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 Brittana fanfiction

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Isa

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:37 pm

^^ This whole conversation is hilarious!

I wish Santana had a Brazillian background, so I could help you more Laughing
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mardou

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:38 pm

I'm not sure if Im getting what you want to say but you dont use "coño" to talk about someone. If you are talking about a thing ( vagina, as the article says) then it does works. Its also use to swear in general. ( "oh shit!" = coño, what the fuck/hell = que coño?) not sure if they use the expression in puerto rico though. Is a classic Spaniard swear.
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mardou

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:47 pm

Isabela wrote:
^^ This whole conversation is hilarious!
:

LOL. It is.
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Cora_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:52 pm

mardou wrote:
I'm not sure if Im getting what you want to say but you dont use "coño" to talk about someone. If you are talking about a thing ( vagina, as the article says) then it does works. Its also use to swear in general. ( "oh shit!" = coño, what the fuck/hell = que coño?) not sure if they use the expression in puerto rico though. Is a classic Spaniard swear.
LOL, good to know. So it would make sense for someone to call her "perra," as in "Hey perra! We got an offer for you."
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mardou

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:56 pm

Yes, totally. smile
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Cora_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:43 pm

mardou wrote:
Yes, totally. smile
Thanks so much! I feel like I should be paying you guys.

BTW, this is the type of place Santana lives at first, with her cousin (who never comes home) in Washington Heights (very very heavy Latino population, especially Dominican). These are the actual "projects", and the area is supposed to be really dangerous.



Then this is the type of building Kurt and Rachel's apartment is in, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.



You can see why one is much less intimidating than the other. But being Santana, it'll still take her a while to swallow her pride and accept their offer. Laughing
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Mike`

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 7:16 pm

Gah I'm so excited for it Cora.
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Isa

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:05 pm

Cora_ wrote:
mardou wrote:
Yes, totally. smile
Thanks so much! I feel like I should be paying you guys.


ROFL

I think we'll be ok if you keep posting them here. thumbs up
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Phyxrak

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:53 pm

Damn the shit I miss when I take a forum break. Cora I just read what you posted, its great so far as are all the things you are thinking of using in it. Really digging the kinda group effort going in to it too, everyone is also awesome. Hugs for everyone.


....I think I am tired....
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Cora_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:23 am

What do you think about Set the World on Fire for a title? (From the We Are Young lyrics?) Does it make you think of kids following their dreams and trying to make their way in the big city? Or does it make you think of arsonists? Laughing
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MissLilly

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:35 am

I think that's a great title, Cora! Thumbs Up
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Isa

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:00 pm

I like it too. Cheerleader

You can even add a little joke about Rachel starting a small fire in the kitchen when she first tries to cook something.
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Mike`

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Sat Jan 21, 2012 7:11 am

I like that title, more of a dreamy title than arsonists. Laughing And I love Isa's idea!!
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Cora_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:36 pm

Just for some random New York City inspiration, I was watching Jay-Z's Empire State of Mind video, and this is one of the comments on the first page.

Quote :
where is New York? Their accents sound Canadian and I look on the map in Canada but I find nothing???

Sometimes I'm really scared for the future of humanity.
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Phyxrak

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:40 pm

That's kinda scary.
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Shanna_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:46 pm

That's really sad but so stupid that it's funny.
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Isa

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Sun Jan 22, 2012 9:48 pm

Nah... This CANNOT be for real. Must be a joke or something.
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Cora_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:33 pm

Isabela wrote:
Nah... This CANNOT be for real. Must be a joke or something.
I thought so too at first, but I don't know... I feel like that might be giving the world too much credit. Laughing

BTW I'm going to try to post the 2nd section of Chapter 1 tomorrow evening. Does anyone know if this board has a word/character limit in posts? (My Lost board used to.) Because I've only got two sections done and the chapter is already longer than the longest chapter of Lake Hope. I'm absolutely ridiculous.

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Tuk17

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Sun Jan 22, 2012 11:42 pm

Eeee yahoo long chapter!! bounce !!
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Mike`

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Mon Jan 23, 2012 6:21 am

Hehehehehehe, longer is better!!
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Shanna_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:32 am

I love long posts!

I have no idea on how long a post can be on here...
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Span_ski

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:47 am

Maybe I should, but I don't either... pretty long though I think.

I'll try and find out smile
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Isa

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:25 pm

I don't know if there's a limit, Cora. If there is, you can make two posts and we make sure no one posts in between.
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Cora_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:18 pm

Okay, just dropping this off. I should add that I didn't get any sleep last night, so I suspect the last little chunk is a mess. I'll probably end up tinkering with it some more.

I'm reposting the first part since I changed some of it. The length of this really is ridiculous... I don't know what I was thinking. There's still another section left to the chapter, too.

ETA: Yep, it's too long. I'll try it in 2 posts.

-----------

Six months. That was how long it had been. Six months, two weeks, and four days since she'd last seen Brittany. Six months, two weeks, four days, and... Santana glanced at the clock as she plumped up the couch cushions one more time. Five hours. Not that she was counting.

Because she was an adult now, she reminded herself for what felt like the hundredth time today. A mature, independent woman who was living on her own in the big city, or sort of on her own anyway, and she needed that to be obvious to Brittany when she got here. To seem too eager or too worried about appearances would be to screw up the agreement they'd made regarding their relationship when this visit had been planned, the agreement to take things slow, one day at a time. Tentatively. Casually. Be casual, damn it, she commanded herself, wringing her hands.

On a last-minute check of the living room, she placed an empty vase in the center of the coffee table, then stepped back and examined it with a critical eye. She switched it to an end table instead and walked to the other side of the room, looking at it from that angle. Then she realized she was behaving like a lunatic and that nobody would give a damn where the vase was, especially since the flowers weren't even here yet. (But just in case, she moved it back to the coffee table. Casually.)

Now she stood still and looked around the small living room of the apartment, forcing herself to take a deep breath to steady her nerves. It was almost time. Brittany could be here any minute now. After an entire day of getting things ready, cleaning the place, trying to make it look less small and unimpressive than it really was, making sure every last detail was perfect... it was finally time.

Unable to resist the urge any longer, she went to the front window and looked down four stories into the street below, checking for the station wagon that dorky jazz band guy drove. Jeff. Or John. Jasper? Something like that. She'd never really bothered to learn their names. But apparently Jeff or John or whatever had been headed to New York at the same time as Brittany, and so being the chivalrous type of nerd that he was, he'd offered to bring her along if she helped pay for gas and promised not to make him listen to Ke$ha. Santana resolutely quenched the idea that the guy had had some ulterior motive in suggesting this road trip. That was the old her, the possessive, insecure Santana. Not the new and improved grown-up.

Because it wasn't like she had any right to be jealous, anyway. They weren't together. Not in that sense, not anymore. In fact, they'd both been in other relationships during the past half a year they'd been apart. As for what would happen now, now that Brittany had earned her diploma after an extra semester at McKinley and was finally arriving in the city... she had no idea. She didn't even know for sure if she was staying, or if it was just a visit. They'd agreed that it was a trial run. That was why Santana had made up the sofa bed in the living room yesterday, even though it had broken her heart just a little bit to know they'd be sleeping in separate rooms. But still, she knew it was the smart way to go. They had so much catching up to do. Six months was a long time to be apart. If she was honest with herself, sometimes it felt more like six years.

It was just that so much had happened. Beginning, of course, with the confusing, melancholy way the two of them had parted. Even now, she didn't know quite what to make of their last face-to-face conversation. She started to play it back in her head again, but before she could make any progress, she heard a distant echo of voices, and then footsteps clomping up the stairs. She tensed for a second, hopeful. Had she missed the car? But the voices became clearer as they moved down the hallway. And unfortunately, these two in particular were all too familiar. It was just them. Shit. She'd been hoping Brittany would get here first, so they could have at least a few minutes to themselves. But of course not. Not with her luck.

Now the voices were approaching the door, still muffled, but loud and argumentative.

"Kurt, it's not that I'm denying your considerable expertise on the subject, it's just that clearly Mandy Patinkin's most memorable role was Che in the original run of Evita. It's an iconic part."

"I'm not going to debate your obviously clichéd definition of iconic, but Sunday in the Park with George is without a doubt his superior performance. The character's name is in the title. What more do you want?"

"He won a Tony for Evita! How can you argue with that?"

"Oh Rachel," Kurt said in a breezy, smug way as the door swung open. "Your opinions are downright adorable in their wrongness." Noticing her standing by the living room window and staring at them with badly suppressed irritation, he added, "Let's ask Santana."

She pounced on this opportunity with a lethal glint in her eyes. "You know what, that is a super idea. Let's ask Santana. Because I'm guessing you two scenery-chewers are talking about something Broadway-related, right?" She ambled toward them with her arms crossed, enjoying the chance to blow off some steam. "Like for example which role was slightly gayer than the other? Or maybe which musical would be least likely to make an audience want to stab Q-tips doused with gasoline into their ears, and then light them on fire just to make it stop? Well let me break it down for you, Lucy and Ethel, because it turns out you're right, I can settle this debate for you. Whatever piece of obscure theater lameness it is that you're arguing about? The answer is, they both sucked. So yayyyy, you both win, and now you can shut up about it!"

Rachel rolled her eyes, unbuttoning her coat in a weary manner as she waited out the storm. "I take it Brittany isn't here yet?"

Santana drew in a deep breath to recover from her rant. As always, she felt a little better afterwards. She moved back over toward the window. "It's only ten after five. She said between five and six."

"Well, it's a good thing you're not watching the clock," Kurt tossed off in a casual manner, receiving a glare in response.

She checked the street again. Still nothing. Biting her lip, she forced down a sigh of impatience. Then, looking around the room, her eye snagged on the empty vase. "Rachel, where are the flowers?"

In the middle of hanging her coat up on the hook near the door, Rachel's hand froze. "Oh no," she said in a small voice.

Santana came back toward her, already livid. "You have got to be fucking kidding me. The one thing I asked you to do!"

"Look, I can explain!" she said, backing up to put some distance between them. "Here's what happened. I was on my way to the florist's when I passed a group of Catholic schoolgirls in the park, singing Rihanna songs to their boyfriends from the top of a picnic table. They definitely had potential, but their breathing was all wrong, and their dancing wasn't so much sexy as... pornographic. So, being a champion of the arts like I am, I stopped to give them some pointers. Anyway, one thing led to another, and to make a long story short..."

"Too late," Kurt muttered.

"I ended up doing some of the songs myself," she went on. "And I think they really appreciated the lesson. It's true, they stuck gum on my purse, and I think one of them may have called me something bad in Chinese. But later, when they think back on it, I'm confident my advice will sink in and make a difference in their lives." She finished up with an expression of beatific self-sacrifice. You could practically see the halo. "After all, Santana, what's more important? A bouquet of flowers that'll just wilt and die, or the opportunity to share my talent with a new generation of performers?"

Santana continued to stare at her in baffled outrage for a few more seconds, and then she lunged. With cat-like quickness Kurt caught her around the waist to hold her back, just as Rachel ducked away and darted behind the couch to use it as a barricade. It was like a perfectly choreographed ballet they'd enacted countless times.

"I wonder how you're gonna like performing without teeth, Saint Rihanna, because I am about to get all up in your face!" But Kurt kept a firm grip on her. Due to these frequent outbursts, his upper body strength was increasing. It was a strange way to build muscle tone, but effective.

"All right, all right!" Rachel held her hands up in a placating gesture. "I'll go back to the florist now, okay? Will that make you happy?"

"No, it won't make me happy, because they're closed, you idiot! I told you they closed at five."

"Santana..." Rachel shut her eyes briefly, resting her hands on the back of the couch. "I'm sorry. I got distracted. I don't know what else to say!"

She felt the venom drain out of her, to be replaced by simple disappointment. "You are unbelievable, you know that?"

Kurt tentatively dropped his arms, staying close just in case things escalated again. "To be fair," he said, "while I agree that Rachel's self-centeredness is astronomical, is this really any worse than the time we missed the Jersey Shore marathon because someone stole the cable money and bought forty dollar nail polish?"

Damn it, why did he have to bring that up? Santana avoided eye contact with them both as she smoothed her rumpled shirt down, a little sheepish now, but trying to maintain her dignity. "How many times do I have to apologize for that?

"You neverapologized for that," Rachel couldn't help pointing out.

"It was more of a rhetorical question," she muttered, examining her nails, which still looked amazing. That polish was so worth it.

"My point is," Kurt went on, "We've all done things we're not proud of."

"I've got it!" Rachel exclaimed now, her face lighting up with an idea. "I'll cook dinner for everyone. To make up for the flowers. Brittany would like that, right?" And without waiting for an answer, she headed into the kitchen, as if fleeing the scene of the crime.

"We're not eating any of your vegan shit!" Santana called after her. And in a strange way, she got a thrill just from saying the word "we" in relation to herself and Brittany. It had been so long. We're going to be a 'we' again, she realized. At least for a little while. And if things worked out, maybe longer.

But it was dangerous to think that far ahead, so she stopped herself. The mature thing to do, she reminded herself again, was to take it one day at a time. She turned her attention back to the window. The street below was empty in a way it hardly ever was, almost as if it was mocking her. She noticed Kurt out of the corner of her eye still hanging around, and prayed he would retreat to his room, or go keep Rachel company in the kitchen and leave her the hell alone. But no such luck. Instead he pulled out a fresh copy of the New York Times, settling down on the couch and flipping on the lamp beside it.

This ostentatious reading of the newspaper was one of his new habits, and she halfway suspected he did it on purpose in a way best suited to annoy her. First he unfolded the thing and shook it out, the crackle of the sheets filling the silence of the room and making her cringe, especially since her nerves were already on edge. Then he held it out at arms' length, turned his nose up, crossed his legs prissily, and stared at it. All he needed was a pipe and a velvet smoking jacket to complete the picture. He even turned the pages in a showy way. In the past she'd wondered why he didn't just read it online like everyone else who wasn't senile yet, but now she realized it was because the online edition wouldn't give him such a perfect opportunity to behave like a snooty asshat.

"Are you actually even reading that?" she finally sneered, when there was still no sign of the car below and she couldn't take it any longer. "Or are you just trying to become the most boring performance artist in the history of time?"

He turned another page, and without acknowledging her remark, asked, "Why don't you just call her and see how close she is?"

She looked away and waited a few seconds before answering. "I've already called her six times. I don't want to seem paranoid."

Kurt made no response to this, though somehow he managed to turn even silence into sardonic judgment.

Knowing she shouldn't, she checked the clock again. 5:23. Where the hell was she? Maybe they'd stopped to eat dinner somewhere. Maybe they would bring take-out for everyone. That would serve Rachel right, if no one touched her meal. It would probably suck anyway. Most of her food looked like raw sewage and didn't smell much better.

By now it was dark enough outside that Santana could see her own image in the glass of the window, the reflection cast by the lamp behind her. What she saw provided one more source of anxiety. "Kurt," she said with a sense of urgency, getting up and standing in front of him. "My hair's doing that thing again."

He glanced up at her. "I can see that. Probably happened when you launched yourself at Rachel." He went back to reading.

"Well? Fix it!"

He sighed heavily and lowered the paper. "Why do I always have to be the one to fix it?"

"Because. That's what you're here for. You're like, my fairy godbrother. Now get off your ass and use your magic wand on me." She headed toward the bathroom and then stopped, amused at herself. "Is it just me, or does that sound so wanky?"

With obvious reluctance, he stood and followed her. "It does when you say it."

In the tiny bathroom, she hopped up onto the sink counter. While Kurt rummaged around in a drawer for whatever it was he needed to restore her to hotness, she examined her surroundings critically, trying to see it through a newcomer's eyes. Had it always been this drab and depressing? How had she gotten used to this?

"We should get a new shower curtain."

"What's wrong with it?" He squeezed a dollop of gel into his hand and began working it into her hair.

"It's gray. It looks like a cast-off from a Soviet orphanage. God only knows what kind of microbes are breeding in it. I mean, that Kurt Cobain look-alike you brought home last weekend? I'm pretty sure it was the first time in months he'd been exposed to indoor plumbing."

"Brittany is not coming to New York to see our shower curtain, Santana. She's coming to see you. Hold your head straight."

"I know that." She angled her chin up, trying to keep it level so he could work his magic. "I just... want things to be nice." In a quieter voice that she hoped didn't sound too pathetic, she added, "I really want her to like it here."

Kurt's expression softened, and he seemed on the verge of saying something reassuring, but before he could manage it, they heard quick footsteps coming down the hall. Rachel appeared in the doorway, her lips compressed in a thin line. She wrung her hands nervously against the hideous frilly apron she wore. Her entire demeanor indicated a person who had been preparing for a role her entire life, but who now at the last minute had developed unaccountable stage fright. Either that, or she just really needed to pee. They stared at her, waiting.

"What?" Kurt finally demanded, when she still hadn't said anything.

"Just... don't freak out, Santana. Try to stay calm. Deep breaths."

Naturally, these words caused her heart to start pounding and a sickening jolt to pass through her entire body. "What are you talking about?"

"Your phone battery must be dead," Rachel continued. "They've been trying to call you. I'm not exactly sure how they got my new number... maybe..."

"Rachel, just say it!" Kurt snapped. Santana was grateful, because she wasn't sure she could have spoken at all.

Stepping forward into the already crowded bathroom, Rachel spoke directly to Santana. "They had car trouble. Brittany and John. They're staying at a motel in New Jersey."

She waited, but that seemed to be all. "So she's okay?"

"Of course she is, she's fine. It's just that... she won't be here tonight. I knew you'd be upset."

Santana took a deep breath and let it out, closing her eyes for a second in relief. She wasn't sure whether she wanted to hug Rachel or throttle her.

"Jesus H. Christ, Debbie Downer!" Kurt said. "You don't preface an announcement about car trouble with the words 'Try to stay calm.'"

"Well, I'm sorry," she said defensively. "I'm not used to delivering bad news. People usually want me to deliver good news. Sometimes through song."

While they were sniping at each other, Santana let the full meaning of the information sink in, and now she felt herself transition from a state of relief to one of simple disappointment. Brittany wasn't coming. After an entire day of waiting, after hours spent getting everything ready... she wasn't coming at all. Suddenly all the excitement and nervous tension of the day drained away from her, and she felt exhausted.

Rachel added, "She said she'll almost definitely be here tomorrow, as soon as they can get the car fixed. And she said to tell you she's sorry. And to charge your phone."

"Yeah. Whatever. I mean, it's no big deal," Santana said unconvincingly. "It's just one more day, right?" She tried not to let them see how deflated she felt. She slid down off the sink and turned around, pretending to be occupied with putting the gel back in the medicine cabinet, but in the mirror she could see the two of them exchange concerned glances behind her back, and she hated that. They looked like the parents of an unpredictable toddler wondering whether to expect a tantrum.

Kurt held up a styling brush, questioningly. "Do you still want me to..."

"No," she said, pushing past him into the hall. "Forget it. It doesn't matter." She headed toward her tiny cell of a bedroom, wanting only to be left alone.

"You know," Rachel's voice followed her, in a tone that indicated she was trying to cheer her up. "It's a good thing I didn't get the flowers after all. They might have been dead by the time she got here."

Not bothering to give any kind of response to this, she shut her door to the sound of Kurt hissing in a stage whisper, "Really, Rachel?"

Now, finally, she was alone. She stood against the door for a few seconds, reminding herself like she'd been doing all day that she was an adult. An adult didn't retreat to her bedroom and sulk when she got disappointing news. An adult didn't curl up in a self-pitying ball on her bed, the way she was doing now. An adult most certainly didn't bury her head in the pile of pillows and try desperately not to cry, torturing herself with thoughts of the one person she longed to see and touch more than anyone else in the world, and whom she was irrationally afraid that fate or God or simply indifferent chance was going to keep from her, forever. A true adult wouldn't do any of those things.

Then what would they do in this situation? she wondered. The mature thing. The rational thing. Which would be to get up and turn some lights on, first, so that the lurid neon glow of the pizza place across the street wasn't the only thing illuminating the room. Then, probably, to put her phone on the charger. And then maybe to go and help with dinner. And after all that, to go to bed early and get some sleep, so that she could get up and live this entire day over again tomorrow, hopefully with a better outcome.

She considered this course of action. She almost even convinced herself to do it. Then, instead, she grabbed her iPod, kicked off her shoes, and pulled the covers up and all the way over her head, giving in to the tears. Fuck it. Tomorrow, she would seriously start acting like an adult. When Brittany got here, for sure. No doubt about it. But just for tonight, she was more than okay with still being a teenager.

*****************

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Cora_

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PostSubject: Re: Brittana fanfiction   Mon Jan 23, 2012 7:19 pm

************

It had been mid August when she'd first arrived in the city. Because Brittany had already left to spend the summer with her grandparents in June, and because their parting had been on such ambiguous terms, there didn't seem to be much point in hanging around Lima. She'd been anxious to follow through with her spontaneous decision not to attend any of the decent colleges she'd been accepted at, the ones her parents had made her apply to, but instead to throw caution to the wind, move to New York, take classes at a community college, and hope that life had something amazing in store for her.

Not that she would have ever put it into words like that, because she knew how hopelessly cheesy and cliché it would sound. Like something Berry would come up with. And speaking of Rachel, of course she'd known (as did everyone within a fifty mile radius, it seemed) that the two NYADA hopefuls had been accepted and would be living in the city as well. But that had had nothing to do with her own decision. Quite the opposite, in fact. She'd thought long and hard about whether she wanted to risk being contaminated by their loserdom in her first flush of post-high school independence. But then, she'd reasoned, New York was a city of eight million people. What were the chances that she would even run into them?

She'd stepped outside JFK airport into a muggy, suffocating summer day, the stench of car exhaust and diesel fumes enough to make her queasy. Determined to act like she knew what she was doing, she'd waited in line for a taxi (though she'd been prepared to shove old ladies out of the way if it had come to that.) When she finally got into a car and handed the driver the scrap of paper with her cousin's address in Washington Heights, she'd had her first sense that something was amiss. The Pakistani driver had read the address, craned his head back to scan her expensive wardrobe, then looked at the paper again. "You are sure this is where you want to go?"

"Yeah, I'm sure, Mohammed," she said in her best bitchy manner, wanting him to know that he couldn't take advantage of her naivety just because she was from out of town. He'd held up his hands in amused surrender and started driving.

The ride seemed to last forever, though it couldn't have been more than half an hour. When he finally did pull to a stop, however, she'd remained in her seat, waiting for him to continue. But he didn't.

"I don't think this is the right place," she'd eventually prompted him.

"Oh, it is the right place." He seemed to be enjoying this. "Fifty-eight dollars, please. Unless you would like to be going somewhere else?"

But the price of the fare was staggering to her, and she knew she couldn't afford to double it. So she'd forced herself to get out, hauling all her bags with her. She'd found herself standing on a broken sidewalk outside a chain link fence, gazing up at a row of dilapidated concrete high-rise towers, at least thirty stories high. Holy sweet hell, she'd realized with a sense of dismay. These are the actual projects.

Laundry flapped forlornly from many of the balconies. Some of the windows were patched with tape, and many more of them were open, despite the fact that it was at least ninety degrees out. Everything it was possible for a human arm to reach was covered in scrawls of colorful, obscene graffiti. Muffled bass seemed to come from every direction at once, rap conflicting with boleros, reggae attempting to drown out meringue. The buildings loomed up with such massive, intimidating presence that she felt dwarfed by them.

She took a dizzy step backward and felt something crunch under her heel. Looking down, she discovered it was a hypodermic syringe. Immediately she turned around to get back in the taxi, thinking Screw the money, I'll pay him in jewelry. But the car had already pulled away and was halfway down the street. For a brief instant she'd considered running after it, losing every last shred of dignity she'd ever possessed. Instead, feeling like she was being watched, she gathered her luggage together, took a deep breath, and tried to figure out which of the buildings was the one she was looking for.

Somehow, through a combination of avoiding eye contact but also keeping her head high and not acting afraid, she'd managed to find the right building, the right floor, the right apartment. By the time she reached the door her knees were shaking, her heart was in her throat, and she'd had to clamp her teeth together to keep herself from responding to the taunts and catcalls that had been directed at her in multiple languages, but she'd made it. She was even a little proud of herself.

She'd pounded on the dented metal door for a while, then, when there was no response, she dug through her purse for the key her cousin Ricky had mailed to her in case he wasn't home. Inside the apartment, she tried to convince herself that it wasn't that bad. Okay, so it smelled like a boys' locker room and it was stifling, and there was a layer of grit under her shoes that felt like some kind of powder, and she kept seeing movement out of the corner of her eye that she suspected was roaches... but the important thing was that she was here. She was in New York City. Life as an out and proud lesbian could really begin now. Right?

On that first night, her cousin had never come home. She'd tried calling him, but the number he'd given her apparently no longer belonged to him. The window air conditioning unit, when she tried to turn it on, emitted a screeching sound and a puff of warm air that smelled like motor oil, then began to rattle so loudly that she turned it back off. The TV worked, but it was stuck on Turner Classic Movies, and she couldn't find a remote control anywhere. So she was forced to endure one of those black and white screwball comedies from the forties where the leads talk a million miles a minute and never shut up. Later, when she tried to take a shower, she discovered that the warm water lasted for exactly three minutes and then turned frigid.

As it got dark, the volume outside the walls of the apartment seemed to increase by the hour. The traffic noise and sirens played havoc on her already raw nerves, and the drone of other people's stereos and TVs seemed to come from every direction. There was what sounded like a dog fight in progress somewhere down below her 17th story window, but it was too dark to tell for sure. In one of the other apartments on the floor, a man and woman began shrieking at each other in a language she couldn't decipher, and a baby (theirs? or someone else's?) cried for what seemed like hours. She turned the TV up to drown it all out, but now the movie was The Music Man, and somehow it made her homesick for Lima.

She thought about trying to order pizza, but she didn't know whether they would deliver to the door, and the prospect of going back down to the lobby was too intimidating. She didn't have much appetite anyway. So she ended up eating a bowl of stale Lucky Charms for dinner, without milk. The cereal reminded her of Brittany, and of the fact that she was supposed to call her. But she couldn't bring herself to do it. She knew the sound of Brittany's voice would break her. It would be too hard to lie to her, to tell her that everything was great and just the way she'd imagined. So she sent her a text instead. hey im here its amzng. gng out 2 eat now, ill call u 2mrro. Then, after a few seconds' hesitation, Luv u. Trying her best not to give in to tears, she fell asleep on the couch with her hands pressed against her ears to block out the noise.

The next few days passed in much the same way, with still no sign of Ricky. She finally got brave enough to begin leaving the building for short excursions, figuring out the trains, but it was terrifying every time. (Not to mention exhausting, since more often than not the elevators were out.) She'd thought people would begin to get used to her, that she would begin to fit in, but in fact, the more she'd interacted with the other tenants, the more they'd seemed to see through her, and the more they'd delighted in taunting her every chance they got. To make matters worse, she'd discovered that her Spanish wasn't actually that good. Most of the Latinos she talked to laughed at her accent. And then called their friends over so they could laugh at her accent.

On the fourth day she'd had enough of it, and when she passed a group of Dominican girls in the stairwell and one of them hollered at her, "Hey puta! Who'd you have to fuck to afford those shoes?" she'd turned and asked in a confrontational way, "Excuse me, Rosie Perez?" Then she'd unleashed an epic rant of Lima Heights proportions, a rant that made her glory days of trash talking in high school look like Little League compared to the Olympics. It had been cathartic, it had provided a much-welcomed rush of endorphins, and it had made her feel like Santana Lopez again for the first time in days. But even before she'd finished she'd begun to wonder if it was a mistake. And in the dangerous hush that immediately followed her tirade, while the girls looked at each other in anticipation as if they'd been hoping for just this chance, she'd known for sure. Oh, shit.

She'd backed up a few steps, then turned and started running, all five of them right on her heels. By some miracle, possibly thanks to her Cheerios conditioning, she'd made it to the apartment and ducked inside before they could catch up to her, slamming the door and locking it just as they reached it.

In a twist of irony, however, she'd lost a shoe.

Finally, after almost a week, her cousin had made his belated appearance. He seemed to have forgotten she was even coming. "Yo, Santana!" he said, raising his hand for a high five, which she awkwardly returned. "How you been girl?" And then, before she could answer, "Damnnn, you got boobs!"

She'd glanced down at her chest. "Um... yeah. I guess."

"That's awesome," he laughed as if she'd told a joke, heading into the bedroom. She followed him. He continued talking while he threw some clothes into a duffel bag. "Hey, how much you pay for those? I been thinking about getting my girlfriend some. There's this Cuban doc does 'em cheap out of the back of the beauty salon? Ain't licensed, but he's real safe... in case you ever want an upgrade."

"Thanks," she said dryly. "But I think I'll stick with these."

He went into the bathroom and gathered up a few things from the medicine cabinet. "So, you good here? You need anything?" And then, before she could reply, "Hey, how's your mom? She still hot?"

Santana tried to think of a way to answer this somewhat disturbing question, but he was already heading toward the front door. Bewildered, she said, "Wait, are you leaving again?"

"Fraid so," he said with a regretful air, "You know how it is. Work all week, party all weekend. Got places to be. You doin' okay here?"

And there were so many ways to say no to that question that she couldn't even think of where to begin. So instead she did the easiest thing, the thing that was becoming a habit. She lied. "Yeah, everything's fine. I really appreciate you letting me stay here."

"Right on. You know what they say, Cuz. Su casa es mi casa. Or some shit like that." He started to leave, then stuck his head through the door again. "Oh, one more thing. Make sure you keep this sucker locked. If some Nigerian guys come around here lookin' for me, DO NOT let them in. I'm tryin' to work out a little... payment plan with them. Got it?"

"Um.. okay," she said, looking worried, but he was already gone.

And so that was that. She'd tried not to let herself feel deflated, but it was hard to avoid. In the back of her mind she'd been thinking that when he finally came home, she wouldn't be so alone, so isolated. But it seemed he hardly even lived here. She stood there for a minute by herself, then sighed and went back to watch yet another ancient, obnoxious movie. Of course, she'd forgotten to ask him about the remote control.

After her initial reluctance on the first night, she'd begun to take all too much advantage of the ability to call Brittany. Sometimes she called her four or five times a day, even when she knew she shouldn't. But she seemed unable to stop herself. She needed to hear her voice. She clung to it like a life preserver, the only thing keeping her from giving in to despair. Brittany, to her credit, never once claimed to be busy or tried to end the conversation early. She would have stayed on the line for hours if Santana wanted her to, and sometimes, she did. But the fact was, now that Labor Day was past, school had started in Lima, and she needed to buckle down and study if she had any hope of finally obtaining the diploma she'd missed out on last semester. Santana knew this, and hated herself a little for taking up her time and breaking her concentration.

And to be honest, now that they were apart on a more permanent basis than just summer trips, she'd discovered that Brittany wasn't much of a phone person. Their conversations often lapsed into long, uninterpretable silences. When they were together these silences were part of their dynamic; they were comforting, soothing even. On the phone, though, they were just baffling blank spaces. Santana often found herself asking, "Are you still there?" But even the muffled background noises of Brittany's house were preferable to the loneliness she felt in the apartment when she wasn't on the phone. Sometimes she had the crazy urge to ask her if she would just leave the line open all the time while she went about her day.

Eventually, as she'd known it would, the day came when she could see that her money for food and minor living expenses would soon run out. Ricky had said nothing about rent, and she assumed that since it was a low-income housing project maybe it wasn't much of a problem for him. But still, she had to eat. Her dad, after months of crafty scheming and manipulation by both herself and her mother, had agreed with a great show of reluctance to pay the tuition fees at the city college she'd enrolled at. But to make sure his disappointment and disgust with her choice was evident, he'd refused to pay a cent to cover anything else. Which meant that she was going to have to undergo that most dreaded, horrifying of all human degradations: She was going to have to get a job.

Instead of searching in the Washington Heights neighborhood where she currently found herself stranded, she looked for something in the downtown area of the college itself, hoping that once school started, classes and work would mean she only had to be in the barrio for sleeping. To her surprise, it wasn't hard to land a cocktail waitressing gig at a ritzy drinks establishment. All she had to do was lie and say she was twenty-one so that she would be able to serve alcohol, which was no biggie. She had multiple fake IDs, ranging in age from nineteen to thirty-two. She wasn't sure what kind of scenario would require her to be thirty-two, but she figured it was best to be prepared for anything.

Despite being an hour late on her first day because of an unleashed pitbull that cornered her in the hallway for a harrowing ten minutes and caused her to miss her train, she thought things had gone pretty well. She liked the owner, an Indian guy who reminded her vaguely of Principal Figgins, which shouldn't have been comforting, but somehow was. Not to mention, any moron could do this stuff. It was mostly just serving drinks to asshole yuppies and hipsters. Maybe this job thing wouldn't be so bad after all. I'm a damn good waitress, she thought as her shift ended.

"You are a terrible waitress," the owner informed her, after asking to see her for a minute before she left. He stood at a table refilling salt shakers. "The worst I've seen in my entire history in the restaurant business. And I have hired many many waitresses."

"What?" She was truly puzzled. "But I didn't get any orders wrong!"

"It's not the orders, it is your attitude. You are awful to people. You can not treat customers like that. One of them wanted to take out a restraining order against you."

"Who, that guy that looked like a meth-head Conan O'Brien?" she asked in a sullen voice. "He should, if he knows what's good for him."

"I'm sorry, but it's not going to work out. I can pay you in cash for the hours you worked tonight, but that is all." He headed up front toward the register, and she followed him.

"What about that big group in the back?" she protested. "They left me a huge tip."

"They thought it was dinner theater. When they left they congratulated me on hiring an actress who plays such a convincing horrible bitch!"

"Well, there's an idea," she offered a little sheepishly. "Why don't we just run with that?"

"Tempting, but I think I'll pass," he said. He started to count out her wages.

"Look, I really need this job, okay? I'm new to the city, and..." She lowered her voice because it was so embarrassing to admit. "I'm almost out of money."

"Do you know how many other girls are out there right now with that exact same story?" he asked. "Hundreds. Maybe thousands. The difference is, most of them won't make my patrons fear for their lives."

She sighed, giving up. It was no use. Obviously the guy wasn't going to budge. She waited for him to finish counting out her money, allowing her eyes to roam around the interior of the restaurant, trying not to let him see how hopeless she felt. She wanted the job, but she didn't want his pity. Her gaze snagged on something near the front that she hadn't noticed during her brief stint of serving drinks.

"What's that stage for?"

He glanced up at it, as if he'd forgotten it was there. "I used to employ a band. Four brothers. Then one weekend they went home to visit their family in Toronto, and never came back." He shook his head, disgusted. "Canadians."

She saw a ray of hope, but tried not to act too eager. "Well, hey... I'm a singer."

He gave her a skeptical look. "What kind of experience do you have?"

Shit, he'd have to ask thatquestion. "I... I was in show choir for three years in high school." Immediately, she could see that she'd lost his interest, so she hastened to add, "I know it sounds lame. I mean, it was lame, a lot of the time. But we won a National championship last year. We were good."

We were good, she thought to herself fiercely, feeling a surprising surge of loyalty.

"It all sounds very cute, but I am afraid it's not exactly..."

"I can sing anything," she interrupted him. "Whatever style you want. I have very... eclectic tastes." Was that the right word? She tried to recall her SAT vocab prep, praying she hadn't said something ridiculous.

And now she could see him wavering, so she took the final plunge. "Listen, just give me one chance, all right? I swear I won't screw it up. If people still hate me, then... you don't even have to pay me. I'll just leave. You'll never hear from this horrible bitch again."

He handed her a slim pile of cash, her wages for one night. "All right," he said, with obvious trepidation. "One more chance. Tomorrow night. But I am not promising anything."

"Thank you," she said, so relieved she wanted to hug him and his adorable accent. "Thank you so much. And if I'm rude to people, they'll just think it's part of the performance." Off of his look, she held up her hand and quickly added, "I won't be, though." Then, before she could say something that would make him change his mind, she hurried out.

When she'd arrived back at the building, late, the elevator had taken her to the 14th floor and then stopped, refusing to go any further. She'd taken the stairs the rest of the way, and was so distracted by thoughts of potential set lists that she hadn't even noticed the group of Dominican girls hanging out on the 16th floor stairwell until she'd practically walked right into them.

"Hey perra!" the same girl from the other day hailed her. "You shouldn't be out so late. But since you are, we got an offer for you."

Santana waited, wary, trying to keep her mouth shut.

"We'll give you your shoe back in exchange for that jacket."

The jacket in question was worth six hundred bucks, and she knew it had probably been a mistake to wear it tonight, since it was still hot outside, but she'd wanted to look nice for her first day of work. Clearly, though, this trade wasn't optional. So, after a few seconds of inner debate, she gritted her teeth in resentment, took it off, and handed it over, praying they would let her go up without any further harassment.

"Oh shit," the girl said now, handing the jacket off to one of her friends for safekeeping. "You know what, I just remembered. I gave the shoe to mi hermano. He's using it as an ashtray."

The other girls all laughed, and Santana gave them a wan, bitter smile, because of course she hadn't expected to get the goddamn shoe back. She started up the stairs, but the ringleader hollered at her. "Hey, where you from, anyway?"

She considered ignoring the question, but she didn't want to antagonize them any more than necessary, so she half turned and said, "Ohio."

They laughed even harder now, as if this was the funniest thing they'd heard in years. The girl lit a cigarette as she got her amusement under control. Looking up at Santana, she said, "Let me give you some advice, girl. Go home. Because this fucking place? You ain't gonna make it here." There was something deep down in her expression that looked like actual sincerity, though it was hard to see behind the mockery, envy, and contempt. In an alternate universe, they might even have been friends. Not in this one, though.

Santana continued up, and once inside the relative safety of the apartment, she wasted no time in calling Brittany. She told her about the events of the day, about her new job, and about the girls in the hallway. Only in this slightly censored version, she'd given them the jacket because she felt sorry for their poverty and horrible fashion sense, and because she was sick of it anyway. Sometimes she wasn't sure whether Brittany believed everything she said or not. But it was enough that she pretended to. It was almost like Santana could make these more optimistic versions of her life in the city true just by saying them out loud. Almost, but not quite.

In addition to being the official start of her singing career, the next day also happened to be her first day of classes. This, then, she thought, was where she would make all those friends that she'd anticipated would simply materialize the moment she got to New York. Here, she would finally find them.

But it didn't quite seem to be working out that way. She went to all her classes; she even managed to be interested in them. It was amazing how much she could focus on the teacher when Brittany wasn't throwing wadded paper balls at her back, or playing footsie with her under the table. But no one spoke to her. Hardly anyone even made eye contact with her. Outside in the center of campus, trying to find a place to eat lunch, she'd been confronted with a horror she'd never faced in high school, not once. She'd had to sit alone. There were groups of students everywhere, and there were couples, both gay and straight Everyone seemed to have somebody. Everyone but her. She missed her Cheerios uniform and the status it had given her with an almost physical pang. Especially the way, even outside the halls of McKinley, in Lima itself, it had made people look at her with respect and forced them to realize she was someone important. Here, she was nothing. She might as well have been invisible.

When her classes were done for the day, she made one last-ditch attempt to connect with people by deciding to attend a gay and lesbian student organization meeting she'd seen advertised on a flyer in the hallway. But when she'd reached the door of the classroom, the people inside were clustered in a tight, cohesive knot, laughing together as if they'd known each other for years. She'd hung back for a minute, until finally a guy noticed her and asked in a polite but slightly impatient way, "Can I help you?" They all turned to stare at her, and she couldn't help but feel like she was interrupting something. "Sorry, wrong room," she'd muttered, and backed out. So... that was that.

It wasn't surprising that by the time she reached the restaurant, her confidence levels weren't exactly high. And maybe she was imagining it, but the place seemed much more crowded than it had when she'd been serving drinks last night. In fact, the room itself seemed bigger, with more tables. The owner wasted no time in introducing her to his fifteen year old niece, her designated piano player. He informed her that if she wanted more music than that, she'd have to bring it herself. And then, without ceremony, he pointed her toward the stage, where she could see a mike stand had already been set up.

"Now?" she asked. It all seemed so abrupt.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did you wish to take your break before you start working?" he asked with heavy sarcasm.

"No, I just meant.... okay, I'm going." She swallowed hard, forcing herself toward the stage at the front of the room. This was ridiculous. She'd been performing for years. Why did it feel like she was walking through quicksand? Why was her mouth so dry? Why was this so terrifying?

When she climbed the two steps and stood on the slightly elevated platform looking out over the restaurant, she suddenly knew. It was because she'd never done this by herself before. Other than auditions in front of only a few people she knew well, she'd never been out here on her own like this, with all eyes on her. She'd had an entire choir, an entire family, right there next to her. Standing up here tonight, she felt more alone than she ever had in her life.

Gradually, the room began to quiet down as the patrons noticed her and waited for something to happen. She couldn't imagine what they wanted her to do. She turned and looked behind her at the piano player, as if hoping for some kind of rescue, but the girl stared back at her with a blank face, waiting to be given instruction.

She turned again, and now the room was even quieter. A few people cleared their throats, as if they were embarrassed for her. There was a tiny ripple of tipsy laughter, then someone shushing the person responsible. The owner was standing behind everyone else, his arms crossed, looking impatient and already irritated with her.

She opened her mouth to say something... anything. But nothing would come to her. And she suddenly realized that she couldn't do this. It just wasn't going to happen. She'd overestimated her own courage.

"I.... I'm sorry," she mumbled into the microphone. "Sorry." She turned to go.

And then, from one of the darkened tables on the opposite side of the room, a voice. A voice calling out, "So what does it take to get some Winehouse up in here?" Not just any voice, but a familiar voice.

She jerked her head around, startled. In the murky light, she could just barely make him out. Kurt. And sitting next to him, Rachel, who now put her fingers in her mouth and gave one of those obnoxious loud whistles, followed by a "Wooo!!" and a flurry of clapping.

She stared at them in shock, then she felt a smile break across her face, maybe the first genuine smile in weeks. The smile turned into a silent, relieved laugh. She felt her confidence rush back in to fill the void. After a few seconds' hesitation, she whispered something to the piano player and pulled out the correct sheet music. Holding her head up, she walked back to the microphone and said in her normal voice, "Okay, this one's for Mr. Fancy Pants in the back."

The music started, and she'd performed a slowed-down version of Tears Dry on Their Own. And now that she'd got her mojo back, she wasn't at all surprised to see that the entire room was in thrall to her, that they barely made a sound and that they kept their eyes on her at all times. Of course they did. I'm a natural, she thought to herself. After the Amy song, she'd done some Adele, then some retro stuff from the sixties and some standards. She took the microphone out of the stand and used the whole stage, occasionally sitting on the edge of it and a few times even hopping up onto the piano. (At this, the Indian owner's niece gave her a disapproving look. It made her miss Brad.)

Before she knew it, it was time for a break. She almost didn't want to stop, because she'd been flirting through song with a few of the women customers, and even though she didn't think they were gay, she felt she was doing a fairly good job of convincing them that they might be. She basked in the applause for a minute or two, then got a glass of water and headed to the other side of the room.

"You were outstanding," Rachel gushed before Santana even managed to sit down. "You brought the house down. However, I do have a fewpointers. At a couple of key moments your pitch was just a bit iffy, which of course only someone with superior musical training such as myself would notice...

"Rachel." Kurt gave her a quick shake of his head.

Taking his signal, she said, "But we can talk about it some other time."

Santana sipped from her water, marveling at the fact that this annoying babble could actually seem comforting, in a way.

"It was an incredible performance," Kurt told her. "They loved you. I felt like I was watching a Holy Roller preacher convert sinners through the power of the Lord. Only with more eye sex."

"Yeah, well, thanks. For your.... you know." She didn't want to spell it out. Now that she'd proven herself a success, the stage fright and subsequent rescue felt like something that had happened years ago.

He seemed to understand, and gave her a small smile. "Anytime."

"How the hell did you even find this place?"

They shot each other meaningful glances as if they were trying to keep a secret, and Rachel said, "It turns out our school is just a few blocks west of here. What are the chances, right?"

"But to be honest, Santana," Kurt took over. "We did have an ulterior motive for coming here tonight... other than to watch you work your dark magic."

"Was it to ask me to rescue you from that horrible, horrible scarf? Because just being honest? I think it may already be too late."

Kurt glanced down at the scarf in question, then seemed to be at a loss for words. "Why don't you start?" he suggested to Rachel.

"Okay, here's the thing. You know that Kurt and I were both accepted into the prestigious New York Academy of the Dramatic Arts, commonly referred to as NYADA." She said these words in a loud voice, as if maybe the people at the tables near theirs would be impressed. "Technically, all first year students are required to live on campus. And we were so excited about it - we thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be around our own kind. So needless to say we were both elated to move into the dorms a few weeks ago." She paused, looking dramatic. "Well... to put it bluntly, it was an unmitigated disaster. Everything that could possibly go wrong, did. My roommate? She was a total narcissistic diva. All she did was talk nonstop about herself and her ginormous talent. Can you imagine?"

"That must have been excruciating," Santana replied, the sarcasm predictably going right over Rachel's head.

"You can say that again. Not only that, but there were so many ridiculous rules. Like for instance, no tap dancing in the hallways. Hello! It's a performing arts school!"

"Plus, they wouldn't let me stay in Rachel's room past nine PM," Kurt said. "I mean, for the love of Nancy, what did they think I was doing to her in there?" He shuddered a little. "Honestly."

"And as if all that weren't bad enough," Rachel fumed, "they wouldn't even let us have scented candles." She spoke as if this was the ultimate outrage and the point that decided the issue.

Santana glanced back over toward the stage, wondering how long her break was and if this sob story had any point to it.

"Anywho," Kurt said, noticing her impatience, "To cut to the chase, Rachel's dads were able to finagle us a doctor's note that claims that due to our midwestern upbringing under the open skies of Ohio, we both suffer from a severe vertical phobia that prevents us from living in any building higher than four stories."

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," Santana said.

"Yes, but the threat of a lawsuit can be a powerful argument. So they allowed us to move off campus."

"We found this amazing place," Rachel said, excited again now. "It's in Brooklyn. Sunset Park. The commute is a little long, but it's a really safe neighborhood. And we're on the fourth floor, so we have access to the roof. The view is to die for."

"That's great," Santana said, with feigned enthusiasm. "You must feel just like a Jewish Felicity. What does this have to do with me?"

"Well, the thing is," Kurt said, "Even though the rent is remarkably affordable for the size, we still need at least one other person to be able to swing it."

"And it is a three-bedroom," Rachel added. "Even though we suspect two of them used to be one room and somebody built an illegal wall down the middle of it."

Santana thought she was finally beginning to see where this was going. "Hold up, are you asking me to move in with you?" To her surprise, somewhere deep inside of her, something grasped at the idea like a rope thrown to a drowning victim.

"We just thought it made sense. I mean, I know you've been living in Washington Heights," Rachel said. "And if we were just speaking from a musical theater standpoint I'd have to say I wholeheartedly approve. I don't think anybody would dispute that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius."

"Who?"

"What Rachel's trying to say is," Kurt said, "Broadway nostalgia factor aside, the neighborhood you're in isn't a very safe place. Especially for someone from out of town. Did you know a girl was attacked just three blocks away from your building last week? And unlike you, she probably wasn't wearing jewelry worth more than most people's cars."

"But aside from all that, it must be so lonely living by yourself," Rachel said more quietly. "I can't even imagine. We know you've been having a bit of a difficult time adjusting."

"Why would you think that?" Santana asked in a sharp voice. There was sympathy in Rachel's tone, which caused her hackles to go up immediately. What the hell was going on here?

And then, suddenly, it clicked in her mind. Brittany. Of course. It had to be Brittany. Everything made sense now... she'd set this whole thing up. That was how they knew where she lived. That was how they'd known she'd be performing here in the first place. This was an ambush.

She leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes for a second, feeling betrayed.

They watched her, both seeming to realize she'd figured it out.

"She's just worried about you," Kurt said softly. "She thinks you're having a hard time. And she wondered if maybe we could all help each other out. That's all."

Santana inhaled slowly in preparation. She'd been tempted, maybe. A few seconds ago she couldn't deny she'd been just a little tempted. But if there was one thing in the world she couldn't bear, it was someone else's pity. Especially from these two. And now she had all the justification she needed to allow her to return to her senses and let them know how badly they'd misjudged her.

"Okay, let's get one thing straight here, Laverne and Shirley," she said. "Where I live is none of your damn business. But even if it was, you'd still be making fools of yourselves, because for your information? Since I moved to the city, my life has been the shiznit. And so, yeah, maybe I didn't want Brittany to know that. Maybe I made it sound a little less ghetto-fab than it is, and you know why? Because I feel bad for her. I'm out here living it up like a Jay-Z video, and she's still stuck in Loserville with a glee club that doesn't even have me and Mercedes to save it from mediocrity."

Kurt and Rachel looked at each other as if they'd halfway expected this, and even though she could tell they weren't buying a word of it, she couldn't stop now. Forward momentum kept her cresting on over the edge.

"What did you think, that just because we all happen to find ourselves in the same zip code, we would magically become best friends? Because I mean, the fact is, I'm gonna be hanging with some pretty badass people here. Just as... soon as I meet them," she added evasively, her gaze shifting downward for a second. "And when that happens, I can't have you Mouseketeers dragging down my street cred with your obscure theater references and your traumatizing wardrobes. Seriously, Hummel, why is that scarf allowed to exist?"

"Santana..." Rachel said.

"No no no, let me finish. I needs to make this clear, right the hell now. Because the three of us? We're not gonna be running into each other a lot. We're not gonna be hanging out. And we most certainly are not gonna be roomies. Got it?"

And though a tiny part of her hated herself for it, she couldn't deny that the hurt and embarrassment on their faces gave her a sense of power that she hadn't felt in a long time.

They were both quiet for a few seconds, absorbing her speech. Eventually, Rachel gave a hint of a bitter smile and said, "Fine. If that's the way you feel, then we won't bother you again." She stood up and turned to go. Then, seeming to have second thoughts, she pulled a folded slip of paper out of her purse. "But here's the address, just in case you're ever in the neighborhood."

"I wouldn't count on it," Santana told her. But she took the paper.

Kurt stood now, too. He looked down at her with resignation. She could tell he felt sorry for her. "Good luck, Santana," he said in a dry, sardonic voice. "You're.... really gonna need it."

And then they walked out. And though there was a voice deep inside of her wondering what the hell she was doing, a voice screaming Stop them, she didn't. She sat there watching them go, trying to maintain her expression of superiority.

Somewhere off to the side, a man cleared his throat in a loud, meaningful way, and she looked around to see the club owner pointing at his watch. Great. Somehow, she'd forgotten that she still had to go back up there and sing. She stood and headed wearily toward the stage. Now, of course, the room was full of strangers again.

Though the rest of the night was somewhat of a blur, she still had the feeling she'd done pretty well. The audience didn't seem to notice anything was bothering her, at least. And the owner seemed pleased enough, since when she left at the end of the night he'd smiled and given her an official work schedule. So at least one thing about this day hadn't been a disaster.

Her trip back to the building seemed even more terrifying than usual, however, and she blamed Kurt for putting the fears into her head. Did he really have to tell her about the girl getting attacked? It was probably just her imagination, but everyone seemed to be staring at her, at her expensive clothes and her perfectly manicured nails and her diamond necklace that she knew she should stop wearing but refused to out of stubbornness. Inside her pocket, she kept one hand nervously around her going-away present from Coach Sylvester - a can containing a mixture of pepper spray, sulfuric acid, and Will Schuester's cologne, guaranteed "to be both disfiguring and highly nauseating."

Safely back inside the apartment, she'd thought about calling Brittany, but then changed her mind and set the phone aside. For one thing, she was pissed. Brittany had no right to tell Kurt and Rachel all that stuff. What the hell had she thought she was doing? But even more than being angry, Santana was ashamed. She knew Britt would be disappointed in her for the way she'd reacted, for the way she'd ruined what must have seemed to everyone like the perfect solution. And she didn't want to deal with that disappointment tonight. It was enough work just dealing with her own.

So instead she settled on the couch for her usual pre-bedtime routine of eating a frozen dinner alone and watching TCM. Against her will, she was becoming quite the film buff. But in a cruel irony that seemed to be the cherry on top of the shit sundae that was this entire week, the movie playing tonight was the original 1961 West Side Story. She considered not watching it, but the place seemed too lonely without the TV on. So she sat through the entire thing with a lump in her throat, wondering why she'd been in such a hurry for high school to end. Right now she felt like she'd give anything to turn the clock back a year.

By the time the movie was nearly over and the Boy Like That duet came on, the lump in her throat was practically choking her, and her eyes were burning with unshed tears. She knew if she gave in right now, it would be an epic emotional meltdown, the kind of cry that lasted for hours, the kind she hadn't allowed herself once since arriving here a few weeks ago. And she had almost decided to let it come, to let the storm wash over her and wear itself out, because it couldn't possibly leave her feeling any worse than she did right now.

Then, suddenly, there was a loud knock on the door. More of a pounding than a knock. She jumped up, startled.

A deep male voice boomed, "Ricky!! You in there?"

She started to yell back that he wasn't home, that he didn't even technically live here, but for some reason she stopped herself.

A different man's voice now added, "You best open up right now, friend! We got some business matters to discuss!"

The accent was one she couldn't quite place, but then her cousin's words from his one and only stop at the apartment came back to her. Oh, fuck. The Nigerian guys?

Moving as quietly as she could, she went over and turned the TV off, then the floor lamp. The room was immediately plunged into near darkness, the only light cast by the streetlights shining through the window. Maybe they would think no one was home.

The plan seemed to be working when she heard one of them say to the other, "Looks like he isn't here." She breathed a sigh of relief, but the relief was short-lived, because the next thing she heard was, "Go ahead and break it open."

A splintering bang came from the door. She froze like a deer in the headlights, not knowing what to do. Then another bang. This time, she forced herself to move toward the one bedroom in the back. And just as the third bang shattered the door from its hinges, she dove underneath the bed, rolling herself as far back against the wall as she could.

She lay on the grit-encrusted floor with sweat pouring from her, the rushing of blood so loud in her ears that at first she almost couldn't hear if they were inside the apartment or not. But then they started tearing the place apart. She could hear shattering glass, drawers being pulled out and tossed aside, furniture overturned. She heard what must have been the TV crashing onto the floor, a sharp pop as the electrical circuitry fried. She remained as still as she could, not making a sound. There was something digging into her back, but she didn't even want to stir enough to remove it.

Obviously not finding what they were looking for in the living room, they moved toward the bedroom. Holy shit, she thought, her hand automatically moving to the pocket where the pepper spray had been, but she'd forgotten she'd already changed clothes. The overhead light was flipped on, and they walked across the room, toward the bed. She heard them rifling through the drawer in the bedside table. Their feet were so close she could have reached out and touched their shoes.

Don't look under the bed, she prayed. Don't look under the bed. She squeezed her eyes shut, as if that would somehow keep her from being seen. Then she felt something crawling over her ankle, something she suspected was probably a roach. She bit her lip and tried to endure it, using all the willpower she possessed not to jerk her leg.

"He don't have shit here," one of them finally said in a disappointed voice. "He must keep it all on him."

"Come on, let's go," the other man responded. "I got an idea where he might be."

She heard them retreating back through the apartment, then out the door, down the hallway, down the stairwell. Still, she didn't move. She hardly let herself breathe.

Finally, after what felt like an hour but was probably no more than five minutes, she pulled herself out from under the bed, hesitant, as if maybe it was a trick and they'd only pretended to leave. She was soaked in sweat and covered with filth from the floor, and with a grimace, she reached behind her and pulled out whatever the hell it was that had been digging into her ribs. The remote control. Of course. Of course, now she would find the fucking remote control.

She held it in her hand for a second, staring at it, and then flung it at the wall so hard that it shattered. One of the batteries rolled back and knocked against her shoe.

Pulling herself up from the floor, she wasted no time in packing up her belongings, or what she could still find of them in the ravaged apartment. She gathered all her clothes, her makeup, her stuff out of the shower, her iPod, stuffing everything back into her luggage as fast as she could. She considered leaving behind her brand-new textbooks, but decided that since she'd already paid a fortune for them, she might as well throw them in. Even though there wasn't much of a chance she'd be using them.

Because it was over. She gave up. She was admitting defeat and going home. Back to Ohio, back to Lima, back to Brittany. She would live with her parents forever. She would get eighteen cats and start hoarding milk jugs and become one of those eccentric small-town lesbians who wear men's clothes and mutter to themselves on the street. She didn't care anymore. The city had won.

Without even stopping to clean up first, she'd gathered all her bags up and left without looking back. She'd feel safer sleeping on a bench at the airport than she would spending another night in this hellhole. Even if she couldn't get a flight right away, even if she had to wait days for her dad to agree to pay for the ticket, she'd still rather be there than here.

She'd left the building fully intending to go to JFK. There were no other plans in her mind. But yet, somehow... without ever quite understanding how it had happened or when she had made the decision or what strange, twisted, satirical power in the universe had directed her course... she hadn't ended up at the airport. She hadn't ended up anywhere near the airport. Instead, a few hours after leaving Washington Heights, she'd found herself in Brooklyn.

She'd found herself standing in a quiet, relatively peaceful street - or as peaceful as any New York City street can be in the hours just after midnight. She'd found herself looking up at a weathered brown brick building, probably built around the turn of the 20th century and wearing its age like a tattered but still respectable old lady. She'd found herself walking softly past a man sleeping in a recliner chair in the downstairs hallway (what the hell?) and up four quiet flights of stairs. And then, somehow, against all the logic that existed in the world, she'd found herself tapping on the door of the apartment marked 403. Then, when no one answered, tapping louder.

And when they'd both finally come to the door together in their ridiculous pajamas (oh God, were their pajamas matching?), she'd dropped her bags on the floor and opened her mouth to tell them about the huge favor she was here to bestow on them, about how after doing some thinking she'd decided to take pity on them and their wretched little lives after all.

The two of them had stared at her in sleep-bleary confusion, waiting. But the words wouldn't come. Instead, her face crumpled, her lip quivered, and in a plaintive voice she wailed, "I haaaate New York."

They'd looked at each other for a brief, wordless conferral, and then, wonder of wonders... they'd stepped aside to let her in. She came forward and collapsed against them in an awkward three-way hug, hoping this would somehow suffice for a thank you without her actually having to say the words. She clung to them for a few minutes, still weeping, while they patted her back and rolled their eyes at each other. Then she gave a loud sniffle, drew in a shaky breath, and moved off to find the shower, leaving her bags in the hallway for them to bring in.

And so she'd been here ever since. Obviously, it wasn't a perfect arrangement. The three of them bantered and sniped and drove each other crazy. They fought over everything; decisions ranging from where to have dinner to what to watch on TV to how to put the toilet paper correctly on the roll. (Rachel: You're supposed to pull it from the front. Everybody knows this!!!) They fought over the rent and the cable bill and the groceries. (Santana: I'm not helping pay for her creepy vegan milk, do you know how much that shit costs?) They fought over who'd used up all the hot water and whose turn it was to do the dishes and who'd left the toilet seat up. (Kurt: I'm sorry, ladies, but even if I'm gay, I still don't pee sitting down.)

And yes, it was true that sometimes it was almost too much to bear. It was true that sometimes Santana had to hide the kitchen knives from herself before she went to bed at night, because she was afraid that if she sleptwalked she would murder them both in their sleep. It was true that sometimes Kurt's eyes glazed over in mute, yearning misery, and he looked as if he'd rather check himself into a psychiatric facility than spend one more night with the two of them. It was true that Rachel's bedroom door had developed a jagged, lightning-bolt shaped crack from being melodramatically slammed so many times.

But despite all that, they somehow managed to make it work. They formed shifting alliances; sometimes it was Kurt versus the two girls. Sometimes it was Rachel versus the two gays. Sometimes it was Santana versus the two, well, losers. This way, there was always a majority.

And even in the middle of the fighting, they took care of each other. When Blaine's first visit ended in an unexpected break-up, Santana and Rachel tried to keep Kurt's spirits up by baking him cupcakes and buying him a subscription to a gay porn website. ("It's the best one for the money," Rachel had assured him. "We checked.") When Santana tried to gross Rachel out by ordering an extra-rare cheeseburger at the corner diner they frequented, and then spent the entire night puking, they'd both stayed up with her to hold her hair back and force her to drink Pepto Bismol. When the three of them had decided to stay in the city over Thanksgiving in order to save money and Finn tried to give Rachel a guilt trip about it, Santana had called him with a long, detailed list about the various ways a human male can "accidentally" lose his testicles. In the end, he'd agreed that staying was a great idea.

When it came to her own confusing relationship status with Brittany, Kurt and Rachel walked a fine line between being supportive and encouraging her to meet new people. After weeks of protest, they'd dragged her to her first lesbian nightclub. She'd been so relieved to find that it wasn't wall-to-wall flannel that she'd hardly even minded when Rachel crowed on the way home about getting more phone numbers than her. (Santana: What are you even gonna do with those? Rachel: Nothing, obviously. It's just nice to be appreciated.) And when she had met someone, they'd tried their best to root for the relationship, even though in the end they hadn't been able to keep up the enthusiasm. Neither had Santana, for that matter. But that was a whole different story.

So overall, despite the drawbacks, the living situation was bearable. And sometimes, it was even more than bearable. Like when Kurt and Rachel visited Santana at work (they hadn't been lying about their school being only a few blocks away) and she invited them up on stage for duets and the occasional trio. Or when they all piled onto the couch to indulge their shared love of trashy reality TV. Sometimes they even fell asleep and woke up with limbs entangled like a litter of puppies. (When this happened, they extricated themselves without making eye contact and never spoke of it aloud.) Or when they played drunk Pictionary and got to laughing so hard at Rachel's outrageously horrible drawing skills that the downstairs neighbors pounded on the ceiling with a broom.

Or, especially, when they stood on the roof together at night, drinking illegally purchased wine that made them feel sophisticated, gazing across the bay and up toward the bright, glittering lights of Manhattan. At those moments, it was much more than bearable. At those moments, it felt like this was what they'd come to New York City for. That the life they'd dreamed of wasn't just within reach, but that it was actually here. They were actually living it.

And that feeling, more than anything, was what she wanted to share with Brittany.

***************
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