agentb81 (agentb81) wrote,
agentb81
agentb81

Fic: Empire State of Mind – Chapter 1: Sweat and Tears

Title:  Empire State of Mind – Chapter 1: Sweat and Tears
Author: agentb81
Fandom: Glee
Pairing: Brittany/Santana
Rating: generally 15 – R (may reach NC-17 in some chapters)
Word Count: 7950
Disclaimer: Glee is copyrighted and belongs to the creators and Fox. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Use of other personalities is not a reflection of their real lives and is completely fictional. Title taken from Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind, this fiction does not use any other material from the song.
Summary:  AU Two very different young women find themselves in the big city of New York about to embark on the biggest career moves of their lives.
Spoilers: None.
A/N: For S, you rock.

Previous Chapters: Prologue


The perspiration formed at her brow, the day had been long, preparations were limitless and this was barely the beginning. She sighed with frustration, wiping the back of her hand across her forehead as she sat down for the first time that day. One hour till show time. One hour till years of hard work would finally and hopefully pay off. Hope. That was one thing that prospered, lingered, it was a constant, no matter what happened, there was always hope. Even through the blood, sweat and tears, there was hope.

Sweat.
 
It was hot. A vast difference to the climate outside of the confines of the restaurant. Santana was used to the heat of the kitchen, normally she would acclimatise fairly quickly, however the added pressure, the constant running around with last minute preparations had her body temperature soaring higher than usual. She felt stifled, suffocated even. The first moment she had, the brunette stripped off her apron and headed toward the fire exit. Her whole body weight pressed against the bar on the door in desperation, the cold air hitting her like a freight train. She was stunned by the sudden coolness, taking a deep breath, inhaling the less than fresh air. This was a well built city after all. She felt the caress of the air over her arms, the faint hairs standing on end in protest. Folding her arms over her chest she set her back against the rough brick wall, her head falling back and eyes closing for a moment's peace. The Latina smiled at the irony as she heard the distant sound of sirens, the constant honking of car horns and the unique hum that was Manhattan. It was so detached from her life in Los Angeles, yet there was something so warming, so familiar about it all, perhaps it was the New York charm she had heard so much about.
 
Slinking down the wall Santana sat on an empty crate, her elbows rested on her knees and she slowly placed her head in her hands. Closing her eyes for a second time, the Latina sighed heavily. It had already been a long day, yet there was so much more to come. All the initial preparation was complete. The brunette was elated with the team effort of the kitchen staff and equally impressed with the encouragement and help from the wait staff also. So far, so very good, however, she firmly believed this could very well be the calm before the storm. Today she had learnt a lot about her work colleagues, despite having spent time with them previously, today was the day that would test her tolerance. She knew the real test would happen as soon as the doors opened for evening service, the introduction of the new menu. She was prepared for a barrage of complaints from regulars, people expecting to see their favourite dishes on the menu. However, it was Santana's intention to create an exciting menu full of new favourites.
 
She froze momentarily upon hearing the squeak of an un-oiled door, followed by a nervous shuffling. Rolling her eyes at the moment she knew she had been interrupted, she turned her head to the intruder.
"Santana?" the voice asked, an air of confidence washing through the other person. "What are you doing out here?" Santana sighed, she briefly cast her eyes towards the grey angry skies before returning her attention to the only other person in the alley.
"I was hot." she stated simply with a shrug.
"If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen right?" Santana smirked, there was only one person she had come across at the restaurant with enough bravado to almost match hers.
"Touché Quinn." replied the Latina with a small laugh. The blonde smiled sweetly and stepped further into the alley.
"I thought you chef types were like heat resistant or something."
"I thought you blonde types were less," the brunette waved her hand in the air, urging herself to conjure an appropriate description, "inquisitive." Quinn laughed at the Latina's response. Santana smiled, she liked Quinn, they had immediately warmed to one another, she could not deny that the blonde's sweet lazy smile and smouldering searching eyes had immediately attracted her, but soon realised the restaurant manager would be the perfect person to challenge her professionally and become someone she could trust and rely on. Maybe further down the line they could be friends, she thought fleetingly. The blonde had somehow appeared next to her on the crate, bumping her shoulder and hip along to give her more space.
"I'm not your typical blonde." Quinn finally replied with a small smile. Santana's heart raced a little, noticing the challenging glint in the other woman's eyes. Flummoxed slightly, she was unsure how to respond, she smiled widely, it was a useful gap filler, it would buy her a couple of seconds as she thought of a quip.
"And I'm not your typical chef." struggling to keep her smile in place, the brunette mentally slapped herself for the lame response.
"Oh but I think you are." Quinn said with a gentle nod and a slightly raised eyebrow. Santana forced her gaze away from the alluring eyes and glanced at the blonde's folded hands resting in her lap atop her crossed legs. "You've done nothing to convince me otherwise Santana." The Latina was confused. She had to ask herself if the blonde beside her was flirting with her. She had a feeling that she could be, yet Quinn had always struck her as the professional type. In all actuality, Santana was certain the restaurant manager was straight. "You think too much." Quinn said, forcing confused brown eyes to meet her own. "You don't want frown lines to tarnish your pretty face." she said as she stood. Santana looked at her bewildered. "Come on, one hour till opening, you'll have plenty of time to think later." and with that, she watched as the other woman disappeared through the back door of the restaurant. Her gaze followed the empty path left from the blonde and Santana shook her head with a wry smile. Deciding to take Quinn's advice, the brunette stood and stretched out her legs, followed by her arms extending into the air. Taking one last deep breath of cool air, she headed for the door, preparing herself for the sauna she was about to step into.
 
The hour flew by in an instant, Quinn was right, Santana had little time to think, it was all business. She had re-entered the kitchen with her trademark stern face, masking whatever feelings she was harbouring underneath. It was a trick she had perfected over the years, having been an only child, followed by the constant disappointments and let downs in her social life had taught to not be so open and welcoming. She could and she would blame her profession. The anti social hours and her ambition had often caused her hurt in relationships with the people around her. She flitted easily from one friendship group to another, mainly through the jobs she had taken, not really settling in for them to be lasting friendships.  It took time for her to be able to form new bonds and trust people, yet here she was, gazing at a blonde who could potentially break her cycle. Or maybe, she was drawn to Quinn because the manager was the same age as her, had a similar air of confidence and appeared to be as equally ambitious.
 
Santana had just ended a meeting with the restaurant staff, finalising dish details and preparing the wait staff and Maitre d. She had quickly earned the respect of the workers, something which made her smirk with pride, she had perfected that over the years and had consequently risen through the ranks fairly quickly, doubled with her culinary and creative abilities. Her eyes surveyed the number of faces before her. The Latina had learnt names and faces quickly, even picking up on strengths and weaknesses, utilising the former in order to benefit both herself and the restaurant. She was a natural leader. The brunette cast an eye to her left, briefly looking at Quinn before her gaze fell on the Matre d immediately beside her.
"The floor is yours Mr Hummel." she smiled warmly.
"Thank you Chef." Kurt replied with a small blush, accompanied by a smile. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have just one thing to say, it's show time!" he dramatically threw his hands in the air, throwing his head back in the process. Kurt Hummel was a performer, his role as Matre d only temporary as each day he would attend a performing arts college, perfecting his talent. Kurt believed he belonged on the stage and was hoping that someday soon, his opportunity would arise. The Latina had taken an instant shine to the young man, he dreamt big and had travelled thousands of miles to a foreign city in order to realise those dreams. He had reminded her of herself, travelling to Europe to master the craft she so strongly felt was her fate. As everyone drifted off into their sections, the Latina placed a hand on Kurt's jacket sleeve. His eyes immediately darted to the foreign hand on his arm, a wave of disgust shot across his gaze before he realised who the hand belonged to. He quickly smiled, almost apologetically as he met the stern brown eyes of the chef.
"Hey," she began, "don't be nervous." the Latina reassured, sensing a slight air of uneasiness.
"I'm not, just excited." Kurt replied. The brunette narrowed her eyes suspiciously but let it slide and decided to change the subject having noticed a distinct lack of interruptions during her pep talk.
"Where's the midget?" Santana asked with complete seriousness. Kurt cocked his head to the side thoughtfully, he opened his mouth to speak.
"Are you referring to Rachel?" he asked carefully. Santana rolled her eyes at the Matre d's response.
"Is she the short one with the big mouth and the even bigger ego?" Santana asked with a lilt.
"Well, yes. She's at the opening of a new Broadway show, but . . ." Kurt began, his gaze becoming more curious the more he thought about Santana's question. "Why do you care where she is?" The head chef shrugged nonchalantly, before a look of careless disdain spread across her face.
"One diva on duty tonight is enough." she replied with a smirk. Kurt feigned shock, placing a melodramatic hand over his heart, however, it soon turned into a hundred watt smile.
"I will take that as a compliment."
"Of course you will." the brunette began, "You types are all the same." she said without mirth. No sooner had the words left the Latina's mouth had Kurt's own gaped in horror. Santana's eyes widened, she too latching on to the words that she had moments ago spilled. Her hands shot up in front of her, assuming a defensive stance, her head shaking from side to side, her ponytail swishing in motion.
"Ohmygod." A voice interrupted. Two heads spun to meet the intruder.
"No, no, no," Santana vocalised, "I swear that's not what I meant." she said in haste.
"Then what did you mean Santana?" Quinn asked, her arms folded firmly across her chest. Kurt waited patiently for the answer. He was shocked to hear the words leave Santana's mouth, he knew she could be harsh, he had witnessed the brunette reduce a kitchen hand to tears, but that was work and Santana was a diehard professional. Perhaps that was another reason why he was so surprised, she had made it personal. Or so he thought.
"Theatre types." The brunette all but yelled forcefully, willing to get her point across. A momentary silence was followed by a chorus of 'oh's'. "I can't believe you thought . . . ." Santana trailed off, slightly hurt. Kurt shrugged.
"If I'm completely honest? I didn't know what to think Chef." he replied, his hands waving around with uncertainty. "You're all business, all of the time. You haven't shown any of us any humility at all. So what are we supposed to think?"
"That's not strictly true." Quinn stepped in, her feet shuffling nervously, avoiding eye contact. "She's ok you know?" the blonde said, finally lifting her eyes, offering a small shy smile to the brunette.
"Oh that's great, it's opening night, she's been here what? Three weeks? And only now we're finding out she's ok? After inadvertently insulting me and my type." rambled Kurt, Quinn and Santana shared a bewildered look, the restaurant manager shrugging her ignorance. Without waiting for a response he continued, "You know Chef," he directed at Santana, "we respect you, you have proved your talent, you're a great leader, but you need to show some sort of human emotion, interact a little more with the staff because otherwise, misunderstandings like these happen." he paused, "I'm not asking you to share your deepest darkest secrets, but we're like family here, we work in a highly pressurised environment. We have to trust one another and above all, accept one another." Quinn's narrowed eyes were trained on the brunette, intrigued how she would react to Kurt's words. The chef was unreadable, when Kurt was met with silence, he winced slightly, worrying he had overstepped the mark. Santana after all harboured a reputation for being all work and no play. The brunette stood hands on hips, head cocked to the side, her pony tail hung still behind her. She was emotionless and guarded, like she had been since arriving in New York. She had always been careful around new people, slowly building her trust for fear of being let down like she had many times in the past.
"Are you done?" she asked as she crossed her arms over her chest, a stern frown blanketed her features.  Her words elicited a small nod from the boy before her. "What was that? Your next audition monologue?" Santana's attempt at humour died on her lips, it was not something her new colleagues were accustomed to and so took the chef at her word.
"Erm, no I just . . ."
"Relax Hummel. I didn't mean to ruffle any feathers." she said, her hand shot up once again, "That pun wasn't intended." she said, Quinn stifled a giggle beside her.
"Noted." Kurt said, his nose turned up slightly. "You're a hard one to figure out." he mumbled quietly. The Latina's frown remained, a sadness quickly glazed over her eyes before they hit the floorboards, the grainy wood suddenly appearing to be more interesting than she had imagined. The silence was deafening, Quinn looked to Kurt who shrugged and shook his head, unsure of what to say or do next. Santana carefully went through a very specific thought process, it felt as though time had stilled, she had many a time freely spoken the words that she was battling so hard against at that very moment. Eventually she looked up into two pairs of inquisitive, nervous eyes, awaiting some sort of a response. Her heart lay heavy in her chest, she felt like a foreigner in this city, yet these people she had spent a considerable amount of her waking day with for the past several weeks. She had picked up on quirks and behaviours, knew how certain people would react by the way she spoke to them. Every day she had learnt something new about each of her colleagues and to her it was endearing, yet, she had given very little away herself. If anything, Santana had created her own foreign identity, a secret identity. Kurt was right, she was always careful of trusting others, always seeking reassurances from them and wanting to learn more about them, but how could anyone trust her if she never gave a little rope herself?
"Look," Santana stated with a heavy sigh, her arms unfolded, falling heavily to her sides, she leaned in glancing sideways before settling her eyes on the Matre d, in a hushed tone she spoke again, "I'm gay, ok? It's not something I hide but I don't let it define me either. It's hard enough being a female in a male dominated profession, I've been bullied and ridiculed as much as anyone, but when I'm at work, I'm a chef. I create food and I love my job. I'm sorry if I seemed unapproachable or even guarded, but I've had to be to get this far." she risked a look at the blonde beside her, Quinn's mouth was agape slightly, her eyes questioning yet portrayed an element of understanding. Looking at Kurt, she saw nothing but admiration.
"You didn't have to say that." he said. The brunette shrugged.
"I did." Santana said with a small affirming nod, as much for herself than for anyone else.
"Thank you." Kurt replied with a warm smile. Quinn watched the interaction between her two colleagues with a renewed interest.
"What for?"
"For being you." he stated simply. Santana laughed nervously.
"Back home it wasn't a big deal, but everything is new here and I'm sorry if I appear void of human emotion, but I can assure you, it's solely because of human emotion that I am the way I am."
"Wow." Quinn said quietly, "Santana Lopez, I think I just learnt more about you in the last ten minutes than I have the last three weeks."
"Don't get used to it Fabray, you either Hummel. Now get your ass over to that door, customers are waiting."
"Arh, there's the chef we know and love." Kurt joked, slapping Santana playfully on the back.
"Watch it Hummel." she seethed as she turned toward the kitchen door, she could hear the Matre d make his way over to the front the front door, donning his professional persona. "Good evening and welcome. This is Empire State of Mind." was the last thing Santana heard as the door closed behind her.

Tears.
 
She sat in front of the mirror, the bright lights highlighting the tiredness of her eyes, the fatigue she was feeling following an incredible day of final rehearsals and preparation before gracing the stage for the opening night. And what a night. This had been her dream for years. Her mind drifted back to a morning in kindergarten, spinning around freely, laughing as she spun out of control and landed firmly on her backside. Movement had always been something Brittany was good at. She was a fidgety child, always having to be doing something, unable to sit still for any amount of time. The small blonde was a little bundle of energy and her parents had desperately tried everything to calm the girl down, or at least, put that energy to good use. It was one autumn Saturday afternoon in the Pierce's garage, Ray Pierce had his head buried under the hood of his vintage Chevy, his little blonde assistant occasionally passing tools to her father. The radio blared out classic tunes, it was Ray's ideal afternoon, working on his hobby, spending time with his daughter and listening to his favourite music.  It was when he asked for a cloth and received no response that he frowned and cautiously removed himself from the car. "Brittany?" he called, only to be met with joyful giggles. Following the sounds, he rounded the car, his heart melting at the sight. Little Brittany Pierce was dancing in the middle of the garage, waving her arms, shaking her booty and occasionally jumping up and down. Ray smiled at the sight before him, the proverbial light bulb pinging in his head. 'I think we've found a way to utilise that energy.’
 
Ever thankful to her parents, Brittany smiled at her own reflection, tears stinging her eyes slightly as they threatened to spill from her eyes. The air in the room changed, it somehow seemed warmer, recognising the atmosphere and the familiar feeling throughout her being, the very man who had featured in Brittany's reverie appeared behind her in the mirror, his hand resting gently on her shoulder.
"You were wonderful pumpkin." The star leapt up out of her seat and spun around into her father's waiting arms.
"Daddy." she sighed, loosing herself in the giant cuddle. If anyone were ever to be described as a daddy's girl, it was Brittany Pierce. She would forever follow him around like a lost puppy when she was younger, always intrigued in whatever he was doing. Her mother would often watch with a doting adoration, knowing she and her daughter shared their own special bond, particularly when it came to dancing.
 
It had been her mother's own dream to become a dancer throughout high school. Forever entering and succeeding in competition, however due an unfortunate set of circumstances involving a cheerleading pyramid and an untimely tumble meant the elder blonde would never dance the same again. Valerie Pierce had the utmost respect for her daughter. Never once had she pushed Brittany into pursuing a career in dance, however, the overwhelming sense of pride she felt every time she watched her daughter grace the stage enveloped her completely. "Brittany." she said quietly, causing the blonde to drop her arms from around her father.
"Momma." Brittany whispered with raw emotion. She knew this day was as big for her mother as it was for her. Not a day passed without her being eternally grateful to have her family around her and they were a tight family unit. She flung her arms tightly around her mother, pulling her close, her eyes scrunching shut for fear of her emotions taking over. The elder blonde mirrored Brittany's actions, only a small sob escaped her trembling lips. "Momma," the dancer repeated, mumbling against her mother's ear, "shh it's ok." she smiled.
"I know sweetheart." Valerie replied, she gently tugged away, her finger swiping at the lone tear from her eye. "I'm just so proud of you." she concluded, smiling through obvious emotional turmoil. Her reward was a beaming smile from her daughter.
"I love you Mom." The blonde swayed slightly on the spot, she had changed into a casual pair of jeans, a simple white t-shirt, her hair hung long over her shoulders.
"I love you too sweetheart." Valerie couldn't help the now free flowing tears, her husband sidled up to her and swung a comforting arm around her shoulders, squeezing Valerie into his side and placed a sweet kiss atop her head.
"Can't take her anywhere huh?" he said, with a quick raise of the eyebrow. Brittany giggled and threw herself at her parents for an impromptu group hug. The young blonde dancer was not one to shed a tear easily, however it was moments like these, spent alone with her parents that made her appreciate them so much more and how lucky she was to be in the situation she now found herself. Reluctantly, the trio pulled apart, Valerie wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. Ray's hand not wavering from her shoulder, showering her with the love and support as much now as he had thirty years previous when they first met. "Where do you want to eat sweetheart?" he asked, his question pointed toward Brittany. She looked thoughtful for a moment before her eyes widened and she jumped up and down excitedly.
"Oh, oh." she squealed, waving her arms about excitedly, her parents watching adoringly, "You know where I want to eat." she grinned.
"Well grab your coat then sweetheart." Ray said. Before guiding his girls out of the room, "Hope you girls are hungry."
 
They walked the short block to the restaurant, Brittany bouncing along, exuding as much energy as a playful puppy. She was flanked by her parents, their arms linked forming a human chain covering half the sidewalk much to the chagrin of a number of passing New Yorkers. However, the Pierce's were blissfully unaware of any annoyed stares and angry murmurs as they rounded the corner and were faced with their destination. Standing before the huge glass windows, Brittany stared at the restaurant's sign in bright lights and sighed happily. 'Empire State of Mind'. It promised everything New York, a unique mix of cultures in one place. Letting go of her parent's arms, the blonde excitedly bounced through the welcoming doors.
"Good evening, welcome to Empire State of Mind, how can we help you this evening ma'am?" the Matre d politely asked.
"Can we get a table for three please?" Ray asked.
"Coming right up sir."
"It's like really busy tonight." Brittany observed.
"Not your first time?" Kurt asked warmly, weaving through tables to a vacant spot.
"We came here a few times on our last visit before Christmas." Valerie explained as they came to a halt. Setting the menus down on the table, Kurt smiled at the obvious excitement and exuberance of the young blonde woman. Ever the epitome of exceptional customer service, the Matre d continued the conversation.
"Are you here for a special occasion?"
"Yes!" exclaimed Brittany as she sat herself at the ivory clothed table.
"We just watched our little girl in her opening Broadway show." Ray announced proudly, patting his girl on the back with affection and pride.
"Fabulous!" Kurt said with equal fervour. An aspiring Broadway star himself, he was eager to mix in said circles. "Well let me get you a bottle of our finest Champagne, on the house." he offered with enthusiasm.
"Oh I don't know . . ." Valerie began.
"Nonsense," Kurt replied with a wave of the hand. "We pride ourselves at being at the heart of Broadway and often have cast and crew dining here. It's a major selling point for patrons."
"Is that why you're so busy, I mean, it's like eleven o'clock." Kurt smiled at the dancer's words. "It wasn't so busy the last time." the Matre d held a finger and an eyebrow in the air as if he were about to explain.
"Miss?"
"Pierce."
"Miss Pierce," the young aspiring actor began, as if starting a fairy tale, "today we have introduced a new menu. We have an incredibly talented new head chef who has revitalised the restaurant to bring it back to its full glory."
"Oh." Brittany said with a slight frown, much to Kurt's dismay, "Does that mean no spaghetti meatballs?"
"Unfortunately that dish is no longer on the menu." he stated sadly, feeling the girl's disappointment.
"Don't worry honey, they'll be something else you like." Ray encouraged, his hand tapping the top of his daughter's. Kurt watched in awe as Brittany's eyes flickered from sadness to reassured.
"You are such an adorable family." the boy stated. "Now, let me fetch you your Champagne, your waiter will be over shortly to take your order." Valerie placed a hand on Kurt's arm and read his name tag before lifting her baby blue eyes to meet his.
"Thank you Kurt." she replied with a warm genuine smile. She was elated to be here with here in such a big foreign city with her family, yet so far she had never felt so at home.
 
"It was fabulous, and the lead, what a gamble, she was marvellous, a relative unknown but I've heard wonderful reviews about her, she was starting to make a name for herself in the West End when she was spotted and here she is. I mean, I know talent when I see it and she is one to watch."
"Does she have a name?" Kurt asked with his back to the petite brunette, pulling three champagne flutes from the shelf and examining the cleanliness, occasionally wiping the edge with a cloth. Rachel Berry sat animatedly at the bar, sipping on a Martini, enjoying being a customer for the evening.
"Yes, of course, she's called Brittany Pierce and she's . . . right over there, holy crap. How's my hair?"
"Your hair's fine, but I think you have a touch of verbal diarrhoea." Santana said as she took a seat beside the waitress. Rachel scoffed and turned her attention back to the drink before her.
"Shouldn't you be in the kitchen?"
"Ever heard of a Sous Chef Berry?" Santana grinned.
"Surely you can't expect Finn to do all of the cooking, I mean look at this place, it's amazingly full for this time of night."
"What can I say? It's my amazing talent bringing in the hoards."
"Well I can't deny you have talent Santana." The Latina rolled her eyes and jumped off the bar stool, rounding the bar to pour herself an orange juice, just as Kurt picked up the Champagne in the cooler.
"Where's that going?" Santana asked casually. Kurt nodded over to the table of three. The Latina followed his gaze, her eyes landing on the family.
"To our newest Broadway celebrity." he grinned before turning to Rachel, a firm glare now in place, "You, stay away." he stated with a sense of urgency. Santana smirked as she brushed passed the pair and headed toward the kitchen.
 
As Kurt placed the Champagne and glasses on the table, the waiter appeared, his uniform, black slacks, white buttoned shirt with black tie and black waistcoat, in keeping with the white and black theme of the restaurant.
"Hi I'm Artie, I will be your waiter this evening." he said, smiling brightly at Brittany. "What can I get for you?" his pad and pen poised in his hands.
"I want spaghetti." Brittany stropped.
"I'm sorry Miss, spaghetti is no longer an option on the menu, may I suggest the
Tagliatelle Alfredo?"
"I don't know what you just said." Brittany said sincerely.
"It's Tagliattelle pasta with strips of chicken in a cream and mushroom sauce." Artie replied.
"That sounds good, I'll have that." Ray jumped in.
"I prefer tomato based sauces with my pasta." Brittany replied thoughtfully.
"There are other things on the menu honey." Valerie suggested.
"I know," the blonde sighed, "I really built up an appetite for pasta."
"Then may I suggest Linguine alla Siciliana." Upon seeing the blonde's confused expression once again, Artie continued, "It's pasta strips with mixed peppers,
aubergine, courgette and black olives in a tomato and basil sauce." he explained, as he subtly pushed his glasses further up his nose. He found it increasingly difficult to tear his eyes away from the blonde beauty. "It's the chef's special."
"Ok." Brittany agreed with a defeated shrug, handing her menu across the table.
"I'll have the same." Valerie concluded.
"Very good ma'am, any starters or sides?" in reply to the waiter, Ray ordered several starters to share before he too handed his menu back to the waiter. Artie nodded with a smile, his eyes lingering on Brittany a little longer than he probably should have and left the table.
"Someone has a fan." Ray sniggered as the boy walked away.
"Oh shut up Dad." Brittany scolded, slapping her father lightly on the arm.
"I thought he was rather cute." chirped Valerie as she unfolded her napkin and placed it in her lap in preparation for her food.
"You would." scoffed the dancer.
"Brittany." her father warned.
"I just," Brittany began, she sighed in frustration. "We've been through this before. No matchmaking mother." she warned.
"Now you have your career on track, I just want you to find a nice boy to settle down with."
"Or girl." Brittany stated. Valerie sighed, this had been the one thorn in the family’s side. She accepted that the dancer was less than rigid in her choice of partner, yet it remained something Mrs Pierce had to get used to and occasionally her denial would seep out. Ignoring her daughter's statement, Valerie continued.
"You are going to have to be very careful who you liaise with now Brittany. You're going to become well known and some people will only be after one thing."
"Mom, I get it." her daughter began. Ray watched the exchange uncomfortably, he had never had a problem with Brittany's sexuality and had been a major player in slowly convincing Valerie to be more accepting, despite the fact she loved her daughter unconditionally. Valerie had been brought up a devout Christian, therefore her beliefs often bubbled to the surface, even when she did not want them to. Brittany wiped away a stray tear, thankful neither one of her parents noticed.
 
Dinner arrived, the two blonde's managed to push their differences aside and spoke of Brittany's performance and the show. The excitement and jovial mood returned, although a little tired and strained, it had been a long day for the trio.  Half way through eating, their waiter interrupted.
"Is everything ok with the meals?" he asked.
"Seriously, this is the best food ever." Brittany exclaimed, Artie smiled lazily, proud of his recommendation, however the next words out of the dancer's mouth were not quite what he had wanted to hear. "Your new chef is amazing, please pass on my compliments." she said with sincerity.
"I shall."
"Can we meet the chef?" Ray asked enthusiastically, as the father a Broadway star, he thought it was a reasonable thing to ask.
"I shall see if that is feasible." Artie replied and turned toward the kitchen.
"I swear, I'm going to marry the chef, this food is amazing." Brittany cooed. Valerie smiled.
"Just what you need sweetheart, a good man to look after you . . ." the dancer was about to respond when Artie returned to the table.
"I'm sorry Chef Lopez is unable to leave the kitchen but appreciates your comments and we hope you return in the future." he said. "Can I get you any more drinks?"
"No thank you." Brittany replied abruptly. Artie turned and walked away, dejected, returning to the bar where he was accosted by one Rachel Berry.
 
"She's so hot." he dreamed, "But also kinda rude." Rachel snorted, causing a frown from the waiter, "What?"
"You're rude too Artie." Rachel slurred after several Maritini's, "Besides, she's a Broadway star now, or soon will be, it's part of the job description."
"What's your excuse?" Quinn asked as she swooped into the conversation, visibly annoyed by her colleague. "What are you doing here anyway?"
"I'm having an after show drink."
"Or three." Sam the blonde shaggy haired barman retorted, Quinn offered him a sweet smile, who returned it tenfold.
"Can't I show a bit of support to my colleagues on launch night?" Rachel offered.
"Do you know what would have shown more support Rachel? Agreeing to work!" Quinn stated with slight disdain.
"I booked this day off months in advance, it's not my fault Chef extraordinaire chose this night to launch her new menu."
"Hey," Quinn began, her finger pointing accusingly in Rachel's face, "Chef extraordinaire was brought in to save all our jobs."
"I," Rachel began, her hands up in defeat, "I didn't realise things got so bad."
"They weren't per se." Quinn replied, "but prevention's better than cure, right?"
"Right." Sam agreed, offering his boss support. The manager flashed him a grateful smile.
"Ok, now why is everyone gossiping, Artie, work, Sam, drinks for table 12, Berry, go home." the bossy blonde sighed and began to help clear tables, it was nearing closing after all and today had already been quite a trial.

xxxx

Slowly Santana made her way out of the jail she had been confined to most of the day, having changed out of her whites, she now donned a comfortable pair of sweats and a hoody, her hair remained tied back in desperate need of a shower. She dragged her bag and coat behind her, having lost all energy to pick it up and sling it over her shoulder. When she reached the bar, she dropped her belongings on the floor next to a vacant stool and hoisted herself up, her head immediately dropping onto the cool surface. After a moment’s silence, the clink of a bottle shocked her, made her jump a little, her eyes opened having closed automatically when her head had made contact with the bar.
"Long day?" she heard, an unfamiliar voice penetrating her mind. She frowned, her eyes heavy lidded, she slowly, painfully lifted her head and turned towards the voice.
"Err yeah." she replied huskily to the curious looking blonde two seats away.
"You look how I feel." she stated, sipping a clear liquid from a tumbler.
"Oh yeah? And how's that?" Santana asked curiously, her head now propped up on her hand, her elbow providing the support.
"Like you woke up before dawn and have just clocked off. In other words, like crap." the blonde shrugged.
"Is that so?" Santana smirked, "Very perceptive of you." Ordinarily, Santana would have been insulted by such words, but the blonde beside her held an air of innocence that the Latina found not only endearing, but mildly amusing also.
"The lady bought you a beer." Sam said, motioning to the bottle beside the chef. He turned and continued to clean up the bar for closing.
"Butter me up before an insult, I like your style." she said, taking a swig from the bottle. "Thanks." she said, tilting the beer toward the blonde.
"You're welcome." the blonde put her hand out. "Brittany." she said as the Latina accepted it and shook it. She nodded her head in understanding.
"Santana."
"You work here Santana?" Brittany asked.
"I do." replied the chef, taking another sip of beer.
"Do you know Chef Lopez?" Santana choked on her drink upon hearing her own name.
"Err yeah." Santana replied nervously. "That's me." she said. She watched as Brittany's eyes widened, much to the Latina's amusement. "Why do you ask?"
"My dad asked to meet you but you were too busy. We wanted to tell you how amazing your food is." the blonde explained nervously. Santana nodded in understanding.
"Arh yeah," she said, recalling the earlier request. "I was a little tied up. Sorry about that."
"Hey no," Brittany said, Santana's brown eyes followed the dancer's hand as she placed it on Santana's arm, "you don't have to apologise, I understand how busy you are. My dad thinks he can ask for anything now." she smiled adoringly at the thought of her father attempting to take advantage of Brittany's new fame.
"You had your first gig tonight right?" Santana asked, her eyes moving from the hand that remained on her arm to the questioning eyes of her companion. It was the first time Santana had truly looked at the blonde, her vision earlier, hazy and tired. Now it was like she was seeing for the first time, those blue eyes so captivating and clear, the blonde locks long and loose about the blonde's strong shoulders. The Latina suddenly felt nervous. She had never really struck up conversation so easily with someone upon their first meeting
"Yeah, how did . . ." the blonde began.
"Some of the guys were talking." Santana shrugged.
"Oh." Brittany replied, still slightly puzzled.
"Hey it's ok, it was all good, very complimentary." the Latina explained. As if gaining a mind of it's own, her hand slid off the brown glass bottle, causing the blonde's to jump from her arm and land on the bar. Santana's found itself atop the dancer's, squeezing it reassuringly, earning a shy tooth bearing grin from the blonde. "Where did your parents go?" Santana asked, briefly looking around the now empty restaurant.
"They went back to their hotel." Brittany said, "I needed some alone time to unwind before I head home."
"Understandable." Santana smiled. A hand smoothed its way across Santana's back, causing her stir a little, one glance sideways told her it was Quinn. The Latina snatched her hand away from Brittany, leaving the blonde dancer somewhat baffled.
"Hey," Quinn greeted. "You were amazing today." she said to the Latina.
"Thanks." Santana blushed, "You weren't so bad yourself." she flirted a little.
"Such a charmer Lopez." the manager giggled. She leaned across Santana, her arm and hand outstretched, "Hi, I'm Quinn Fabray, the restaurant manager." Brittany reluctantly took the other woman's hand in her own and shook it politely.
"Brittany Pierce."
"I know." Quinn smiled, "You have quite the fan club here already. I want to thank you for choosing to dine with us this evening and hopefully see you again soon."
"I have to." Brittany said, she motioned for Quinn to come closer before whispering in her ear. "I told my Mom I was going to marry the chef. Her food's so good, I bet she gets that a lot." she explained. Quinn couldn't help the laugh that escaped her lips and nodded slightly, her eyes darted to a frowning Santana, too tired to put up any fight against the conspiracy that was happening before her. She placed her hands steadily on the bar and slipped off her seat.
"And that's my cue to go home. You want to share a cab Quinn?" the blonde glanced at Sam who returned a knowing smile, the brunette watched their exchange with interest.
"I err, I'm sharing a ride with Sam, we live real close." she explained. The Latina shrugged and bent over to pick up her belongings.
"I'll walk out with you." Brittany said, finishing up her drink, "If that's ok?"
"Sure." Santana shrugged, less than enthusiastically. "You can hail me a cab, because I doubt anyone would want to stop for me looking like crap."
"I'm so sorry I didn't mean . . ." Brittany began midway through hoisting her coat over her shoulders.
"I'm kidding." Santana smirked taking in the striking figure of the other woman. The blonde dancer sighed with relief and continued to dress herself in her winter coat. Santana followed suit, heaving her coat on and throwing her bag over her shoulder. "See you tomorrow guys." She called behind her. Ever the chivalrous one, the Latina opened the door for Brittany as they disappeared into the night air, both Quinn and Kurt exchanging secretive glances, daring the other to break with laughter first.
"Just because . . ." Quinn started.
"Doesn't mean . . ." Kurt continued, both on the same page.
"Right." they concluded together.
 
"Where are you headed?" Santana asked, afraid to send the blonde girl home alone so late in such a big city.
"Home." Brittany replied flatly. The brunette smiled at the honesty.
"Where's home?" the chef tried again, hugging her coat closer to her chest, her breath visible as it hit the cool air.
Brittany pondered for a moment, wondering if she should be freely sharing such information. Concluding that Santana did indeed seem genuine enough, she obliged. "Oh err, Chelsea. I have a small apartment." Sensing Brittany's hesitation, the brunette too revealed where she lived.
"I live in Greenwich Village, I'm not sure where Chelsea is." she said with a frown. She watched intently as the blonde was concentrated on hailing a cab, she looked like a pro.
"You haven't been here long." it was an observation more than a question. The Latina shook her head in confirmation.
"No." She said, just as a cab pulled up. The blonde opened the door and bundled in, before Santana could yell goodbye, Brittany popped her head back out of the door.
"Get in. You can drop me at my place on the way to yours." Santana shrugged, who was she to argue with a beautiful blonde? With one last look through the restaurant window, she could make out two blonde's very close to one another. Dropping her head she jumped into the back of the warm cab before it sped away into the New York night.

The ride was quiet, Santana stared blankly out of the window. She had been right about today, she knew it would be a long hard day and in that respect it had not disappointed. Santana had worked, quite possibly harder than she had in her entire life. She had been responsible for kitchens before, but nothing on this scale, this was New York, in the theatre district, it offered a constant stream of traffic through the front doors. It had also bared an emotional strain on her. The misunderstanding with Kurt had inadvertently led to her to her coming out to her colleagues. Sure, she wasn't ashamed, sure she wasn't in the closet, but she had felt it was forced out of necessity and not a natural thing. She had always been guarded about her personal life and now she felt somewhat exposed and human, leaving her open to a world of hurt. And what was worse, she was all alone. Her reactions to Quinn had the Latina mentally slapping herself, many a time she had told herself never to become involved with work colleagues, to not develop feelings for them yet she was disappointed when she had discovered the blonde manager obviously had a thing with Sam. How could she have not seen it before? Because she was far too busy keeping herself tucked away in her own private little bubble, where the weather was fine and everything was just how Santana wanted it to be.  She turned to the blonde beside her. The mysterious blonde who had bought her a beer on a whim, a polite gesture having looked so haggard and worn and now here she was sharing a cab with her when the dancer could so easily have left her to her own devices. She was shaken from her reverie as the cab rolled to a halt. Her eyes met smiling, yet tired blue orbs.
"You do look tired." the words slipped from the brunette's lips before she could stop herself. The blonde shrugged, her smile grew impossibly wider. "Will I see you again?" again, as if Santana had no control over her own mouth she cringed at the desperation in her words. "I mean," she began, "you're like the first person who has shown any generosity since I got here."
"I'm guessing," Brittany began slowly, "I'm the first person you've interacted with outside of that restaurant since you got here." Santana nodded shyly in defeat.
"Busted." The Latina replied, "It's totally your fault."
"Blame my parents and the equally long and hard day I've had compared to yours." the blonde spoke quietly.
"How so?"
"If my mother had not insisted I find a nice young man to settle down with, I would have had a pleasant evening with them, instead, I got to end it with you and you looked like you needed a beer."
"I did need a beer." Santana sighed, throwing her head back on the seat. Vaguely taking in the blonde's words about her mother. She shifted her eyes sideways, back to looking at the blonde.
"You didn't answer my question."
"I know where you work and I'm a big fan." Brittany smiled, "Of your work I mean." for clarification.
"Ok then." Santana laughed.
"Ok then." Brittany repeated. "I'll see you around Chef Lopez." the blonde said opening the door.
"Bye Brittany." Santana replied and watched as the dancer vacated the cab, the door closed with a harsh slam, the brunette gazed as Brittany waved through the window before heading to the apartment block. The cab pulled away once again.
 
For two people today was the day that was make and break, it would change their lives forever.
Tags: brittana, brittany/santana, esom, fanfiction, glee
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