Santana's not sure what the time is – whether it's the crack of dawn or well into the afternoon – when she wakes the next day. She and Brittany stayed up way too late after returning to the loft and between the champagne-induced giggles and sloppy kisses that tasted of cinnamon sugar that led to even more sex, neither can remember when they managed to fall asleep.
Santana hoped that when she finally cracked an eyelid it would be because Brittany was waking her with gentle kisses or maybe coaxing her awake with the proposition of coffee, but that's not the case. Her phone has been buzzing nonstop for only God knows how long and it's finally driven her to a breaking point.
Brittany begins to stir too, grumbling at the phone's disrespectful interruption.
"Off. Turn. It. Off," Brittany mumbles. Not only are they exhausted, they're a little hungover too and all that noise isn't helping with their developing headaches.
"I'm going," Santana whines as she uses every ounce of strength she can muster and throws herself across Brittany's body to reach the nightstand.
They're a mess of tangled sheets and bare limbs, but Santana manages to get her hand on the phone just as the call rings out. What's surprising though is the amount of missed calls from the same unknown number. There are at least ten there in the span of fifteen minutes and a funny feeling sinks to the pit of her stomach. Her interests are a piqued, but before she can take a further look another call comes through from the same number.
"You're popular today," Brittany grumbles before burying her head under the pillow.
It makes Santana smile – only Brittany can be adorable when she's annoyed – but it's that annoyance that has her answering this time. For both their sakes, she needs to shut this person down ASAP.
"Who the fuck is – "
"You are in so much trouble," The person – a woman – says before Santana can even finish her sentence.
Maybe it's the hangover settling in because Santana is slow to react. In fact, the words make her freeze. A million questions run through her mind: who is this? What do they know? How'd they get her number?
It's so jarring that Brittany senses something was wrong because she pulls her head out from under the pillow and looks to Santana worriedly.
"Who is it?" She mouths to Santana.
Santana just shakes her head and shrugs but the color in her face is quickly draining. Brittany notices that too and holds her hand out for the phone so she can take over.
"Who the hell is this?" Brittany snaps, "And why do you think it's okay to call so goddamn early in the morning? What's the matter with you? Don't you have any respect?"
The person clears her throat before replying, "I'd apologize, but it is half past noon. I thought that this would be an appropriate time to call."
Brittany frowns at their matter of fact tone, "Oh. Well, it wasn't. We're very hungover so the appropriate time to call is never. Who is this?"
"This is the victim of your latest crime."
Santana's jaw drops and Brittany's eyes go wide, "How did you get this number?"
"I have my ways."
Santana and Brittany exchange a look of concern, but before Brittany can follow up the woman on the phone adds.
"We should talk. In person. I don't trust someone I can't look in the eye and you're going to want to hear what I have to say."
They can't even reply before the call disconnects.
"What the hell was that?" Santana asks. The gears have been churning nonstop since she answered the call.
Brittany just bites her lip in thought; this wasn't exactly how she pictured waking up the morning after the heist. She watches Santana for a further reaction, wondering what's going through her mind.
When she's only met with continued silence, Brittany gives Santana a comforting smile.
"We'll figure this out," Brittany says.
"I know," Santana nods then leans in for a soft peck. She rests her forehead against Brittany and chuckles, "I should've put the damn thing on silent. That's so not how I wanted this morning to go."
Brittany smirks; apparently she wasn't the only one thinking that.
"How'd you want it to go?" She wonders.
Suddenly Santana looks a little shy, "For starters, the first words you were supposed to hear weren't who the hell is this."
Brittany smiles fondly, "Uh-huh…What were they supposed to be?"
Santana bites her lip and lifts her shoulder in a lazy shrug, "I love you."
"You softie," Brittany teases as she pulls Santana in for a kiss.
"Hey, you remember how the last morning after a heist went," Santana reasons, "I wanted this time to be different. I was going to tell you how much I love you and just…be here. You weren't going to wake up to an empty bed this time."
"Santana," Brittany sighs and Santana doesn't think she's ever heard her name sound so sweet.
"Now that I say it out loud it does sound a little lame though," Santana blushes through a chuckle.
Brittany chuckles too, "A little, but it's okay. I had other plans too."
"You did?" Santana tilts her head to the side.
"Duh," Brittany winks and goes on to joke, "We were kind of on the same page. I was thinking of blockading the door before you woke up so you couldn't make a break for it."
Santana lets out a laugh as she leans back and all her nerves are eased, "That's not something you have to worry about anymore. I'm done running. You're kind of stuck with me now."
Brittany softens as she smiles, "Lucky me."
Just as she leans in for another kiss, the phone buzzes in Brittany's hand and there is a new text message from the mystery caller. It contains an address and a time for them to meet, which happens to be within the next hour and a half.
"Wow," Brittany frowns, "That doesn't give us a lot of time to get ready."
Santana chuckles lightly, "Yeah. Let's just find out who were dealing with. I think I might have a hunch."
When they arrive at the address provided, Santana and Brittany find themselves at a bookstore. It's an interesting choice for such a private meeting, but they just shrug and head inside. Brittany opts to hang back a little so that Santana can take the lead and she can alert her if she sees anything out of the ordinary.
Santana has a feeling though that the protection isn't going to be necessary. At least, as long as her hunch is correct. She goes over to a random section and begins to browse while also keeping a subtle eye out for the person she will be meeting with. Brittany's just around the corner in another aisle doing the same.
Santana feels the person's presence before they even speak and it's like a bad taste in her mouth that she can't wait to get rid of.
"I heard that Rachel Berry has an amazing new book out," A familiar voice speaks out from behind her.
Santana smirks; her suspicions had been right after all. The mystery caller is none other than Rachel Berry.
"Does she now?" Santana replies sarcastically. She continues to keep her back turned, trying to figure how she's going to play this while she thumbs through Rachel's book. The star stumped her when she called earlier, but Santana's more alert this time – more herself – and she's not going to let someone like Rachel Berry scare her.
"Oh yes," Rachel assures her, "It's quite riveting. On track to making it on New York Time's Best Sellers list so I've heard."
"Wow," Santana deadpans, "I didn't think she knew how to read."
Santana hears the telltale sign of an offended gasp and she has to fight the urge to laugh.
"She most certainly does," Rachel huffs, "Any rumor that states otherwise is purely incorrect. Rachel Berry reads very, very well. Besides, you don't need to read to write a book."
Santana tilts her head in confusion at that logic before she turns around smoothly. She ducks her head in greeting, "Well surprise surprise, look who it is."
The star is dressed in this ridiculous khaki-colored trench coat with an equally ridiculous fedora sitting atop her head, not to mention the giant sunglasses that are shielding her eyes. She looks like a broke version of Carmen Sandiego and Inspector Gadget's love child and it's a miracle that Santana can even hold it together at the sight of her.
"Hello. I'm Rachel Berry," Rachel holds her head up high and smiles.
"Shit. I would've never guessed it with whatever all that is you've got on," Santana waves her free hand at Rachel's outfit.
Rachel's smile falters, "My stylist assured me that this was what the kids call a vibe."
Santana smirks, "Your stylist needs to be fired. Can you even see with those glasses on?"
"Well, it is quite dark in here," Rachel mumbles as she pulls down her shades and nods to the book in Santana's hands, "I can sign that copy for you if you'd like."
"Wouldn't that decrease its value?" Brittany asks as she steps out from the aisle to join Santana's side.
Rachel jumps and looks between the two, "Wait. Who's she? I only agreed to meet with a Santana Lopez."
"That's me," Santana answers with her head held high too, "And that's my girlfriend, Brittany. We're kind of a package deal. Will that be an issue?"
Santana can feel Brittany's heated gaze on her as soon as girlfriend leaves her lips but she stays focused on Rachel instead. They haven't really discussed labels yet so she's sure Brittany's bound to bring up that little slip later on.
"No, no issue," Rachel assures her and turns to Brittany, "Hello. I'm Rachel Berry."
"Hi," Brittany greets Rachel before eyeing her up and down, "Nice trench coat."
"Thank you," Rachel looks renewed by the compliment and presses her hand over her heart. She's genuinely touched by Brittany's words by the look of it, too bad she's not well in tuned to Brittany's sarcasm.
When Santana sees the little smirk Brittany has on, she gives the blonde a slight shake of her head. Most people think Santana's the bad one – and she is most of the time – but Brittany can be so much worse. She's like an inverted sour patch kid; sweet on the outside and sour in the middle.
It's one of the things Santana loves most about her.
"It's what I wear when I don't want to be spotted by the paparazzi," Rachel further explains before turning to fix her book display. With her back turned now, Santana can see the obnoxious clothing label scrawled on the back of Rachel's coat.
"It says I am Rachel Berry on the back," Santana points out.
"Of course. It's my clothing line label," Rachel replies in a matter of fact tone, "What else would I call it?"
"I don't know," Santana shrugs, "Maybe something that wasn't so…literal?"
Rachel turns up her nose, "If Beyoncé can name an album I am Sasha Fierce then I can name my clothing line I am Rachel Berry."
"Are you comparing yourself to Beyoncé?" Brittany questions. [PG1] [PG2]
"There are significant similarities," Rachel says, "But I am clearly the more talented one."
Santana gapes at her while Brittany just smiles that same Cheshire grin.
"You're doing such a great job," Brittany compliments off-handedly.
Again, Rachel misses the sarcasm but before she can shower Brittany with thanks, Rachel's attention is swept up by a bookstore staff member coming around the corner.
"Excuse me, I'd like to speak to your manager. I have a bone to pick with them," Rachel says with a hand on her hip then waves to the display with the other, "Where's the spotlight? The red carpet leading towards it? How do you intend on getting any sales when this display isn't even set up properly? My instructions were quite clear."
Santana and Brittany watch the interaction curiously – so much for being inconspicuous.
"I – I'm sorry?" The employee replies albeit confused as hell.
"Just go get your manager," Rachel instructs pointedly. When the kid runs off, she turns back to Santana and Brittany and lets out an aggravated sigh, "Can you believe that? What's a girl gotta do to make a living. I tell you, it's really hard being a star."
Brittany smirks while Santana blinks blankly, but rather than waste time trying to navigate Rachel's craziness, Santana gets them back on track.
"Can we cut to the chase here?" She asks tiredly, "We didn't come all this way to discuss your shitty marketing tactics."
Rachel looks to her in surprise, "I'd think twice about taking that tone with me considering everything I know."
Santana doesn't take too well with threats and squares her shoulders, "And what might that be, hobbit?"
Rachel's taken aback by the name-calling but stands her ground, "Everything."
Santana shakes her head, she's over Rachel being so cryptic, "What are you talking about?"
Rachel smiles proudly, "Well…I once starred in a suspense thriller film called Run Joey where I played a tenacious detective trying to solve the mystery of how a young woman accidentally died at the hands of her father. I'm sure you've heard of it."
Santana crosses her arms and sighs, "I haven't."
That seems to shock Rachel, "Really? It was directed by Artie Abrams?"
Santana doesn't look moved, "Who?"
Rachel gasps, "He's an award-winning director. How do you not know? My rendition of Run Joey Run was on the Billboard Hot 100 for 9 weeks straight after the movie's premiere!"
Santana looks to Brittany who shrugs, "Don't look at me. I don't know what that is."
Rachel finally hits a breaking point and just about yells, "It won three Oscars!"
"Doesn't ring a bell," Brittany replies faux-apologetically. Santana tries her hardest to hold it together.
"I – I don't understand this," Rachel mumbles to herself, "I spent so much on media coverage."
"So you do pay for paparazzi to follow you around?" Brittany points out.
"What? No!" Rachel turns up her nose, "Those are two completely different things."
"What about the bull testicle thing?" Brittany eggs on.
"Alright," Santana interrupts. She gives Brittany a stern look, "Quit it trying to rile her up."
Rachel looks to Brittany in shock but the blonde only smiles back sweetly.
"And you," Santana snaps her fingers at Rachel, "What's all this got to do with us?"
It takes a moment for Rachel to refocus, "Well as I was saying…due to the extensive training I voluntarily put myself through in order to prepare for that particular role, I've become quite familiar with the intricacies of a well thought out scheme – such as yours."
Santana feels gut-punched, "Oh."
"Precisely," Rachel smirks. Gaining the upper hand inflates her ego as she continues, "I know what you've been up to and I'm not the only one."
That kicks Brittany into gear and she takes a threatening step forward. The height difference is comical as she towers over the star, "Who have you told?"
Rachel gulps, "No one, I swear! But there is someone that's looking for you." Her eyes cut to Santana as she says you.
Santana puts a calming hand on Brittany's forearm, silently telling her to ease up. Brittany listens and softens a little as Santana asks, "Who?"
"An insurance investigator," Rachel replies, "I got a visit from him. Very prim and proper. He showed me a picture of you at the Gala."
Santana scoffs, "Really? Are you sure it was me?"
"Positive," Rachel nods. She takes a long look at Santana and smiles, "You're very pretty as a blonde but your natural hair color suits you just as well. Maybe even better – I'm not sure – but you are rather unforgettable."
Brittany quirks a brow and looks to an equally confused Santana.
"Are you...flirting with me?" Santana almost laughs.
Rachel smiles knowingly, "You're an attractive woman, Santana, and I can see how you might've interpreted my words as that, but it was merely a compliment. What I was trying to say is that I'm blessed with a photographic memory so I never forget a face."
Santana's smirk drops along with her heart which sinks too. Rachel's following statement only makes that feeling worsen.
"Like yours, you were definitely there."
"Fuck," Santana curses and gives Brittany a wary look before facing Rachel, "Who's the guy? What's his name?"
Rachel shakes her head, "I'm good with faces, not names."
Santana lets out an aggravated huff. She has a hunch and lately they've been right so far, she just hopes that this time she's wrong.
She looks to Brittany solemnly, "I think I know who it is."
Brittany worries her lip and nods.
"I take it you two are familiar?" Rachel questions.
"Something like that," Santana replies, "He might've busted my family before. What did you say to him?"
"I said I didn't recognize you considering I was too busy throwing my guts up which I take was your doing?" Rachel says.
"Sorry," Brittany apologizes half-heartedly.
Rachel only shrugs, "It's okay. I happen to like the drama of it."
"Weird," Brittany says under her breath.
"So you didn't snitch on me when you had the chance," Santana recounts, "Why? What do you want?"
"Just the pleasure of your company," Rachel answers with a dreamy smile.
Just when Santana thinks it can't get any gayer, it does.
"Maybe you didn't catch it earlier but I'm taken," Santana replies, "And even if I wasn't, I'm way out of your league."
"What? No, I'm not talking about that," Rachel says, "Although, I'll have you know I've been involved with beautiful people like you."
"She's flirting with you again," Brittany jokes. Santana shoots her a glare before sending it Rachel's way.
"Quit that," Santana scoffs, "You're weirding me out."
Rachel waves her off and gets back on topic, "I want to be your friend. Well, I want to be friends with all of you because I'm fairly certain you two didn't pull this off alone."
Santana is shocked, "That's all you want in exchange for this kind of heads up?"
Rachel shrugs and gives them both a nod.
"Rich people are so weird," Brittany breathes out.
"Being apart of something special makes you special and what you guys do…it's pretty damn special," Rachel explains, "I want in."
Santana softens, "I…wasn't expecting that. It's kind of sweet."
"It's a direct quote from this show I starred in called –"
Santana rolls her eyes hard. Just when she thought she was getting kind of use to Rachel's antics, she goes and says something obnoxious.
"Enough of the name dropping," Santana snaps, "We get it already. You're an actress – "
"Singer, songwriter, actress," Rachel corrects, "Actually the list goes on, I'm pretty multi-faceted."
Rather than argue, Santana just relents with a drawled out, "Right."
"Well if you need time to think about it – my inclusion into your little crew – I understand," Rachel replies without missing a beat, "To welcome a newcomer at this stage would be overwhelming I'm sure – especially considering all the talent she possess – so I'll be patient until you decide but just know that you don't have much time. That insurance investigator fellow is moving quick."
Santana just eyes Rachel – the star is manipulative, Santana can give her that. But to let Rachel go out in the world knowing what she does doesn't rest well with Santana. When she glances to her side at Brittany, she sees it doesn't rest well with her either.
"Well," Rachel says upon their silence, "Good day to you both. I look forward to hearing from you soon."
She heads off in the direction of the service desk while Santana and Brittany have a silent conversation amongst themselves. They both know what they need to do. Maybe a little of Rachel's dramatics have already begun to wear off on them because they let the star get further away, letting her sweat it out until they decide.
"Santana," Brittany whispers.
"I know," Santana nods, "Just a little longer."
Rachel sends a pitiful, longing look over her shoulder to see if they're still watching her walk away.
"Oh wow," Brittany breathes out, "She looks like one of those animal shelter commercials, just a sad little puppy needing a home."
"Don't mention Sarah McLachlan, Britt. I think she can still hear us," Santana whispers.
"But you just said it…"
"Yeah, but I whispered it."
"You think she can read lips?"
"Babe, she can't read period."
Santana hears the tiniest of gasps and it makes her look up at Brittany. She's staring at her so lovingly and her cheeks are starting to pink a little.
"You're on a roll today," Brittany points out.
Santana blushes, "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh yes you do," Brittany teases, "First it was my girlf – "
"Oh! She's looking again," Santana cuts Brittany off. They both watch as Rachel sends another longing look over her shoulder towards them. It's takes everything in Santana and Brittany not to laugh.
They let her go a few more steps before Santana finally calls out.
Rachel turns and looks to her. She's way too eager as she says, "Yes? What is it? I'm all ears."
Rachel beams and rushes back over to shake Santana's hand. She nearly crashes into a poor old woman trying to get to the registers and she doesn't even stop to apologize, just continues to beeline it straight for the couple.
"Amazing!" Rachel cheers as she shakes Santana's hand, "You won't regret this."
"I doubt that," Santana says through a forced a smile as she snatches her hand out of Rachel's vice grip and wipes it on her pants like it's contaminated.
"Thank you," Rachel bows her head again and goes to do the same to Brittany but the blonde is too quick for her.
"That's okay," Brittany tells her, "I can feel your excitement."
Rachel nods, "This is going to be so awesome. What happens now? What do I do? Who's our next mark? Here's a list of things I'm not comfortable with yet: murder."
Brittany's brows shoot up as she slowly looks to Santana who is equally surprised.
"Slow your roll," Santana laughs, "You just go on about your day and we'll be in touch."
"Right," Rachel winks and reels in her excitement, "Be cool."
"I know it's a hard concept for you," Santana jokes, "But please, try your best."
"Oh, I will!" Rachel nods seriously, "You can trust me."
Santana doesn't even respond; there's only one person in the world that she trusts and it isn't Rachel Berry.
Back at the loft, Brittany sits at the edge of Santana's bed and watches her pace back and forth. She's been doing that for awhile now and Brittany's sure that she's bound to leave indents on the hardwood floors. She's not really surprised to see Santana like this though. Santana held it together after they left the bookstore, held it together all through lunch, and continued to hold it together on the ride back to the loft.
Really, it was only a matter of time before she finally cracked.
Brittany doesn't say anything though, just let's Santana have her moment to process because since meeting with Rachel Santana's mind has been in a whirl. Brittany rather have Santana implode in private with her than do it around the rest of the team and send them all in panic. Brittany knows she would never purposely rile up the others over something like this though and that's probably what is adding to Santana's stress.
They're all counting on her and she can't fail them now after coming so far. She has to figure this out for the sake of the team.
"An insurance investigator? Are you kidding me? First Rachel finding out, now this fucking guy?" Santana grumbles to herself in disbelief, "They couldn't find anyone else? It just had to be him? He knows my family's history, we're so fucked!"
"Santana," Brittany sighs, "We don't know who the investigator is yet. We can't jump to conclusions."
"I'm being realistic, Britt," Santana explains, "I'm the best so they're going to bring in someone who is also the best and there's only one person that is even close to my level of awesome."
Brittany just nods. When Santana's like this, there's not much she can say because she knows Santana isn't really listening.
Santana goes on mumbling to herself again, trying to work it all out aloud and Brittany sits back while she does. She's patient, she always has been when it comes to Santana, but she also knows when it's time to step in so she waits for that moment.
Santana pauses mid-pace and it's like she's suddenly made a breakthrough. Brittany perks up in anticipation.
"How the hell can I get us out of this one?" Santana says instead and she sounds so dejected.
Brittany can hear the brokenness and decides that's her cue.
"Hey," She says and gestures for Santana to come closer. The brunette sinks down in the spot next to Brittany and the blonde instantly wraps her arm around Santana's shoulders, "We got this. We can sort it out. There is always a way out."
Santana shakes her head. She's too deep now, "If it comes down to it, I'll take the fall. It was my idea and I don't want you to have to go through what I did."
"Stop," Brittany says sternly and gives Santana a hard look, "No one is going anywhere."
"But my back up plans didn't account for him, B," Santana says disappointedly, "I thought he was out of the game. Retired early and moved to Guadalajara or some crazy shit."
"Well, you said it yourself. People come out of retirement all the time," Brittany shrugs.
"Not helping," Santana pouts.
Brittany gives her an apologetic smile and goes to kiss her cheek.
"I don't know what to do," Santana admits softly. She looks defeated and it about breaks Brittany's heart.
"Listen to me," Brittany starts off softly, "We're going to figure this out. Together. So what if we've hit a little hiccup? We've dealt with worse so this is nothing, alright? Just breathe, babe."
Santana eases slightly and takes a deep breath in. She then releases it slowly and gives Brittany an apologetic smile.
"I'm sorry," Santana says, "Didn't mean to lose my cool. I just wasn't expecting that I guess. Things have been going so smoothly for the most part, I almost forgot there's still a chance something will screw it all up."
"It's okay," Brittany rubs Santana's arm as she gets to thinking of a possible solution, "You can always look on the bright side; if it is the guy you're thinking of it's like a rite of passage or something. He's gone after others in your family, now you can uphold the tradition?"
Santana cracks a small smile, "I was hoping it would skip a generation."
Brittany chuckles, "Well, we can't have everything I guess."
"I guess not," Santana shrugs. She looks a lot more calm than a minute ago but Brittany can still see the gears going so she reaches over and twines their fingers together.
"Don't worry. Like I said, we can figure this out," Brittany reminds her, "You trust me, right?"
Santana looks to her and nods. It's like the only thing she's absolutely certain of. Brittany's the only person she trusts.
"Good," Brittany replies as she begins to smile, "Because I think I might have an idea."
"Possibly. How about we just make sure we know who we're dealing with first? We can do a little digging or something before tonight?" Brittany shrugs before her smile turns cheeky, "But let's drop it for now. There's something I want to ask about…it's off topic."
Santana's already feeling flushed, "Uh-huh?"
"Back at the bookstore," Brittany begins and Santana already knows what she's going to say, "You called me your girlfriend."
Santana smiles shyly, "I did…"
"And you also called me babe," Brittany grins.
Santana laughs a little nervously, "Yeah…it sort of just slipped out. I'm sorry, I know we haven't really talked about anything yet. We've been so wrapped up in the job, we haven't had any time to have this talk."
"Yeah, I know," Brittany replies and pauses before she asks, "Do you think there's a lot to talk about?"
Santana looks to her in confusion.
She doesn't really know what to say. They've been on the same page about things for awhile, they just didn't know it. They've taken the backroads it seems like to get to where they currently are and they haven't followed the typical steps others would in a relationship. First they were friends, then friends with benefits, then there was love but neither of them knew…so that's a lot to unpack.
She guesses that's what they're supposed to do though, right? Talk about things?
Then again, haven't they already done that? They've been doing the dance for years, just never put a label to it before.
"Because I think," Brittany says upon Santana's silence as she brings up the brunette's hand to kiss, "We've done a lot of talking already. I also think being your girlfriend is an awesome idea."
Santana feels relief for some reason and can't stop her smile from growing, "I think being yours would be pretty cool too."
"Great! It's settled then," Brittany beams and pulls Santana in for another kiss, "We're girlfriends now."
Santana just giggles against Brittany's lips, "Good talk."
"The greatest," Brittany winks.
Despite how their day started, Santana and Brittany continue with their plan for later and throw a little get together for the team. They've worked their asses off and despite what's looming over them, they still want to celebrate their hard work. It's nothing fancy; Brittany stocks up on alcohol – not the watered down stuff she used to peddle – and Santana orders a bunch of pizzas. When everyone gets together in the common area they just eat, drink and be merry.
It's kind of nice being around everyone now that the hard part is out of the way. There's a lightness, a sense of relief, and Santana tries to feed into that despite knowing what she does.
"Wine?" Brittany offers Santana a glass.
Santana tears her eyes away from admiring the team and accepts the glass, "Thanks."
"You look like you could use a drink," Brittany replies as she sips her beer, "I've got your favorite tequila if you want to hit the hard stuff."
Santana smirks, "Maybe after this."
They stand off to the side by the record player talking amongst themselves while Brittany sifts through Brittany's vinyl collection. They've both had their eye on the time, anticipating their surprise guest's arrival. Santana sips her wine slowly as she notices the time is drawing near.
The others are situated on the couches stuffing their faces with pizza and carrying on. Mercedes and Tina are laughing their asses off about something Sugar said while Emma and Quinn gossip about the Gala. They all seem to be having a great time; Santana actually feels just a tiny bit bad for the surprise they're about to get.
"She requested I play this when she enters," Brittany shows Santana her Funny Girl record, "Think I should?"
"Hell no," Santana laughs, "Why do you even have that?"
Brittany shrugs, "I think it came with the place."
"Hide that somewhere she can't reach," Santana instructs.
Brittany giggles as she puts on Amy Winehouse instead. Just as she puts the needle on, Rachel's breezing through the door.
"Greetings everyone!" Rachel says brightly as she makes her way in. Her gaze moves up to the high ceilings of the loft, "Oh wow. This place is gorgeous."
"Oh shit!" Someone gasps – Santana isn't sure who.
Then it's mayhem; Sugar pushes Tina out of the way and practically uses the poor girl as a step stool as she throws herself over the back of the couch to hide. A wailing Tina knocks into Quinn as she tumbles off the couch. Quinn chokes on her wine and Mercedes has to smack at her back to get her to breathe while Emma nearly faints.
Santana and Brittany just watch it all happen from beside the record player.
"You people are so damn dramatic," Santana chastises before taking a sip of her wine.
"What's she doing here?" Quinn asks once she recovers. She's red in the face from all the coughing while the others stare at Rachel in disbelief.
"We invited her," Santana replies simply as she takes a step closer to them with Brittany trailing her.
"You what? Why?" Tina asks.
Sugar's peeking up over the back of the couch checking to see if its safe while Emma looks warily at Rachel who is now sitting on the other side of Quinn.
"Because she caught on to what we were doing," Santana tells them simply.
They look between each other confused but before they can ask any more questions, Rachel begins to explain.
"Santana is correct. There were several moments that stood out to me before I was certain. For example, I saw Emma taking pictures of me but that one didn't bother me as much since I'm use to photos being taken without my permission. It was her bad acting that did it for me," Rachel says.
Emma looks down at her glass guiltily.
"I'm sure you're quite familiar with that, huh?" Brittany smirks from behind her beer bottle.
"I am, yes," Rachel replies seriously, "So I started to become skeptical. I thought to myself; why is Emma so adamant on using the necklace? Why did her voice waiver when she said I have one of the greatest necks in the world? Why would she lie about that when it's obviously true?"
Santana rolls her eyes but stays quiet as Rachel continues.
"Then at the dinner when I was suddenly so incredibly ill. That never happens to me," Rachel pause and looks to the person next to her which happens to be Quinn, "You know, I pride myself on my gag reflex – or lack thereof – so I knew something was up when I just couldn't choke it back."
Quinn looks both scandalized and disgusted, "Why did you look at me when you said that?"
Rachel shrugs, "I thought we were bonding?"
"I literally just met you…"
"Anyway," Santana interrupts, "Somehow Rachel figured us out so now she's one of us. Get used to it."
Rachel smiles proudly as she stands before the group, "I appreciate it, Santana. I look forward to becoming great friends with you all. You have no idea how hard it is to find people that would never make fun of me."
"Not to her face, no way," Brittany whispers to Santana.
Santana elbows her gently, "Be nice."
"Says you," Brittany jokes.
Tina looks like she's warming up to Rachel already who is starting to make her rounds in introducing herself properly.
"Can't be that bad, right?" Tina asks hopefully, "I think it would be cool being friends with someone famous."
"You say that now…" Emma warns.
"She probably knows other famous people too," Sugar beams at the prospect, "And famous people have a ton of expensive stuff they don't need. They won't even know anything's missing I bet."
Tina's jaw drops, "Sugar…no."
"I think you mean Sugar yes!" Sugar grins devilishly.
Meanwhile Rachel's shaking Mercedes' hand, "Yes hi, I'm award winning singer, songwriter, actress Rachel Berry. Pleased to meet you."
As Rachel goes on to the next person – Sugar – and recites the same damn thing, Mercedes holds up her hand.
"What the hell is this?" Mercedes asks. On the back of her hand is a small gold star sticker.
"Everyone I touch becomes a star," Rachel says casually, "It's my thing."
"Oh no, I'm having second thoughts," Sugar frowns.
Mercedes eyes Santana with a disapproving look while Sugar inspects her own star sticker before raising her hand.
"Question?" Sugar says, "Do we have to?"
Santana rolls her eyes, "Yes. Yes we have to."
Sugar pouts. Emma's looking to her side as Rachel nears – she's currently sticking a gold star sticker to the back of Tina's hand. Tina's the only one out of the group that looks down at the back of her hand happily.
"I don't think I can go through this again," Emma mumbles.
"Same," Quinn notes, already trying to peel off her sticker.
Rachel hears them both and frowns, "That's kind of rude. I'm saving you guys from insurance fraud and this is how you welcome me?"
"Hold up," Mercedes raises a finger, "What?"
"Did she say insurance fraud?" Quinn questions and shoots a glare at Santana, "What is she talking about?"
Brittany narrows her eyes at Rachel, "Way to go."
Everyone starts to panic a little but Santana's quick to put a stop to it.
"Calm down! I was going to get to that," Santana says, "So there's an investigation going on but there's no need for everyone to flip their shit. Everything's under control."
"We're so screwed," Tina groans. Sugar and Mercedes look worried too, while Quinn just eyes Santana and Brittany analytically.
"I can't go to jail. I can't!" Emma cries as she begins to rock back and forth, "There isn't enough disinfectant wipes in the world to clean that place. I wouldn't make it out alive."
"You make it sound like people smear shit on the walls," Santana says.
"Well, do they?" Tina asks. Sugar looks equally intrigued.
Santana smirks, "Depends who you're stuck with. There are some real crazies in there, prime reason why I got myself thrown in solitary."
Emma looks like she's just died a little on the inside. Tina and Sugar's jaws drop. Rachel looks disgusted. Quinn and Mercedes just shake their heads.
"That was mean," Brittany points out. There's a small smile there so Santana doesn't feel too bad.
"Look, it's a lot cleaner than you think," Santana assures them, "But no one's going to jail, alright? Trust."
No one looks convinced except for Brittany and Quinn.
"Listen, Auntie Snixx is going to take care of everything so no need for the hysterics," Santana adds, "You're forgetting that I'm a professional and I've got a legacy to uphold so that's fueling me even more. I've done a little digging in my free time and found out who the investigator is. I'm aware of his work and he's aware of mine. I'm going to set up a meeting soon and handle it."
"You're going to him?" Tina asks, "Doesn't that defeat the purpose of laying low?"
"He's going to find me eventually, that's just how it is. Might as well cut the crap and get straight to it," Santana replies, "I'm not worried so none of you should be either. We've prepared for this. No one here is going to be the prime suspect."
Brittany smiles proudly at her girlfriend. She knows just a few hours ago Santana was equally as stressed as the others are now, so to see her like this – taking charge and reassuring everyone – is a great sight to see.
It's also super hot.
"Then who will be?" Sugar asks then looks to Rachel and it's like everything makes sense, "Shit. Is it Rachel?"
"What?" Rachel snaps and looks to Santana, "You betrayed me!"
"Oh my God," Santana kneads her brow, "Why did I think this was a good idea?"
She glances at Brittany who nods like she gets it. Brittany just rubs at her back comfortingly.
"We have a few to pick from – and no, Rachel, you aren't one of them. How would that even work?" Santana replies then holds up a finger when Rachel opens her mouth to answer, "Don't answer that. Anyway, there's the incompetent security guards on duty, the lazy busboy, or – "
"The Ego," Quinn supplies with a knowing smirk.
"The who?" Tina asks Mercedes.
"Girl, how would I know?" Mercedes shrugs.
"I thought you knew everything?" Tina replies.
"What do I look like, a damn wizard?" Mercedes responds.
"I think that's Santana's ex," Sugar whispers loudly for all to hear, "The one that sent her to jail."
Santana ignores them all and mirrors Quinn's smirk, "Or her, yes. Rachel's date, Dani, can also be a suspect."
"Wait, you dated Dani?" Rachel looks thrilled, "This keeps getting better and better! The drama, the angst, the layers! It's so satisfying, I have so much to catch up on."
Santana just shrugs and keeps her tone nonchalant, "They were going to look for someone, might as well be her. Right? As long as they're looking anywhere else but at us."
"And you told me you just wanted her to suffer through a dinner with Rachel," Quinn eyes Santana before shaking her head, "You sneaky bitch."
Rachel frowns, "Suffer? I'm an excellent conversationalist. Dani seemed to enjoy herself just fine."
Brittany scrunches her nose, "Gross. Keep that shit to yourself, Rachel. People are still trying to eat here."
Rachel glances to the pizza boxes, "Are any of these vegan?"
Emma pushes the vegetarian pizza box closer. Rachel bows her head in delight.
"Sorry Q," Santana ignores Rachel and says, "I couldn't compromise that part of the plan until it was final. You get it."
Quinn's not too bothered, "You did what you had to. I respect that. Just don't get me arrested."
"I won't. If everything goes according to plan, Dani will potentially go down for all of this," Santana explains, "But we aren't in the clear yet so everyone's going to have to lay low for a bit. There are still a few loose ends to tie up and we don't want to take any chances."
Everyone's pretty understanding – minus Sugar who groans and stomps her foot like a child.
"Can I just say how amazing it is to be apart of this?" Rachel beams, "I don't vomit for just anyone so I'm really honored to have played an important role. It's the precision and the attention to detail and the little grace notes that really makes something sing. Brava ladies."
She goes on to clap but no one but Tina is moved by her little speech.
Quinn just laughs at her, "You must not have many friends."
"No, not really," Rachel sighs, "That's precisely why this is great for me. I've always wanted to join a girl gang full of criminals, so much better than a book club."
Quinn nods, she actually can relate to that. Book clubs are the worst.
Rachel glances to her side at Mercedes as everyone starts to chat amongst themselves again, "May I ask, what are you drinking?"
Mercedes looks to her glass then back at Rachel, "Pinot Noir?"
"Yum! I love a full-bodied red. I tasted the very best during my time in France," Rachel babbles, "Have you ever been?"
"Do I look like I've been to France?" Mercedes questions.
Rachel sits back, "I – I don't know how to answer that…"
"I'll get you a glass, Rachel," Tina says with a friendly pat on Rachel's shoulder.
"That's so kind of you," Rachel smiles in relief.
Off to the side, Santana and Brittany watch the gang slowly – like very slowly – warm up to Rachel's presence. She's just a lot all at once but Santana believes she'll prove her worth sometime soon.
"See," Santana nudges Brittany, "Told you they'd all get along."
Brittany chuckles, "Is that what you're calling it?"
Santana shrugs, "It's working out better than I expected, that's for sure."
"Get a few shots in them and they'll all be the bestest of friends," Brittany nods and takes a long sip of her beer before asking, "So you've decided you're going to call him?"
"Who? The fucker who's trying to throw a wrench in all my hard work?"
Brittany smirks, "Yeah. That one."
Santana sighs and rests heavily against Brittany, "Yeah. I will but it's tomorrow's problem now. Tonight's a night for celebrating."
Brittany just smiles and clinks her beer bottle against Santana's wine glass.
A/N - One more chapter to go! Are you sad? I am. Anyway, peep that Lopez's 8 'soundtrack' on Spotify. Really it's just a bunch of songs that have either triggered a scene in all of this or helped me create a vibe. Feel free to hit me up on Tumblr with one of the songs on the playlist and I'll tell you a scene! Also, happy 'early' halloween!