image of it takes a moment to set in, but it does, and the result is weird sort of nausea that makes Brittany grimace in a way that she knows is really not attractive.

But seriously… Gross.

The only thing that keeps her from jumping up immediately and running for the curtain is the knowledge that Mercedes is watching her very carefully. She knows what Mercedes thinks, and Brittany isn’t sure why it’s so damn important that Mercedes does NOT think it.

It keeps her rational. She exhales slowly, and tries to continue lining her lips as if this isn’t the grossest, most upsetting news ever. “So?” she asks carefully. “You know they know each other. You saw the picture. They’re probably just catching up.”

“Catching up the same way you and Quinn used to ‘catch up’?”

Augh. “That only happened one time!” she snaps, because Mercedes will never, ever let her forget it, and to even think about Santana and Quinn together in that way is just…

“Well, judging by how Quinn’s all over your date, it’s gonna happen again.”

Once again, she has to swallow down her own bile. “So?” she says stubbornly, “Santana’s a big girl. She’s just a friend.” But she pictures Santana, the way she saw her just ten minutes ago, in that curvy red dress and with her long brunette hair-

Fuck. NO.

This isn’t the real Santana. The real Santana has no hand-eye coordination and constantly breaks her heels.

And truthfully, Quinn isn’t a fan of klutzes. Brittany has a particularly vivid memory of getting elbowed in the gut during a particularly enthusiastic round of sex to prove it.

“And besides,” she finds herself saying, after she relines the upper lip she’s already determined is perfect two minutes ago, “In a minute, she’ll probably spill a drink all over herself and Quinn will get disgusted and leave her alone.”

The thought is surprisingly cheery.

“She already did that. Quinn thought it was charming, and practically licked it off of her.”

Her lipstick suddenly swerves against her face. “Crap!” Brittany exhales, when she realizes she’s accidentally turned herself into a clown.

Mercedes just hands her a tissue. Brittany accepts it gratefully, wiping away the excess make up that’s been smeared on her cheek. “Look, Santana may be a dork, but she’s not stupid, okay? She’s not going to fall for someone as plastic as Quinn Fabray-“

“You did-“

“I’m stupid!”

“No you’re not!” Mercedes angrily retorts.

No. She’s not.

Brittany puts the lipstick down. “Look, Mercedes, I don’t know where this is coming from, but I already told you, I don’t see Santana like that.”

“Then you are stupid,” Mercedes says flatly.

The comment feels like a punch in the gut. “Mercedes,” she breathes, wounded.

But Mercedes is unrepentant. “Brittany, I don’t judge you,” she begins, which Brittany thinks may be a sure sign that she’s about to get judged big-time. “If anything I live vicariously through you, because you are a serious Sex Shark. But I also know you. I know what you want and what you’re looking for, and I’ve never seen you LOOK like you do when you talk about this woman.” Brittany swallows hard. She can’t look at Mercedes. She won’t even look in the mirror. She’s too afraid of what she’ll see. “If you’re seriously passing up the opportunity to romance a girl who I know you care about, and who truly LIKES you, and is smart and beautiful and thinks you are too, just because she doesn’t wear a cape?”

Mercedes trails off, and suddenly Brittany can’t stand the silence. She looks up – meets Mercedes’ disappointed gaze in the mirror.

Mercedes shrugs, sighing in resignation. “Then you’re an idiot,” she finishes. With a tilted, pointed look, she walks away from her, but not before tossing over her shoulder, “Hurry up. Your date’s waiting for you.”


She’s been waiting for Brittany for more than ten minutes. In that time she discovers she’s missed a call from Chloe.

Santana considers returning it, but she finds it easy to reason that if it was truly important, Chloe would text or call back.

More than likely, it’s Chloe being nosy, because Chloe is a former reporter and it’s in her blood. Santana has nothing at all to report, other than a return to her clumsy form and Brittany causing massive flood in her lady pants with a sexual performance. Both points are embarrassing.

So she doesn’t call back and instead she and Quinn graduate from milkshakes to malt shakes spiked with Bailey’s. As they catch up, it’s apparent that even after several years, even after Superwoman, some things do not change.

In a way, it’s comforting. Quinn Fabray is still in her element as a bitchy, conflicted, closeted debutante. It’s nice; a reassurance that Santana hasn’t imagined the part of her life where Quinn was in it. It hasn’t faded away just because Santana has been chosen to becoming something new – a mild-mannered reporter and a Superhero.

But there’s also the fact that in her red dress facing Quinn Fabray, who sports immaculate make up and a shorter haircut than she remembers, Santana feels almost like her old self.

That’s dangerous.

Santana’s old self is not a person who can be a hero. She’s not a person who should be a hero.

It’s even odder that Santana realizes that the College! Santana who partied with Quinn because she was desperate to feel human isn’t who she wants to be anymore.

Fucking ironic that she’s never felt more human than when she’s trailing after Brittany Pierce and catching her when she flingers herself off of rooftops.

“I may have read an article or two,” Quinn admits, hiding a smile behind her palm as she cross her legs, lounging on the stool next to the bar. “In teeny tiny block letters right underneath the big bold ones of Brittany S. Pierce.”

“So you knew I was in town,” Santana confirms, and Quinn again issues one of her trademark smiles, that spoke of depths behind the mask of the perfect debutant.

“I had an inkling even before I saw the byline,” she says. “But I knew I’d run into you eventually.” There’s something more that Quinn isn’t saying. Santana knows better than to press her.

The crowd is starting to mingle, getting a little drunker on the spiked malts and fruity drinks. It’s getting rowdier and Santana can’t help but search each face, looking for the one she misses.

“Seriously, Santana,” Quinn sighs after a moment, eyeing her old friend through narrowed lids. “What are you doing?” Santana blinks, unsure of what she means before Quinn elaborates. “Brittany Pierce?” she says. “Really?”

She flushes. “Quinn-“

“She’s here for a story, isn’t she? She didn’t just invite you because she wanted you here. You’re helping her get a scoop, aren’t you?”

Santana is uncomfortable. She’s fidgety. She’s everything Santana Lopez has become – klutzy and unsure, and Quinn registers it all with a frown.

“But for you, it isn’t just about Brittany’s story. This is the night that you’re hoping things cross that line, isn’t it?”

Quinn speaks with that knowing, flat tone. There’s no room for argument, and Santana wants to argue, because she suddenly feels really, really stupid. “Quinn, shut-“

“Don’t try to deny it,” Quinn says flatly. “It’s been a few years, but you haven’t changed THAT much. I can still read you like a book.”

It’s eerie how true that is. Quinn has always understood expectation. She understands the need to keep a secret. It’s harder to wear the mask around Quinn.

And God, sometimes Santana really hates the fucking mask.

She breaks.

“So I like her,” she admits, and decides to be unrepentant. “I like her a lot. So?”

Quinn considers that, finger twirling the edge of her glass. “Santana,” she begins, and Santana knows it’s not the start of anything good. “I know it’s been a few years, and I know you and I have… a past.”

It’s generous, considering the kind of past it is. “There’s a ‘but’ coming,” Santana breathes, and Quinn smiles a quick, phantom grin that disappears just as quickly.

“But I love you,” she says, firm and to the point. Santana blinks, shifts uncomfortably, until Quinn grabs hold of her forearm, holding her still. “And not in that I-want-to-bang-you kinda way, you conceited bitch, though that was fun,” she adds, and Santana finds herself laughing. Quinn waggles her eyebrows, but her smile remains quietly sincere. “But in the I-genuinely-care-about-you-and-it’s-damn-good-to-see-a-friend kind of way.”

It’s grown up and mature and completely not the Quinn she remembers. “Quinn, just spit it out,” she sighs. “You’re freaking me out.”

Quinn’s throat bobs. She hesitates only a moment before she sighs and says, “Brittany has a reputation. She gets around.”

She’s stunned speechless. The words repeat in her mind, and with them comes a sudden rush of anger, because really, What the Fuck?

“You’re seriously calling her a slut?” she snaps.

“No,” Quinn says, firm and even-tempered, and honestly, that just makes it worse. “No, I’m saying she gets around. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. God knows you and I did our share in college but-“

“But what, Quinn?” she asks, feeling suddenly too hot, and too uncomfortable.

“But I saw how you were looking at her,” she finishes. Santana blinks, shifts and swallows. “Look,” Quinn says after an uncomfortable beat. “I’m just saying be careful, okay? If what you want is a quick fuck, then go for it, but if you’re thinking that whatever is going on between you could be more than that-“

“Quinn,” she whispers in hurt exasperation, “Just-“

“Be careful.” Quinn finishes. She stares at Santana, and it feels almost like QUINN is the one with the laser vision and not her.

It’s infuriating.

“You don’t know her like I do,” Santana finds herself saying, and it comes off as cliché and desperate, but it’s also true. Quinn’s jaw hardens, but she says nothing. “Seriously, Quinn. She’s not just a… crush,” she whispers, and flushes as she does so. “She’s also a friend, and my partner.”

Quinn observes her, tests the sincerity of her words with silence. She sighs. “Well just be careful,” she continues, voice immediately lighter. “Her friend Mercedes is a bitch.”

The flippant and annoyed statement is almost comical in the wake of the rest of it. Santana finds herself grateful for the reprieve. “What was that, anyway?”

Quinn shrugs. “Mercedes has an attitude and I don’t like it. Ever since … she found out about me she likes to think she has this stupid thing over me-“

“The gay thing,” Santana confirms. Quinn’s eyes flicker to hers, then away.

“You know why I can’t come out,” she mumbles, and it’s as tragic now as it was in college.

Santana sees it… the way Quinn is just so sad, haunted with the weight of her closet.

The anger dissipates in favor of genuine sympathy. Santana reaches for her spiked malt, and raises it in Quinn’s direction. “Like you said, Quinn, everyone has their secrets.”

Quinn’s head lifts. She’s grateful.

Their glasses clink in genuine commiseration.

“So I get pissed off and flirt with her Chippendales husband, and it pisses her off more.” Quinn shrugs. “It’s a vicious cycle and I kinda like it that way.”

It’s typical Quinn Fabray, but before Santana can offer any wisdom, a fragment of a sentence from another conversation floats in her ear from across the room.

“-honest here, it’s the fact that she’s got big tits and a skirt. Superwoman is a fucking mutant, a mutant vigilante and no one wants to call her on it because they all want to bang her.”

Santana sucks in her breath. Her head whirls, and she locks onto the speaker.

Sebastian Smythe. She should have known.

“Would you excuse me for a second?” she asks Quinn. Quinn frowns, but nods.

Santana offers the other woman an affection squeeze, and heads purposefully in his direction.

“Sebastian Smythe?” she asks when she has his attention. She holds out her hand politely. “My name is Santana Lopez. I don’t believe we’ve met.”