This was written for gleeremix over at LJ, as a remix of 'blithe and antic' by dropsofviolet/storypaint.
"I'm not anything like Jesse," Sunshine says, flopping down onto her bed, the words curling in her mouth, and for a moment she's back home in a million classrooms that all look the same, and she's lying again: Yesterday I went for a walk; Tomorrow I shall feed my sister's cat, in a flurry of homework assignments hurriedly scribbled during break.
The syllables feel awkward in her mouth, like a threadbare dress she's outgrown too soon, but the only time Sunshine gets to speak Tagalog anymore is during monthly phone conversations with Amalia and whenever her mother bothers showing up for dinner, and both of those are moments to be treasured for how rarely they occur. English is what she has to speak now, but it'll be okay, she mumbles to herself late at night, when her mother has gone to bed with a migraine and Rachel is someplace else, because Sunshine doesn't have any claim on her really; it's all perfectly okay because Sunshine knows her English almost perfectly, shaped though it may be from the lyrics on the sheet music now lying in tiny fragments at the bottom of some stranger's dustbin.
People lie all the time in America, because crack houses are not places to audition for failing show choirs in need of a twelth member, and each side spins their own hero in a thousand little shining delusions.
Back home in the Phillippines she could tell whether something was a lie by the way it shifted inside her mouth, but in America she lies and lies and lies, but it doesn't feel any different.
"I'm not like Jesse," she says, and it's true in a way, she's not. She's shorter and darker and her hair is infinitely more normal than Jesse's careful mess of gorgeous curls, and she knows things Jesse doesn't seem to; like that it's better to use less hairspray, and not smirk quite so much, because it only annoyed people and made them want to stab you in the back. She knows that even in Vocal Adrenaline, you shouldn't come up with a plan to hurt somebody yourself, but leave it to others, because then, all you're doing is helping your team; blinking your eyes innocently and fooling nobody at all.
It isn't Sunshine's fault, but she has to adapt and every team has their own initiation rites. Clearly, seducing a member of the competition is one of Vocal Adrenaline's.
It's not perfect, but she has to make do, and besides she's still unbelievably angry at Rachel Berry. Sheet music may not matter much in America, where they give it out for free by the dozen, but unlike some of the kids here, Sunshine had never gotten regular pocket money. They couldn't have afforded it, not with her mother working half-way through the night just in order to pay the bills after Sunshine's father ran off with that dimwitted girl half his age. Her prized collection had been carefully accumulated over many birthday or Christmas presents, or swapped with friends at school. There was literally nothing she'd prized more, not even the lifesize Lady Gaga poster they'd teemed up to buy her before she'd left, or the photograph of her parents before it all started to go wrong.
She wonders whether she should get one of herself and Rachel, with some meaningful lyrics on the back, and present it to her some time before their inevitable break-up. If it could even be called that, after all they weren't even together properly.
But properly together or not, Sunshine couldn't help feeling a bit awkward about all this, however annoying Rachel sometimes gets, when she flops back on Sunshine's bed like she belongs there, complaining about someone or other at McKinley.
Sometimes, Sunshine lets herself believe that Rachel really does belong there; that it's all real, but like all her daydreams, it doesn't last long.
She tries telling herself that it's not really betrayal, because there's nothing for her to betray in America except her mother, who is so consumed by her new job that they barely even see each other; and besides, in America loyalty lines are drawn thinly with faint chalk, the very act a preparation for its own destruction, and real friendship didn't seem to exist. They seem to almost expect to be backstabbed, and in turn betray everyone around them, like insane puppets with nowhere else to turn.
And Sunshine never thought she'd be that kind of person, but she thinks that, in a way, Rachel kind of deserves it. After all, she'd done it herself before, when she sent Sunshine, still so hopelessly trusting and naïve, to a crack house; when she lied and cheated like honesty was as outdated as Chaucer and Milton; when she seduced Jesse, who counted even though he'd deflected back to Vocal Arenaline glory to lead them to yet another win at last year's Regionals. Life in America is a fractured fairy tale, and everyone breaks free of the evil witch's charms, only to be caught again.
No American fairy tale allows for revenge against the witch, but no one here takes anything lying down either.
Sheet music, Sunshine thinks stubbornly, over and over again, and has to bite her tongue before she says something rash and ruins everything. The blood is warm and coppery inside her mouth, like the memory of something she's long forgotten.
She thinks it might be a sense of goodness, of being in the right.
But this isn't personal revenge; its not for the memory of standing outside a dark house with a beheaded gnome on the porch and hesitating, as she'd clutched the sheet music tight to her chest and stood on her tiptoes in order to reach the doorbell; not for seeing the treasured sheets, once read late at night under the covers, and smudged with the constant press of fingertips across fading paper, torn up like a rude note passed in class, by a fat man with short dark hair wearing a partially torn tracksuit.
This is for the good of Sunshine's new team, who might be a bit standoffish at times, but at least they've never tried sending her to a crack house.
This is not personal, but it sure feels like it.
All the same, this isn't like anything she'd done before, nothing she thought she'd ever do, but maybe there's something about the American air that stirs people's blood, or maybe just something about Rachel that makes people continuously betray her, coupled with something else that makes her try again and again, with different people, powered by semi-inspirational songs from a dozen different Broadway musicals she's never going to star in.
It was her weakness, and Sunshine has been trained to pounce on every available weakness and win.
Rachel just makes it too easy, really.
"Yeah, you're really not," the other girl says, and smiles weakly, wiping at her eyes. The smudged mascara makes her look a bit like a deranged panda. Sunshine wonders whether Rachel really did cry every time she sang a solo, and just how much of that was merely manufactured emotion, like the contant adverts playing on the old television downstairs.
Awkwardly, she reached over to pat at Rachel's shoulder, wondering whether seducing her had been this hard for Jesse.
Probably not, because if Sunshine's teammates are to be believed, nothing was ever difficult for Jesse.
Her fingers tighten on Rachel's shoulder, and they kiss.