Summary: In a world where sex slavery is the norm, Santana's sold to a wealthy man who hopes that Santana's company can help mend his daughter's broken spirit. Can a master who doesn't believe in the slave trade and a slave who only wants to be loved let go of their troubled pasts?
Warnings: Sex slavery, mentions of rape and abuse
Spoilers: No spoilers
She can't stop thinking about it.
She can't stop thinking about Brittany, so sweet, so curious, so pretty…so willing to send Santana away. It had taken a simplified version of the past three miserable years of her life to get Brittany to allow her to stay. And why? Brittany said that she didn't want her…is it because she's annoying? Does she talk too much, or not enough? Does she eat too much, or smell too bad?
Santana feels a weight settle across her hips and she stiffens; Brittany, lying on her stomach, has thrown an arm around Santana's waist. Santana stares at the dark ceiling and huffs out her held breath. She doesn't know why she cares. If Brittany sent her away, she'd probably just go back to the slave farm for a couple of months, and it's not that much different than being at Brittany's; she'd be fed at least once a day, she could bathe every few days, she'd only be beaten if she misbehaved or made eye contact…the only thing missing would be Brittany.
Santana doesn't think that she wants to give that up.
The arm around her waist tightens and Brittany hums. Santana smiles and ghosts her fingertips over Brittany's forearm, so soft and warm.
Brittany's somewhat of an enigma; Santana wants to figure her out.
All day Sunday, Santana can tell that Brittany is dying to get her father alone, but Pierce just isn't taking the hint.
When Monday morning rolls around, Santana opens her eyes to find Pierce staring at her again, that same look of disproval plastered to his face before he leans over and kisses Brittany's temple.
This morning, however, Brittany is awake, and when the door closes behind Pierce, she clambers over Santana and races after her father.
Santana knows that she shouldn't intrude, knows that eavesdropping could get her into serious trouble, but she's always been a bit nosey, and she just can't help herself. She hurries out of the bed and down the hall.
Santana creeps down the stairs, keeping close to the wall, careful to leave the pictures hanging there in tact. Pierce and Brittany are in the kitchen, and Santana has missed the better part of the conversation, but she presses closer to the wall and waits.
"Dad," Brittany draws out in a whine, sounding desperate and frustrated. "You're not listening."
"Britt," Pierce answers sternly. Santana can hear the clunk of a coffee cup hitting the tabletop. "It's nonsense. I raised you better than this."
"But I didn't want her!" Brittany exclaims, sadness lacing her voice. Santana frowns, feels like she's been punch in the stomach, kicked in the ribs; she'd known that, but the words falling from Brittany's mouth still sting.
"That's fine, Brittany. It's hard to find the perfect slave. We'll take her back and you can pick out one you like. Maybe you'd like a male better." Santana's chin trembles and she bites her lip as a newspaper page is turned.
Brittany sighs; Santana thinks of going back up to her room, but changes her mind. "You don't get it, dad." It's Pierce's turn to sigh, like he's tired of the argument, like he's heard it before, like he knows what's coming. Santana wishes she did, because none of this makes any sense to her.
"It's all of them," Brittany continues over her father. "I don't want a slave!" Santana's mouth falls open as Brittany spits the last word like its poison on her tongue. Who didn't want a slave? Even slaves were guilty of fantasizing about owning someone, having someone tend to their every need.
"And you knew that, but you bought her behind my back anyways. I've told you before that I don't believe in this. The slave trade is stupid; why do people have to own other people?" Santana has to steady herself against the wall. She's never heard of those words falling from a master's lips before. She's never heard of those who are privileged enough to be a master actually complain about being a master. There's never been a master, to her knowledge, that didn't appreciate every ounce of power that they were given.
But somehow it all made sense. Brittany treats her decently, she doesn't allow Santana to call her 'mistress'…and it's all because Brittany doesn't see her any differently than she sees her father, Mike, or anyone else. To Brittany, they're all equal.
"You're not my slave."
These few days Santana had wondered what she was doing wrong and it was the one thing that she hadn't even considered. Yes, Pierce made her uncomfortable with his aggressiveness. Yes, Brittany made her uncomfortable with what Santana had considered aloof mixed messages. But not once had Santana considered that she was making Brittany uncomfortable with a title that she had automatically pasted onto Brittany.
Santana's been assuming that Brittany wanted a slave; maybe what she had wanted was a friend.
"I don't want to hear that." Pierce's voice drawing closer draws Santana out of her reverie too late for her to escape up the stairs. He gestures angrily at her and looks back at Brittany. "See? She heard you; now it'll be impossible for you to get her to take orders!"
Brittany stares wide-eyed at Santana pressed against the wall, and Santana's sure her ashen face matches Santana's own. Pierce leaves without a goodbye, slamming the door to show his disgruntlement with the situation. Shannon appears behind Brittany and wraps a hand around the back of Brittany's neck. Santana's eyes flick to her; she looks oddly relieved.
"I'm sorry I didn't say anything," Shannon says. Brittany tenses under her hand. "It wasn't my place. I thought Britt would tell you herself."
Brittany averts her gaze to the floor. Santana takes a step forward. There's a newfound confidence blossoming in her, but she needs to know that it's true. "You don't agree with slavery? At all?"
Brittany lifts her eyes to meet Santana's. "It's stupid," she repeats. She pushes past Santana and stomps to her room. Shannon motions for Santana to follow Brittany. Santana does so without hesitation.
Santana hurries back to Brittany's room. Brittany is staring at her laptop's screensaver when Santana enters. Brittany flinches when the click of the door closing pierces the silence.
Santana stares at Brittany's back for a moment before moving to the side, into her line of sight. "Why didn't you say anything?"
Brittany's eyes flit to her; she looks nervous, and she hopes that Brittany doesn't think that Santana would hurt her. She could never hurt Brittany. Brittany shrugs and fiddles with a unicorn-shaped eraser.
"I wish you would have said something." Santana's fingers twist around each other, and Brittany watches her curiously. "These past few days…I thought you hated me. Or that I was doing something wrong."
Brittany shakes her head. "I don't hate you." She stands from her desk chair and stuffs her hands into the pockets of her sweatpants. "You're really nice."
Santana smiles a bit. "I see now that what I mistook for hatred was really me making you uncomfortable."
Brittany shrugs and scuffs her toe on the carpet. "What was I supposed to say?"
"How about you don't have to be afraid of me, I don't think like he does?" The words come out harsher than she'd intended them to, and Brittany frowns at her. Santana takes a deep breath to calm herself; Brittany is obviously sensitive to anger, though Santana's sure she should be immune to it since Pierce is her father.
"I'm sorry," Brittany says.
Santana shakes her head. "No. No, you don't have anything to be sorry for." Hesitantly, she reaches out and takes Brittany's hand. Brittany lets her hold it awkwardly for a few seconds before smiling and squeezing Santana's hand. "You tried to tell me." Brittany nods. "I'm sorry. For not catching on."
Brittany plays with Santana's fingers. "I never wanted a slave," she repeats, as if clarifying it. She shudders at the thought.
Santana takes a deep breath, wanting to make a proposal, but scared that it will be rejected. "Well," she says. "How about a friend?"
Brittany's face splits into a grin slowly, like she's not sure she's heard correctly, and Santana's heart thuds; she has yet to see Brittany with such a large smile, and knowing that she put it there almost makes her cry tears of joy. Brittany squeezes her hand tightly and pulls her closer. The hug is tight, but brief; the last time she'd been hugged in such a way had also been the last morning she'd seen her mother – Sam had given her a strange version of a one-armed hug in the cargo truck, but she doesn't count it because it had been rushed and weird for her.
Brittany pulls back, her face suddenly serious, and Santana's heart drops. "One condition," she says. "Can we snuggle?"
Santana raises her eyebrows and her mouth works silently before she's finally able to stutter out, "I…I g-guess?" She's never…snuggled with anyone before; she's not even sure she would know how. It would probably end up being awkward.
Brittany claps happily. She seems just as excited to have a friend as Santana is, and Santana wonders if Brittany's ever had a friend before. If not, then she and Santana are in the same boat – Santana had tried making friends with the boy next door when she was seven; they'd talked over the fence separating their backyards for a while, but his mother had put a stop to it quickly once she found out that Santana's mother was a slave.
It had been just one of many disappointments in her life, and remembering it sobers her. Her smile falters; she reminds herself to not get too used to being here, with Brittany, feeling so light. It can still be easily taken away tomorrow.
In fact, Santana thinks, it probably will be.
Brittany grabs her hand again. "Do you want to go to the park?"
Santana smiles at the randomness of the request and nods. Brittany hurries to the closet. She hands Santana a pair of jeans that she says are a couple of years old – they're too small for Brittany, but still too large for Santana – and a tank top. Once they're dressed and Brittany has chosen an appropriate beanie, Brittany tugs Santana down the stairs by her hand. She calls a goodbye to Shannon as she rushes out the door, finally ushering Santana into the passenger seat of her car.
They're mostly quiet during the drive, but unlike before it's not awkward. The wall between them is crumbling piece by piece. Brittany hums to the radio and Santana stares out the window. Most people that they pass on the sidewalk have slaves on leashes, and Santana almost feels guilty. At a stop sign, a man catches her eye, and before she can look away he's waving to her like they're old friends. She nods once before looking back at Brittany.
Brittany smiles, having felt her stare. "What?"
Santana shrugs and absentmindedly rubs her neck, relishing the absence of a collar. "That guy waved at me."
Brittany frowns, obviously not seeing what's made Santana so uncomfortable. "Do you know him?"
Santana shakes her head and resumes staring out the window. "I guess it's just weird how differently…" She trails off, lost in thought, and Brittany must understand what she means because she falls silent and lets the subject die.
It's baffling – and a bit depressing – how a small change – the absence of a collar, her presence in the front seat – can change someone's view of her. If she had been in the backseat that man probably would have scowled at her; he might've even yelled a threat at her for staring.
Santana shakes her head as they pull into the parking lot of the Lima Bean. When they enter, Mike stops wiping the counter to smile broadly at them. He greets Brittany and holds out his hand, silently offering a fist bump to Santana, which she accepts awkwardly.
"So, Britt," he says conversationally as he fills their order. "A bunch of us are going to Rachel's tonight." His tone reeks of conspiracy, and Santana can't help but lean closer. "You guys comin'?"
Santana catches Brittany glance at her. "Um," she says, and Mike looks hopeful. "Maybe next time."
Mike hesitates, his eyes shifting between them rapidly. "I…are you sure?"
Brittany turns to her, asks her to go wait in the car. Mike grins at her, and she nods. As she turns, she glimpses Tina in the back, donning an apron and grinning at a customer. The sight makes her hesitate long enough to hear Brittany tell Mike, "I don't think now's the right time; she's not ready."
Santana frowns, but continues to the car.
They end up eating the breakfast that Brittany had bought by the duck pond. Brittany bought an extra bagel to feed the ducks, and as she throws the bits of bread, giggling all the while, Santana crosses her legs and contemplates Brittany's words to Mike.
What is it, exactly, that she's not ready for? Santana doesn't think that there could be a bigger blow than finding a master who despised slavery. After that, Santana doesn't think there's anything Brittany could pull on her that would rattle her…could she?
"Would you like to hang out with my friends sometime?" Brittany suddenly seems nervous. A duck waddles closer and she makes a show of feeding it to avoid looking at Santana. "It's usually just Mike, Rachel, Puck, Artie, Finn, and…others."
Santana doesn't know who all of those people are, but she can take a guess at who the others are; slaves.
Santana smiles; it's nice that Brittany thought to invite her. She can't wait to figure out what's going on with Mike and Brittany. And, she thinks, it might be nice to see Tina; they've never met, but Santana had seen her traded between Wheels and Mike, and she's a bit curious about what kind of master Mike is overall.
"Yeah," she says, nodding. "Sounds fun."
Brittany smiles and rips off half of the bagel. She hands it to Santana, and together they finish feeding the ducks.
When Brittany asked if they could snuggle, she hadn't been kidding. She directs Santana into a 'little spoon' position – Brittany's words, not Santana's – and curls around her back.
Santana almost hates to admit that it feels good. It feels safe, not at all awkward like she'd initially thought it would be.
She almost wants to expect Brittany to violate her.
"You do this often?" She asks, because Brittany is really good at snuggling.
Brittany hums into her neck, and Santana's not sure if that's a 'yes' or not. "I snuggled with Mike and Puck a lot after my mom died." Her voice turns somber, and Santana kind of regrets asking. "Especially Mike; he's my best friend."
The flare of jealousy she feels is completely uncalled for, she knows, so she tamps it down. "That was sweet of them," she says around a yawn. Lying like this, wrapped in Brittany's embrace, makes her sleepy, makes her feel like it's okay to sleep.
Brittany hums again and snuggles closer. "'Night, San."
Santana's breath catches at the nickname and she presses her grin into the pillow. "Goodnight, Britt."