Brittany first met William Schuester at a play, one that she had of course written herself. William was not an unkempt man, nothing of the sort. Like most people by now, Brittany knew his story: he had come from a situation where he had nothing while he desired everything, and then he put up that circus where the most peculiar of people performed wondrous acts for a paying audience. Although Brittany failed to see why, William's show was insanely popular and it drew plenty of people to see it night after night.
While Brittany was not a magic maker like William, she was a famous playwright also known for her highly advanced mathematical skills. Her plays were being showed all over Europe and North America too, and she revelled in the feeling of being successful. She had given one of her dearest friends, actress Rachel Berry, a role in her play. That girl shone like a star and was meant for big stages - she proved it every night when she blew everyone away.
The play was over as quickly as it began and Brittany headed backstage to find Rachel chatting with her co-stars while lightly dabbing her skin with a towel to cool herself down. Brittany smiled brightly.
"Rachel!" she exclaimed. The brunette turned in the direction of the voice and excused herself from her fellow actors to hug Brittany.
"Rachel, you were brilliant as always," Brittany gently pecked Rachel's cheek, "You truly blossom on that stage."
Rachel blushed, "Shush, you. It's thanks to you that I'm in this position."
Rachel and Brittany grinned at their approaching friend, handsome socialite Noah Puckerman. His parents were filthy rich and could easily pull strings in the city the way they wanted. Brittany had become friends with Puck and Rachel when they were children and their parents took them to glamorous meetings and dinner parties.
"Hi Puck." Rachel hugged him. Brittany embraced him next. Puck was the nickname only the three of them used of him. When he was hosting fancy gatherings or striking deals with powerful businessmen, he was either Noah or Mr. Puckerman.
"Rachel, you were amazing tonight. Seriously." Puck said, making Rachel glow with joy.
"Oh come on, you'd think you two get tired of saying that after 20 shows."
"And yet we never do," Brittany concluded with a chuckle, "But we're probably keeping you, you should go change so we can head out."
"I'll be back soon." Rachel said and ran off into her dressing room to change. Brittany was left to chat with Puck until Rachel would come back. Just then Puck glanced over her shoulder and frowned.
"Hey, isn't that…"
Brittany spun around and looked at the man Puck was staring at. Her eyes widened and she smirked mischievously as if she had seen a pot of gold in the end of the rainbow.
Brittany left Puck's side and strode towards William, who was clearly looking for someone - for her. He broke into a smile as soon as he noticed Brittany arriving. She held out her hand lightly and he instantly took it into his own and kissed it.
"Miss Pierce, I am delighted to meet you. I am - "
"William Schuester from the circus, yes, I know who you are."
William raised a brow, "You've seen my show, then?"
Brittany laughed, "Goodness no, but I've seen the crowds. Your circus is extremely popular."
William looked very proud and he straightened his coat, "I like to entertain and the people like to be entertained."
"Indeed. But what brings you here, Mr. Schuester?"
"I was actually searching for you, Miss Pierce. How would you feel about going for a drink with me? I have something I'd like to speak to you about."
He offered Brittany his arm. She hesitated for a moment but then took it.
"Lead the way."
They sat at the bar together, Brittany sipping on a glass of wine while William had a shot glass in front of him on the table. The bartender was momentarily surprised at this specific pair stepping into his bar. William was in the middle of explaining his huge plan.
"You're a powerful woman, Miss Pierce, we both know that. Just think of what you and I could do together. We could take my circus and expand it beyond America! The Europeans are wealthy, it would only do us good to do shows there. The people need to experience the wonders!"
"You're an ambitious man, Mr. Schuester, but what makes you think that I would invest in your freakshow?"
William's smile didn't falter. Brittany was slightly taken aback. He had expected these kind of comments.
"It's not a freakshow. It's a group of beautiful people who desperately need this opportunity." he explained, notifying the bartender to pour him another shot. Brittany took a sip of her wine and sighed.
"I don't associate myself with the likes of you, Mr. Schuester," her voice lowered into a whisper, "Different is - is - it's bad."
William leaned closer and looked into Brittany's eyes. He saw her longing, he saw how bored and tired and happy she was all at the same time.
"You and I are no different," he whispered, "You need this magic. You long to be a part of it, and you can be. Let me show you. Please."
Brittany put away her wine glass, unknowingly leaving behind everything she had ever known as she did so.
"I want 20% and to perform."
William accidentally poured some of his drink on his shirt when he heard Brittany's words. He laughed incredulously.
"You can always perform, but 20%? Absolutely not. Seven will do."
It was Brittany's turn to laugh, "Seven? You must think of me as some kind of fool. 18."
"12, Mr. Schuester, please, I am not just anyone."
William smirked, "I know that, Miss Pierce, trust me. Ten."
Brittany's wine glass stopped at her lips and she set it down on the counter again, growing frustrated that there was continuously something keeping her from drinking it. She offered William her hand contently.
"Ten it is."
William shook it confidently, "I'm pleased to be making business with you. You won't regret it."
"I better not."
"Now, what do you say we throw the formalities in the bin? I'm William."
Brittany couldn't help but smile gently, "Brittany."
William poured another show down his throat, "You mentioned your desire to perform, Brittany. Tell me. What is it that you do?"
"Well, apart from writing plays, of course… I dance."
Brittany was not quite sure what to expect upon her arrival at William's circus, but what she saw was definitely different than what she was used to. It was less glamorous than any space for the performing arts that she had ever seen. There were horses somewhere in the depths of the building, causing the stench that reached Brittany's nose when she stepped inside. Other than that there was indeed something magical about the circus. William had not lied about that.
He led her through the backstage past varieties of performers who threw a little glare at her as she passed. Brittany wrapped her arms around herself, feeling a shudder go through her.
They ran into an ebony-skinned, rounder woman with kind but sharp eyes. Her skin was a striking contrast to Brittany's, and if her parents were there they would've fainted just at the sight of a black woman near their daughter. Her skin colour didn't bother Brittany, in fact it was quite beautiful, but what made her special was her facial hair. The woman had a beard, and until then Brittany had only seen beards on men.
Next to her was a brown-haired, thin man in a wheelchair. He looked gentle but Brittany sensed that he was a man with a strong temper.
"Ah, Brittany, meet Mercedes Jones and Artie Abrams. Mercedes sings, and oh boy, does she sing well." William said, kissing Mercedes' temple quickly. She took a good look of Brittany from head to toe.
"What do you got this pretty blonde for, Mr. Schue?"
"She's my new business partner. She'll also be joining the circus as a dancer. This is Brittany Pierce."
"I'm vaguely familiar with the name," sneered Mercedes, "Welcome."
Brittany grabbed Mercedes' hand and shook it, "It's so nice to meet you, both of you."
Mercedes was a bit taken aback, being used to negative treatment from white people, and then allowed herself to smile genuinely. Artie shook Brittany's hand as well and then put his own on Mercedes' shoulder.
"You too." he said.
William continued giving Brittany the tour of the circus, guiding her through the hallways and curtains and doors to meet different people. One young man stood out to Brittany. He sat alone and seemed a little shy. His shoulders were broad and his face showed how much tragedy he had seen. His outer appearance was not as unique as Mercedes' was, and Brittany could easily see him as a part of her own social circle. That was what made him intriguing.
"Who's that?" she asked.
"This is Finn Hudson. He comes from a broken family and he would've endured much worse if I hadn't found him. He's one of the best singers I have." William explained. Finn looked up at him and Brittany could see how grateful he was.
William ended Brittany's sightseeing tour with the main event: the actual stage. Well, you couldn't really call it a stage; it was the center point of the whole building, a room with a high ceiling and rope hanging from somewhere above Brittany's head.
Just as she was about to speak through her bubble of amazement, something, or rather someone, swung in her direction from the opposite end of the room. A brown-haired woman dressed in a bright red piece of clothing quite literally flew through the air, her legs hooked on a trapeze. Brittany met her eyes, and they were a shade of brown so beautiful that they took Brittany's breath away.
Before she had time to react, the woman swung back and grabbed the arms of another woman, a blonde dressed in light blue, and finished the spectacular trick with elegance. Brittany felt like air was knocked out of her lungs. She backed away and turned to William.
"Can I meet them?"
William led her downstairs to see the two young women chatting together with their arms linked. It became clear to Brittany that they were very close. They smiled a little when they saw William approaching.
"Ladies, that was beautiful," he said, "Meet my business partner and our newest performer, playwright Brittany Pierce. Brittany, these are Santana Lopez and her best friend Quinn Fabray, our trapeze artists."
"Pleasure." Quinn said. Brittany shook her hand and then looked at Santana. She was chocolate-skinned and beautiful, to say the least, and although her demeanor was cold, there was warmth somewhere in her eyes. She did not offer her hand to Brittany, and the blonde decided not to push it.
"What is your act, Miss Pierce?" she asked.
"I dance," Brittany said and tried to appear confident. Quinn chuckled amusedly.
"You're a filthy rich playwright, I'm surprised you even have time to dance."
"How do we know you're any good?" Santana asked, eyeing Brittany up and down. She smirked and raised her chin a little.
"You'll have to wait and see."
Brittany saw Santana's eyes light up a little when William read out loud that his presence had been requested by the queen of England, Queen Victoria herself. His wife, Emma, walked to his side and glanced at Brittany with her jaw dropped.
"The - the queen of England, is this real?" she asked. Brittany smiled proudly.
"I had to pull a few strings, but yes. It's real."
"And… do we all get to go?" Santana asked quietly, combing through her dark brown locks. The smiles in the room faded and every eye turned towards Brittany who pondered the weight of her next words.
"I'll tell the Queen that either all of us go… or none of us do." she declared.
Everyone broke into laughter and began cheering happily. Even Santana's lips curled into a smile as Brittany clapped her hands together and then twirled around William and Emma's little son. She had used her status and wealth to bring happiness to the people who had none.
"Are you serious? You're actually going to meet the Queen Victoria?"
Brittany could barely keep in her excitement as she sat in her lounge with Puck and Rachel. The brunette actress just finished asking a list of questions, all of which Brittany would be happy to answer. She nodded as confirmation for Rachel.
"Yes, I'm going with William Schuester and the circus folk to meet the queen of England." she said, pouring each of them a cup of tea. Puck chuckled and shook his head.
"I still can't believe you agreed to take part in the circus. They're freaks, they're oddities among the rest of us, they're - "
"Nothing like that!" Brittany exclaimed heatedly, "I was exactly like you, Puck, I was probably like that last week. But I've actually grown quite fond of those people. I want to help them. They're just human beings like the rest of us."
Rachel took a sip of her tea and decided to change the subject quickly, "You mentioned you'd be dancing at the circus, am I correct?"
"Yes, I wanted to be a part of the show if I was going to do any business with William. My first show is after we've returned from England."
"Oooh, I want to come see you!" Rachel squealed, "We should go, Puck!"
"I'm not going in that place," he said, "Not even if you pay me."
Rachel leaned her head on Puck's shoulder, "Please? We're only there for Brittany, okay? She's our friend and I want to support her."
Puck sighed. He brushed his hands over his face and then looked at both of the women, his best friends since he was a child, and knew he couldn't deny them anything.
"Fine. We'll go see one show, and only for Brittany."
"Thank you!" Rachel exclaimed. She and Brittany both threw their arms around him and hugged him tightly. Then they returned to drinking their tea and chatting about their daily lives and upcoming events. Rachel was still curious about Brittany's approaching visit to England, but the blonde had other things in mind. She couldn't stop thinking about Santana, the mysterious trapeze artist who was closer than close with her best friend Quinn. Something about her pulled Brittany towards her.
Maybe it was Santana's fierce and obvious loyalty to Quinn, or her graceful moves up in the air, or how her expression had not faltered a single time in front of Brittany; she did not know, but it made her interesting, special, magical. Just like the rest of William's circus. Brittany desired to know more.
"Brittany? Earth to Brittany." Rachel's voice burst Brittany's bubble. Her friend was looking at her worriedly.
"Are you okay?" Puck asked.
"Yeah, I'm - I'm fine, I was just thinking about… something."
Rachel's eyes gleamed, "Or someone!"
Brittany looked down at her hands and blushed. Rachel had always been able to see through her even when she thought she was doing a good job at hiding something from her.
"Well, there is this trapeze artist at the circus. She's very talented and beautiful. I'd love to get to know her better if I got the chance."
Puck's eyes widened, "Brittany, I think you signing a deal with Schuester was a shock big enough for your parents. Engaging in romantic activity with one of them, and a woman no less… It may not be a good thing for you."
"I didn't say it was romantic!" Brittany snapped. Rachel put her hand on her arm.
"I might not be now, but you want it to be, don't you? It's in your eyes. You always tell me how you read people's eyes and somehow just know what they're feeling. I'm reading your eyes, and you feel attracted to that woman," she explained, "Brittany, it's okay. You can tell us."
Brittany took a shaky breath, "I might feel a little attracted to her, yeah… I'm so intrigued by the way she carries herself, it's almost admirable."
"Hm, well in that case I'm excited to see her at the show." Rachel said. Brittany finished her tea and smiled.
It turned out that Brittany was the least nervous out of the whole group as they were escorted through Buckingham Palace. Santana and Quinn would not show it, but they were petrified. William tried to calm his nerves but failed miserably when they were announced to the presence of the Queen.
"Your Majesty! William Schuester and his oddities from America!"
They walked to the Queen while all her guests, royalty and nobility and aristocrats, watched them and muttered about them curiously as if they couldn’t all hear them. Santana felt more and more out of place by the second, and only calmed down a little when Quinn put a hand on her arm.
”Your Majesty, may I present Mr. Schuester,” Brittany announced, giving a little curtsy as she did.
”The honor is mine, Mr. Schuester. I’ve heard all about your little colonel from my friends in America.”
An intriguingly short man stepped out from somewhere behind William, ”General, ma’am.”
The Queen placed a hand on her mouth, ”Oh, you’re even smaller than I imagined.”
”Well, you’re not exactly reaching the top shelf yourself, sweetheart.”
The ballroom erupted into gasps and murmurs as one of William’s acts practically threw insult at the Queen. Brittany held her breath anxiously while William closed his eyes.
Then the Queen began to laugh, and so the rest of the room followed her example. No one knew why she was laughing, but Brittany felt relieved that more than five seconds had passed since the general’s comment and they had not been kicked out.
The chattering continued and Santana stuck close together with the other acts, feeling safer next to them. Brittany wanted to use this opportunity to talk to her, but couldn’t get very far when William appeared behind her.
”Who’s that?” it was for once his turn to ask as he pointed at a short, petite woman with blonde curls.
”That’s April Rhodes. The most famous opera singer in all of Europe. Sold out La Scala a dozen times.”
William’s eyes narrowed as he inspected the woman and the name, ”A singer, huh? And perhaps a bit of American in the last name? Let’s go.”
Brittany was surprised as William suddenly placed his hand on her back and began guiding her towards April.
”What - what are you doing?”
”Following you so you can introduce me to Miss Rhodes.”
”But I don’t know her!” Brittany exclaimed, trying to keep her voice down. William chuckled.
”C’mon, everybody knows her, you just said so yourself.”
”Exactly! We can’t just walk up to her like this!”
They were by April’s side before Brittany could finish her sentence.
”Miss Rhodes!” Brittany exclaimed, ”My name is Brittany Pierce and this extraordinary gentleman is William Schuester.”
April hummed thoughtfully, ”Oh, the American? Yes, I believe I’ve heard of you.”
William grinned, ”If you’ve heard of me all the way here then I must be doing something right.”
April chuckled, ”Perhaps, perhaps not.”
”Allow me to get to my point, Miss Rhodes, I would like to bring you to America to sing, and if you let me, I will make you the most famous singer in the entire world.”
”And have you heard me sing? What if I turn out to be garbage in your opinion?” April asked.
”I highly doubt that’s possible,” said William, ”Your reputation precedes you, Miss Rhodes. Let me make you a star on the other side of the Atlantic. Your wallet will thank you - ”
”I give my proceeds to charity, Mr. Schuester.”
April looked at William and then at Brittany and smirked, ”I have yet to visit America.”
William took her hand and kissed it, ”You won’t regret your stay.”
April Rhodes was as spectacular as everyone expected her to be. American audiences were falling head over heels for the songbird from Europe. She was quickly leaving William's other acts in her shadow, and the worst part was that he didn't seem to care one bit. He was investing copious amounts of money, money that he didn't have, on April and her talent; she was his number one priority.
Brittany felt bad for Santana and everyone else. William had given them a chance, his point had been to make them feel like they were not forgotten and they had a voice even when everyone else treated them like they were irrelevant. Now he was falling into the same pit as the others and no one could get through to him.
Aside from everything going on with April, Brittany's first show in the circus was on its way. She felt surprisingly nervous despite having been among large crowds her whole life. She had never danced for a live audience before, only for her parents when she was very little and alone in her large bedroom in adulthood when no one was looking.
Brittany sat on the sidelines, waiting for her dance act to start. She was dressed in a dark blue outfit with her hair in curls. She enjoyed being dressed up like that, though frankly she would've worn a dish cloth if necessary; what really mattered was that she got to dance. Rachel and Puck would be there too, and Brittany's heart felt warm whenever she thought about the two of them being in the audience.
"You look… good."
Brittany looked up and noticed that Santana was standing a few feet away from her in her classic red look. Brittany raised a brow.
"You really think so?"
Santana nodded, "Yeah, I've seen worse."
Brittany chuckled, "Thanks."
She scooted over to make space for Santana. The Latina hesitated for a moment but then sat down next to Brittany. They watched the ongoing show together, waiting patiently for their turn.
"Listen, what William's doing, it's not cool and I - "
"It's fine, really," Santana mumbled, her heart sinking, "I'm used to it. People giving up on me."
"But it's not fair to any of you!" Brittany exclaimed, "I tried talking to him, but he wouldn't listen. He's wrapped around April's little finger."
She and Santana turned simultaneously and looked into each other's eyes.
"Brittany, I appreciate what you're doing. All of us do. But let's just… enjoy these shows while people are still coming. It's your first show after all."
Brittany grabbed Santana's hand abruptly. Santana's heartbeat quickened in an instant.
"I'm going to make sure that it's not my last. This whole place is magic and fantasy, and so are the people in it. Finn, Mercedes, Quinn…" Brittany trailed off, "You."
They stared at each other for a moment. The crowd began to cheer and clap wildly just like they always did, signalling that the act was finishing up. Santana pulled her hand away from Brittany's and stood up.
"I need to find Quinn, we're up next. Good luck."
She left before Brittany could say a word. Her performance with Quinn was incredible as it had been all the nights before, and after their act they took a deep bow and hugged tightly, smiling at the audience and each other. They walked off stage hand in hand. Brittany knew that they loved doing trapeze together more than anything.
Then reality settled in: Quinn and Santana finishing their performance meant that it was Brittany's turn to go out there. She got up and took a deep breath, mentally preparing herself for the experience.
"Good luck, Brittany." Finn said from behind her. She gave him a quick smile before stepping into the light.
Standing there in the middle of the room was outright terrifying, and yet at the same time Brittany had never been so ready for everything. A few whispers passed through the crowd, asking if it really was the playwright Brittany Pierce standing there in the strange outfit, amongst these strange people.
A beat and a melody surrounded Brittany and suddenly she was no longer afraid. She knew she could dance, she had danced for a longer time than anyone knew, and she had practiced for this. It was now only a matter of bringing it to life.
She began to move, starting off slow and gentle but then building up speed. She remained graceful throughout the whole process, never missing a step or a beat. Halfway through Brittany spotted Rachel and Puck sitting in the audience and made eye contact with them. She felt her confidence grow. She would make her best friends proud that night.
The ending turned into a spectacle when multiple other dancers joined Brittany just like they had planned. She was still the center of attention, but it was irrelevant to her. Not only were the people seeing that she could dance, they saw that she had a place with the circus members.
Brittany danced with Artie first, and then twirled to Finn, who lifted her into the air by her waist. Then the show was over. She froze into place, breathing heavily. Nothing had ever felt as rewarding as this. The audience stood up and clapped furiously as Brittany and the others dipped into a bow. Rachel was practically jumping up and down in her seat and screaming Brittany's name while Puck was whistling.
Brittany rushed off stage to change out of her sweaty outfit. She ran into Santana, whose eyes were as wide as plates.
"Well?" Brittany started breathlessly, "Was I any good?"
"I - you were - uh - great!" Santana stuttered. She had never been this flustered before. She didn't get to say much more when two voices called out for Brittany.
It was Rachel, of course it was, that little ball of sunshine who would've fit into anyone's pocket. Santana slipped away as she and Puck approached.
”Rachel, Puck!” Brittany went to hug them both, ”I’m so happy you’re here! How did it go?”
”It was incredible! I was speechless the whole time, you’re so talented!” Rachel squealed.
”She’s right, you were brilliant out there. More importantly it looked like you genuinely enjoyed yourself. Maybe I underestimated this thing,” Puck grinned. Brittany nudged his arm.
”Maybe you did.”
Puck leaned a little closer to her and lowered his voice, ”And hey... between you and me, who was that blonde girl on the trapeze? She was really good and, uh, gorgeous too.”
Brittany’s eyes glistened as she realized what Puck was implying, ”That’s Quinn. Santana’s best friend. I’ll introduce you!”
Brittany began to drag Puck and Rachel by the arms despite their protests until she found Santana and Quinn.
”Hi you two.” Brittany greeted the trapeze artists.
”Hey Brittany. You were amazing,” said Quinn and then turned her attention on Puck and Rachel, ”Who are they and what are they doing backstage?”
”They’re my best friends, Noah and Rachel.” Brittany introduced her friends. Rachel gave a little wave.
”Rachel Berry?” Santana questioned, ”From your play? I heard she’s exceptional.”
Rachel blushed, ”That’s probably just what Brittany’s been saying.”
”I've been saying it because it’s true!”
Next to them Quinn glanced at Puck, who offered his hand to her.
”You’re Noah, then?” she put her hands on her hips.
”Puck. For my friends I’m Puck.”
”So we’re friends now?” Quinn raised a brow. Puck looked flustered all of a sudden.
”Uh, I didn’t mean - I mean if you’d like to - um - ”
”It’s nice to meet you Puck,” Quinn shook Puck’s hand with a warm laugh, ”I’m Quinn.”
Brittany beamed at her friend’s interaction with Quinn. Then Finn ran up to them.
”Hey, Brittany, I just wanted to congratulate you and tell you that you were - ”
His words were cut short when he noticed Rachel standing next to Brittany in all her beauty.
”Thank you Finn,” Brittany chuckled, ”This is Rachel.”
Almost like in a trance, Finn lifted Rachel's hand to his lips. Rachel smiled softly.
”It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Finn blinked a few times before he gathered himself, ”You too.”
Brittany found Santana next at the ticket booth of a play several days later, holding two tickets in her hand. She was dressed in her best and was confused about the fact that she had two tickets when William had saved only one for her.
"There's supposed to be two," Brittany said, approaching Santana in her dress, "I just wasn't sure you'd come if I asked."
Santana wrapped her coat around herself more securely. She entered with Brittany, unsure of what to say.
"Brittany? Darling, is that you?"
Brittany closed her eyes and cursed in her mind as she heard her mother's voice. These were the last people she wanted to see, especially when she was in Santana's company. She turned and forced a smile at her parents.
"Mother. Father. This is Santana Lopez."
Brittany couldn't help but place herself slightly in front of Santana, who tried her hardest to not look away from Mr. and Mrs. Pierce's eyes. She wanted to show them that she was not afraid or ashamed, even though she was. Not of Brittany but of herself.
Brittany's mother glared at Santana and then her daughter, "Brittany, have you no shame? Associating yourself with Schuester's freaky business was one thing, but running around with this - this pest is just - "
Santana separated herself from Brittany and ran off. Brittany looked after her desperately.
She turned back to her parents, "How dare you speak to her that way?"
Her father scoffed, "You forget your place, Brittany."
"My place?" Brittany stared at her parents in disbelief, "If this is my place I don't want to be a part of it. My place is out there, with them."
She left her mother and father standing there and ran after Santana. It was easy to figure out where she was. The trapeze was the only home, besides Quinn, that she had ever known. It made sense that she'd seek safety from there.
And there she was. In the quiet, dimly lit room preparing to go up in the air. She had already changed out of her dress and into her comfortable red outfit Brittany knew so well. She, too, threw her fancy apparel to the side and walked toward Santana.
"Santana, hey," she began, "They're small-minded people. Why do you care about what my parents say?"
"Because it's not just them!" Santana exclaimed, trying not to break into tears and let her hard, fierce exterior shatter, "Everyone in this city says what your parents say, and looks at me the way they do. And if you and me ever… they'd just look at us the same."
"I don't care about that!" Brittany yelled as Santana began to walk away, "Santana, I want you!"
She stopped dead in her tracks and let her hands fall to her sides. She turned to look at Brittany, finally letting a teardrop fall on her chocolate cheek. She didn't even hurry to wipe it away.
"And do you think that I don't want you?" she whispered, "Because I do, of course I do, Brittany, but it could never happen and even if we did try this out, it wouldn't end well. Stories like ours never do. You'll see it happening all around you. That friend of yours, Puck, clearly has feelings for Quinn, and Finn and Rachel have something going on too, but it will all fall apart because your world is not meant to intertwine with ours. We're too different."
Brittany leapt forward, "No, we're not. William told me on the day I met him that I was no different from him. Back then I thought he was an idiot; he was a poor man with too large, foolish dreams and I was a wealthy, successful playwright. Our worlds couldn't have been further apart."
"But I took his offer anyway, because he knew how bad I wanted it. I haven't regretted a single moment. I am just like you, Santana, we're both just human. Where we come from, the color of our skin… they don't define us. We define ourselves."
Santana laughed bitterly, "It's so easy for you to say that. You haven't had your family disown you for being attracted to women. You haven't had your abuela look you in the eye and tell you that she never wants to see you again. You haven't had the entire world treat you like nothing because you look a little different, because you aren't white."
Brittany went quiet. Santana has never opened up about her past before, and Brittany had had no idea how hard it had been.
"Our pasts are different, I won't deny that, but I'd like to think that our hearts beat just the same." she said quietly. Santana took a step closer to her.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked, "Why are you being so kind to me? Why does it matter that I believe you?"
"Because I care about you."
They stood in silence.
Santana turned away and left.
No one came to see William's circus while he toured the country with April. Whatever was left of the audience threw dirt and food at the acts after they were finished performing. While William was away he had given the task of running the circus to Finn and Brittany, the reason being that Brittany was his partner and Finn his right hand man. It wasn't enough. The show was falling apart.
The circus wasn't only thing in trouble, though. April had attempted to kiss William once and had succeeded on her second try when they were on stage together. William was loyal to his wife, Emma, because she was his soulmate, and he made it very clear to April that he was a happily married man. It didn't stop her from using her goodbyes as an excuse to give him a kiss that would soon be all over the papers.
William's show with April was over too, as both stars had risked everything and decided that it was time to stop. He was making his way home and Brittany was trying to hold the circus together somehow. A fight with people from the street was the last straw.
The circus was set aflame and the circus folk had to escape quickly in order to survive. They set the animals free so that they wouldn't be harmed, and then ran frantically out of the building. Brittany and Finn were desperately trying to make sure that everyone was getting out safely. They stood in front of the building, watching it burn, watching everything they had built turn into ash.
William appeared from behind the crowd and grabbed Brittany by the shoulders as the firefighters tried their best to put out the fire. William's wife and children followed right behind him.
"Brittany! Brittany, is everyone out?"
He was speaking so fast that Brittany barely had enough time to register what he was saying. She was overwhelmed by everything.
"I - I think so!"
"Wait, where's Santana?" Quinn asked suddenly, "Where's my best friend?!"
Terror settled into Brittany's heart. She took a glance at the building and then began to run inside despite the protests from her friends. Quinn was already running after her.
Someone grabbed her arms to stop her from going further. Quinn noticed it to be Puck who had just arrived, and leaned into his chest as sobs began to shake her petite body. Suddenly a voice rang out from somewhere near the entrance.
Quinn turned instantly and saw Santana running straight into her arms. They hugged each other like their lives depended on it. William looked at the circus, knowing that Brittany was somewhere inside and she had to be saved. He glanced at his family to memorize their beautiful faces and then leapt inside after Brittany.
Outside Finn was trying to keep everyone calm and away from the building as well as he could with Puck helping him too. Santana and Quinn were holding each other and watching the circus fearfully. It had been their only home, and now it was going to be destroyed in front of their very eyes.
"Finn! Finn!" someone else shouted. Rachel approached the group of circus folk and hurried into Finn's arms without hesitation. There was no way of knowing how fast and when their relationship had developed but no one cared; they had bigger problems to worry about.
"What's going on? Are you okay?" Rachel asked Finn and yelled for her friend, "Puck! What's happening?"
Puck coughed a little, "I don't know, I'm - "
Suddenly William emerged from the fire, causing everyone to gasp in shock. Emma let out a sob of relief. William was carrying an unconscious Brittany in his arms.
”Brittany!” Rachel cried. Santana put a hand on her mouth as tears began to pour from her eyes.
”She’s inhaled a lot of smoke,” William explained to the medics that were quickly taking over the situation, ”She’s burned pretty bad.”
Brittany’s body was coated with dirt, bruises and blood. Quinn brushed her hands up and down Santana’s back as the latter cried.
Brittany was taken to the hospital. Santana kept sobbing in Quinn’s arms. Time had stopped. The world no longer breathed.
William Schuester’s circus burned to the ground.
Santana sat by Brittany’s bed and clutched her hand in both of her own. Brittany, who was always so strong and kind and did so much for others, was now unconscious and in the hospital after risking her life to save Santana’s.
”I’m so sorry,” Santana whispered as tears trickled down her cheeks and fell in droplets from her chin, ”I’m so sorry.”
Elsewhere William sat in a bar with a beer in his hand and all his other acts around him in a half-circle. He looked at them all individually and then as a group, struggling to understand why they were all there with her. After all, he had done nothing to still deserve their company. He had let them down when they needed him most, being blinded by his greed. He had screwed up with his wife too, after she found out about his kiss with April and claimed that he only loved himself and his show. He felt like everything was collapsing on top of him.
"If you've come to get paid, I'm sorry," he started, "All the money is gone. Every last bit of it."
"Oh, shut up, Schuester," Mercedes chuckled, "That's not what we're here for. You just don't get it. See, our own mothers were ashamed of us. They hid us away or abandoned us so that they wouldn't have to associate themselves with us."
Artie wheeled himself forward, "My parents took decent care of me for the first two months when I got in a car accident and ended up in this wheelchair. Then they realized what a burden I was and laughed at my dreams of dancing despite my disability. You took me in even after all of that."
Quinn put a hand on his shoulder, "And my parents disowned me for getting pregnant this young and made me give up my child. I was nothing but a whore to them, and still am to this day. Then I found Santana and you found us, Mr. Schue. You saved us."
"I was a chunky baby and then I grew this majestic beard and everyone, including my own family, looked at me like I was some freak," Mercedes explained, "But you found me and appreciated me the way I am. I'm a black, plus sized singer lady with a damn beard and you still liked me when nobody would. You gave us all a family. And that circus… that place was our home. We want our home back."
William was speechless as he stared at all of these people, his friends. After everything he had done they still cared about him and were willing to forgive him.
"I - I - I don't know what to say. Thank you, it means the world to me that you'd share your stories and still believe in me like that. I find it hard to believe in myself nowadays. I screwed up."
"That you did," Quinn said, causing everyone around her to chuckle, "But you can still fix it. Go see your family. Find your wife. Make things right."
"You think I can?" Will asked hopefully.
"That woman's crazy about you, of course you can! Now go!" Finn exclaimed. William laughed softly and then jumped up to hug him tightly.
"Thank you, all of you. Thank you!"
He took one last swig of beer and then ran out of the bar to catch the last train, one that would take him to his family.
It was frightening for Santana to see Brittany so still and quiet, almost like she was a body with no soul. Doctors and nurses passed by frequently to check on Brittany but their updates on her condition were rarely positive.
Santana didn't know how many hours she had spent by Brittany's side when she finally woke up. She was grasping her hand like always and watching the most delicate movements of her rising and falling chest. Then she moved in a different way, in a pattern that was unfamiliar to Santana.
Brittany's fingers moved as they were laced with Santana's. She gasped and realized instantly what Brittany's movement meant. She started crying all over again. Brittany opened her eyes slowly and took notice of Santana.
"You're here," she said in a voice that was barely above a whisper. Santana wasted no time.
She leaned forward and kissed Brittany. She kissed her once, twice, three times before pulling back a little and tucking loose strands of hair behind Brittany's ear.
"Of course I'm here," Santana said in tears, "Of course."
They kissed again, feeling safer and safer every time their lips joined.
"Brittany, you risked your life to save me. Why would you do that?" Santana asked. Brittany smiled weakly.
"I love you."
Santana didn't pull away. She didn't leave, she didn't turn or back up or look frightened. She looked ready.
"I love you too."
They let Brittany out of the hospital two days later. She still sometimes held on to Santana's arm while she walked, which the brunette did not mind, but mostly she walked on her own. It felt good to be out of bed again, because that meant she could walk, and if she could walk, she could dance.
As Brittany stepped through the front doors of the hospital, she saw two familiar faces and felt like bursting into tears at the sight of them.
"Brittany!" exclaimed Rachel and ran to her friend as soon as she saw her. Brittany hugged Rachel tightly as Puck tagged behind. Brittany embraced him too.
"Oh, Brittany, we were so worried about you! I thought I'd never see you again, I - I - " Rachel trailed off as she teared up. Brittany cupped her face with her hands.
"Rachel, hey, it's okay. You're still stuck with me, both of you."
"I am so glad to hear you say that." Puck added. He grabbed Brittany in his arms and twirled her around carefully before placing her back on the ground. She smiled at the two people who had always been there for her. Her best friends.
A few days later Brittany, Santana, Puck and Rachel met up with William and the others at the ash black remains of the circus. William looked around at the descruction and his heart felt heavy. Rachel and Puck had gone to stand by Finn and Quinn. Brittany sat on the stone steps, her fingers laced with Santana's.
"Well, the bank said no, plenty of times. I don't think there's a bank left in this country that I could fool into loaning me more money," William said, "I'm sorry to disappoint you all."
"Don't worry Schuester," Artie said, "We're kinda used to it by now."
The group laughed a little. Brittany stood up slowly. Santana gave her a reassuring look.
"You know, William," she started and stood face to face with the man who had turned her life around, "When I first met you, I had an inheritance, a good status among wealthy people, an invitation to every party in this city. Now, thanks to you, that's all gone."
William looked down. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to say, but Brittany beat him to it.
"All that's left is this friendship," she continued, causing William to smile, "love," she glanced at Santana, "and work that I adore."
Brittany did a careful twirl to remind William that he had given her the chance to dance. He grinned.
"You brought joy into our lives." Brittany said.
"Into all our lives." Quinn added.
"That's very sweet, but I'd need a bank that takes joy as collateral." said William. Brittany smirked.
"The bank maybe won't, but I will."
William frowned at her.
"I own ten percent of the show, William. Knowing who I was working for, I had the good sense to take my cut weekly."
Realization dawned upon William, "Brittany, I… I couldn't let you gamble on me like that."
"You can and you will." said Mercedes sharply. William and Brittany both chuckled at her comment.
"Partners," Brittany held out her hand, "Fifty-fifty."
William hesitated only for a second and then grabbed Brittany's hand to shake it, "Partners."
Everyone cheered loudly, laughing and clapping together. Quinn went to hug Santana as they both realized that they'd get back to doing trapeze, to doing what they loved most in the world, together.
"Thank you Brittany. Thank you." William hugged Brittany.
"Now that the circus is returning, there are two people I want to introduce you." Brittany said and turned to look at Rachel and Puck. They walked up to stand at their friend's side. William crossed his arms over his chest and eyed the two of them up and down.
"These are my best friends, Rachel and Puck. They have also found love in the people of this circus, thanks to you. Now I'm asking for your go-ahead. They'd be amazing additions to our crew." Brittany explained.
"Mr. Schuester, I'm an actress with a fairly good singing voice. Puck sings better than he likes to admit. I know you value this circus a lot and I promise Puck and I would never do anything to jeopardize it. Please give us a chance." Rachel pleaded and took Brittany and Puck's hands into her own.
"Puck, Rachel," William smiled mischievously, "I'd be delighted to have you."
"Yes!" Rachel and Puck exclaimed at the same time and then rushed to hug Finn and Quinn. Finn immediately kissed Rachel on the mouth and Puck twirled Quinn around as she laughed happily. Brittany went back to Santana and kissed her.
"You did it," Santana said, "You saved the circus."
Brittany nudged her nose with her own, "Nah. We did."
Not a month later they all danced in a majestic line in a large tent down by the docks. Brittany stood in the very center in a dazzling blue outfit while Santana was leaping in the air with Quinn. The tent was packed with happy people who were enjoying the magical show.
Brittany's whole body lit up when she got to dance, and especially with these people. Rachel twirled to Brittany as she sang and they did a few moves together. In the middle of it all was William, singing and dancing and leading the spectacle that was his show.
The bridge of the song was building up and William pulled Brittany aside to speak with her. She frowned as she tried to catch her breath.
"What - "
She didn't even get to finish her sentence when William took off his red jacket and draped it over her shoulders.
"This is for you."
Brittany's eyes widened, "No, William, I couldn't - "
He placed his hands on her shoulders, "Yes, you can. You can be the ringmaster of this circus. These people will follow you. The show must go on."
Brittany took a deep breath and then smiled and slid her hands through the long sleeves of the jacket, "It's not exactly my colour, but I love it."
William laughed, "It looks great. If you ever need anything, don't hesitate to approach Finn. He's like a son to me, you will not find a more trustworthy person than him. You got this."
Brittany teared up, "Thank you William. For everything."
He left the tent to find his family. Brittany smirked confidently and ran out to the stage as the song exploded into its final chorus. Rachel and Puck gave Brittany a huge grin as they noticed her jacket and then kept dancing and singing just like the blonde did. Santana and Quinn leapt down to their level and approached their partners. Brittany pulled Santana close to her body just as the song came to a spectacular finish. The crowd leapt up from their seats and clapped, whistled and cheered for the best performance they had seen in ages.
"This really is the greatest show." Santana whispered as she locked eyes with her girlfriend. Brittany kissed her once.
"Yeah. It is."