Pairing, Character(s): Sue/Emma, Will/Emma, Brittany/Santana; with special guest appearance by Kurt
Word Count: 4,007
Spoilers: Post-episode AU for Bad Reputation
Summary: "Here's what I'm proposing: I'll be your weapon. Your righteous, fabulous, and fierce weapon against a pasty, sad and follically-impaired target." Sue and Emma join forces against Will.
Nothing about Sue Sylvester surprises Emma anymore.
“Sue,” she says, patiently, “I don’t need another therapist. I’m already seeing one. Someone licensed.” And, she thinks, someone, who, unlike you, is less certifiably crazy than I am.
Sue’s got her legs up on Emma’s desk and her chair tilted back, rocking slightly. It’s itching horribly at Emma, Sue’s sneakers millimeters above the just-Lysoled particle board top. Sue actually walks on the filthy ground in those shoes and now their soles are where Emma puts her stapler and this is just too, too much.
“But I get results, Eppie. Can’t deny that, can you? I gotta tell you, I was moved, overhearing you tell off William – and when Sue Sylvester feels an emotion other than triumph or revulsion, it’s something to write home about.”
“No, really, I’m – ”
“No charge. God, I’m just so nice. We’ll even work on that OCD of yours. Get you de-alphabetizing your books and eating off of other people’s forks before you know it.”
Even the thought of that – putting her mouth on something pre-sheened with saliva (even if you can’t see it, it’s there!) – is enough to make Emma’s heart rate increase.
She forces herself to take deep breaths. In, out. In, out.
“First thing,” Sue continues, oblivious. “Anybody who knows anything about therapy will tell you that a critical part of working through your issues is revenge.”
Emma blinks, startled out of her calming routine by this fresh crazy. “I don’t remember learning – ”
Sue waves this away with a dismissive hand. “That spectacularly embarrassing scene you made was only your first step, Sailor Moon. You’ve humiliated Will Schuester in front of his peers, and now you’ve got to up the ante. What gets under William’s skin more easily than anything else? And I’m not counting the excess hair gel that he absorbs into his scalp – like an amoeba; it’s disgusting.”
“You do,” Emma says, simply, and the responding grin on Sue’s face is terrifying.
“Bingo, Tweety Bird! So here’s what I’m proposing: I’ll be your weapon. Your righteous, fabulous, and fierce weapon against a pasty, sad and follically-impaired target.”
Emma remembers a seminar she took in her graduate program on the varied responses to being attacked: fight, flight or freeze. It’s taking every muscle in her body to resist the impulse to run out her office door.
“What, exactly, are you getting at, Sue?” she asks, not wanting to know the answer.
Sue lets down the chair, reclaims her legs from the top of Emma’s desk, and leans in, as if she’s got a big, juicy secret to tell. “You and I, Alma,” she says, conspiratorially, “are going to be the latest item at McKinley High.”
Emma isn’t quite sure why her first response to Sue’s outrageous plan is a sputtered “But I’m – I’m not gay,” because, honestly, there are so many more reasons to object.
Sue’s upper lip rises in a sneer. “Oh, honestly, like that matters. I’m not talking romantic dalliances at the zoo or Wal-Mart or whatever places people like you go to get horizontal. You’re not my type, anyway. I like ‘em sweaty and muscly and possibly under the influence of Rohypnol which I absolutely did not grind up and sprinkle in the seven layer dip when he was at the jukebox looking for Duran Duran.”
“Then – what – ”
“We make William think you and I’ve got a little somethin’ somethin’. He’ll flip.” Her face lights up, and Emma thinks she can imagine what Sue’s seeing: Will, his face purple with shock and confusion, reacting to something he’s inappropriately overheard from Rachel Berry or the pregnant blonde.
It’s not the most unappealing sight she’s ever imagined.
Emma is angry. Angrier than she can remember ever letting herself be. She’d trusted Will, she’d believed his platitudes about strength and waiting and working on yourself, and he’d made a total fool out of her.
So there’s a tiny part of her that’s not surprised at herself when she looks Sue Sylvester in the eye and tells her she’s got a deal.
Sue blinks, and for a second Emma sees a shadow of something – she’s not sure what – flit over her face.
She’s shaking, just a little bit, as she waits for Will. Emma’s never been an actor, her only experience in disassembling pretending to be ill to get out of a sixth-grade math test. (And even then, she was awful, faking all the wrong symptoms.) What are you doing, Emma? she asks herself. Why in the world did you ever think going along with Sue’s plan – with Sue – would be a good idea?
And then she sees Will, and his knowing smile makes her fury burn up in her, newly stoked.
“Em,” he says, “I knew you’d want to apologize –”
“No,” she interrupts, “that’s not why I’m here, Will. I’m not sorry for what I said. For calling you a – a slut. Sorry, maybe, for saying it in front of the other staff (you’re lying, Emma!) but you – ” Her voice trembles as it rises in pitch. “You were wrong for cheating on me!”
His mouth drops open, just enough for her to feel a pinch of smugness. And then her phone rings, startling both of them.
“Excuse me,” she says, looking pointedly at the screen. “I have to take this.”
She’s aware of Will’s eyes on her as she puts the phone to her ear. Dear God, she can’t do this.
“You can do this, Thumper,” Sue says, firmly. “Repeat after me: ‘Hi, honey.’”
Emma shivers. What should sound like a term of endearment comes across in Sue’s callused tones like an invitation to warfare. “Hi, honey,” she parrots, and realizing how unconvincing she sounds, adds, “I’ve missed you today.”
She looks at Will, who’s got an eyebrow raised. It’s that skepticism, that goddamned patronizing skepticism that gives her the kick she needs.
“Come over tonight – I DVR’d the college cheerleading competition,” she coos, and stares right into Will’s quizzical eyebrow.
His face transforms, disbelief and amusement warring. “Emma, who the hell are you talking to?”
Sue, in her ear: “Tell him it’s none of his damn business, but if he wants to know, a new friend.”
She repeats Sue’s words, with more spirit then she would’ve thought possible five minutes ago.
“Wear the green tracksuit. It sets off your eyes,” she says, into the receiver, and hangs up quickly, hoping Will didn’t hear the hoot of appreciative laughter at the other end of the line.
He’s too busy laughing himself, only she hates the tone, and there’s pity in his face now; she wants to hit him for it.
“Oh, Emma,” he sighs, “don’t tell me you’ve resorted to helping Sue Sylvester with her sad revenge games? What, am I supposed to think that you and she are – ” His eyes crinkle; this is clearly the funniest thing he’s heard in ages. “Are – together?”
“She told me I was worth something. Worth more than the way you treated me,” Emma spits at him, and walks away – flounces, really, the bows on her discounted Anthropologie sweater flopping. She’s around the corner and past the drinking fountain before she realizes it’s not a lie or an exaggeration.
And that she actually made Sue Sylvester laugh.
“You know, Betty Boop,” Sue greets her, as Emma rushes into her office, “I really should hang up my shingle. I make a fantastic therapist. That ridiculously ruffled blouse of yours is now concealing an adorable little backbone.”
Emma’s deflated. “But it didn’t work. Will didn’t buy any of it.”
There’s a new rash of trophies duct-taped to the wall, in absence of any more desk or floor space.
Sue is positively preening with the absolute certainty of impending victory. “We’re not done,” she allows, “but we haven’t infected him properly yet.”
Emma thinks of syringes and vials marked WILLIAM SCHUESTER: DEATH!!! in Sue’s spidery handwriting, and is horrified.
“Not that kind of infection,” Sue amends – and, good Lord, is that a note of reluctance Emma hears? – “no, I’m talking about a much more insidious, effective and altogether devastating method of convincing him that you and I are taking the U-Haul Express down to Sapphic City. Gossip.” Then, abruptly, loudly: “SANTANA, BRITTANY, GET IN HERE.”
Emma knows Brittany from a few confusing sessions earlier in the year, and she recognizes Santana’s name. Something Will told her once about sexual promiscuity and a penchant for destroying relationships. She feels a twinge of inadequacy; isn’t it her job to know these details about her students, and from some other venue than Will’s slightly too intense conversations over dinner?
The girls enter, looking wary. Well, Santana’s wary. Brittany’s forehead is crinkled in disinterested bewilderment.
“Sit, ladies,” Sue directs, pointing at the two chairs in front of her, and motions to Emma to join her behind the desk. “I’ll get right to the point.”
“Actually, Coach Sylvester” – Brittany’s monotone is slightly more elevated than usual – “I need you to sign a permission slip for me to get out of history class. History violates my belief system.”
“What, all history?” Emma blurts, astonished.
Brittany looks at her, blankly. “I don’t believe in history. You can’t prove that anything happened.”
“I admire your moral conviction, Brittany,” Sue cuts in, and turns to Emma, who’s trying to regain control over her slack lower jaw and any strips of stability she can grasp. “See, Etta, I teach my kids that if you deal in absolutes, you get absolute results. Brittany doesn’t believe in history? Well, okay, that’s admittedly dumber than anything I’ve heard since my time in the locker room as a towel girl for the New England Patriots, but, by God, you can’t negotiate with it.”
“Uh, okay.” Emma isn’t used to feeling like the normal one in social situations. “Can we – ”
“Get back to business? Sure thing, Strawberry Shortcake. Now, Santana, Brittany, I’ve called you in here as reinforcements for a very important project.”
Santana smiles, slightly. “Is this about – uh, you and Ms. Pillsbury?”
“How did you know?” Emma’s startled.
“I overheard Rachel Berry telling Finn that she saw you and Mr. Schue talking outside the music room. Berry seemed kind of overwhelmed. More so than usual.”
“Sometimes,” Brittany says, “when I think about Mr. Schue, I imagine a shoe.”
Sue chooses not to recognize this. “Fantastic, Yentl’s doing my work for me. I can’t rely on her histrionics, though, so you two will have to help stoke the flames. Any suggestions? I ask because you’ve made your expertise in the art of public sapphism so obvious.”
Santana looks as though she wants to ask why Sue’s going to such lengths to convince Will that his ex-girlfriend and his greatest enemy are hooking up, and Emma’s suddenly wondering the same thing. She knows Sue’s got it in for Will, you’d have to be, well, Brittany, not to see that –but why use Emma as her vehicle? Why take this angle, rather than going through the kids per her usual M.O.? Any woman in Will’s life will always be second to his glee kids. Sue knows this.
“There’s that nerd with the Jewfro, the one who’s always sniffing after Rachel –“
“YES,” Sue interrupts, loudly, and delight spreads across her face like dawn over a battlefield. “The kid with the hilariously archetypal name who leaked the news about Q’s fetus on his blog, that’s it. Santana, this is why I keep you around. Take next period off, go to the mall, buy Brittany something pretty on me.” She passes a couple twenties across the desk to Santana, who grins and waves the money at Brittany.
Emma feels a little faint.
Emma’s leaning over Sue’s shoulder to read the words on Sue’s laptop, and she knows her face is a bright shade of crimson. Crazy enough. I’m not crazy enough to fall for her - I’m just the right amount of unbalanced.
She reads Will’s words again and again, the heat of embarrassment building each time. She backs up a bit, silent.
Sue turns around in her desk chair, takes in Emma’s blush. “Hey,” she says, not at all unkindly. “Crazy is a relative term.”
Emma nods, not trusting her voice.
“Some people call me crazy. I always say there’s a fine line between crazy and commitment.”
Emma nods again. There are two new grotesquely large trophies in the corner, added in the last week, despite the fact that the Cheerios, to Emma’s knowledge, haven’t competed yet this semester.
“Wanna know what’s crazy?” Sue adds, narrowing her eyes. “Will Schuester’s inability to grasp that you’re capable of decision making. That’s pretty insane.” She raises a hand, doesn’t seem to know what to do with it, and lets it drop.
Okay. I’m okay. “Have you written him back yet?”
“Nope. Wanted you to read it first. I’ve come up with several hair insults in the last ten – ”
“Save the hair insults,” Emma interrupts. “I’ve got a better idea. What if you knew something about me only Will knows? Something only you’d know if we were – you know. Like evidence.” She turns her head, feeling awkward, and clarifies. “Private things. Sex things. We never went all the – I haven’t actually ever – but we did some stuff. Enough.”
She looks back at Sue, whose eyebrows are knotted together in horror. At the thought of what sex-without-sex with Will Schuester might entail, probably.
“He might believe you, then. He’d never think I had it in me to tell anyone that kind of thing.”
“Worth a shot,” Sue concedes, sounding slightly impressed with Emma’s ingenuity, and turns back to her laptop, fingers raised over the keyboard. “Dictate.”
Emma leans back over Sue’s shoulder, blinking cursor in view. “Well,” she begins, and then stops, abruptly. “Uh.”
(Will grinning at her like he can’t believe his luck, hands in her hair saying Emma, you’re so beautiful, the Listerine on her tongue tingling as she bites his earlobe, his leg wedging between hers and the way she pushed down on it, straddling him, squirming)
“I gargled with Listerine,” she tells Sue. “I made sure we both took showers first.”
“Not good enough.” Sue shakes her head. “I could come up with that on my own, Howard Hughes. Try again.”
Emma says, before she can think about the words coming out of her mouth: “I touched myself for him. You could tell him I did that for you.”
She’s aware, suddenly, how close she is to Sue, how easy a slight turn of her head towards Sue’s ear would be, just inches away, and how that move is a silent, solid step towards a boundary she’s been trying not to acknowledge.
Sue’s fingers touch the keys, not pressing down, and raise again, just slightly. Her head bends slightly to the left, just enough that Emma’s more aware of Sue’s neck, below the pinched blonde strings of hair. There’s a slight sharp scent there like aerosol and chlorine that makes Emma think of high school swim meets and clouds of hairspray in the locker rooms.
She doesn’t stand up.
“Did you – ” An audible swallow. “How like William to get off on being passive.”
She could touch her mouth to the skin just behind Sue Sylvester’s ear –
I’m not gay, Emma thinks; and then, I’m lonely. That’s an important identity too.
“Did I what?” she asks.
Sue is perfectly still now, her hands resting flat against the keyboard, and she is (shockingly, unnervingly) quiet.
Emma leans in, just a bit, still an inch away from Sue’s ear and says, quietly, “If you ask me about it, I’ll tell you.”
She’s close enough that she thinks she can actually feel Sue’s slight shudder, and takes it for the only way Sue’s able to say please.
“He had me on the bed,” she says, hesitating. Emma’s stammering a bit; this is slightly terrifying, and with anyone this would be terrifying but it’s Sue Sylvester, Sue who could any second now jump out of her chair, call her some perfectly devastating nickname and vow the commencement of incessant Schuester-level ridicule.
When her fear isn’t realized – Sue hasn’t so much as turned her head towards Emma’s direction – she continues, her voice a little less wavering.
“On the bed, and he said maybe it would be easier for me if I did something that felt comfortable and familiar. And when I said to do something so private in front of him was scarier than – well, than having sex, he told me he’d close his eyes if that would help.”
She can’t see it, but guesses that Sue’s eyes are closed too.
“I’m loud,” she murmurs. “You wouldn’t think it to look at me, but I am. I can’t help it. And then Will joined me, and I’d never felt anything like that before, his mouth between my legs – hot, really heated, and there was that tingle from the Listerine, and he kept licking me – ”
Sue tilts her head back and whimpers, very, very quietly, eyes still shut. Emma catches a glimpse of her face: it’s flushed, tightened with need, and she’s sure her own can’t look much different.
“You’re not writing this down,” she says, softly.
In response, Sue turns to look at her, and Emma’s startled by what she sees, Sue’s eyes a little dazed and her mouth just a bit open. It’s unsettling. Like cockroaches and Cher, she’s always thought of Sue Sylvester’s emotional armor as surviving apocalypse. She isn’t sure how this all happened so quickly, how she’s got Sue Sylvester looking like she’d gladly give up several well-polished trophies in return for the thrust of Emma’s fingers.
Emma nearly falls over at the unexpected shout from outside the office door, and Sue snaps around, clearly rattled.
“LATER, HUMMEL,” she shouts. “WHATEVER IT IS, IT CAN WAIT.”
A brief silence, and then, “But Coach, you told us to meet you for an extra practice at four today, and it’s 4:05.”
Sue swears and bolts out of her seat, throwing the door wide. Emma sees Kurt Hummel through the opening, decked in his Cheerios uniform; he looks back at her, at the two of them, and his eyes are wide. She can only imagine what he’s thinking. Sue’s flushed face and quick breathing isn’t helping matters.
“Hi, Kurt,” she stammers. “How are you?”
“Get back to practice, Nathan Lane,” Sue hollers, “or I will PERSONALLY call all two of the stores in Lima that carry designer brands and tell them you’ve switched your allegiance to the softlines section of J. C. Penney’s. GET OUT.”
Kurt stares at Sue, than Emma, than Sue again, still taking in the scene. “Holy shit,” he says, slowly. “I didn’t believe it. Oh, holy shit.”
Sue growls at him, lunges, and he side-swipes her neatly, running down the hall.
“I,” Emma begins, and realizes she has nothing to say, so she doesn’t finish her sentence. It’s not surprising when Sue just walks out, not looking at Emma, taking long strides after Kurt, and Emma’s left alone in Sue’s office with seventy-eight trophies and the unsettling realization that this – thing – whatever it is – no longer has very much to do with Will Schuester at all.
When she sees Sue on the other side of her apartment’s front door two nights later, wearing the green tracksuit and holding a matching bottle of absinthe, Emma smiles and lets her in, and somehow this development is not surprising, either.
They make it seventy-three minutes into All About Eve and nearly all the way through a bottle of merlot (the absinthe was politely accepted and promptly put in the pantry) before Emma feels Sue’s hand push into her hair, kneading lightly at her scalp.
“Hey, Little Mermaid,” Sue says, lightly, and slides a few inches closer to Emma’s spot on the couch.
Onscreen, Addison DeWitt is cornering the duplicitous Eve Harrington.
“Did you email Will?” Emma’s still staring at the television.
“Nope. He came by my office today. Apparently, Kurt Hummel thinks he’s starring in a somehow even gayer production of The Children’s Hour. William told me he overheard Hummel exchanging notes with Berry, something about –” She pauses, slightly. “Something about you and I ‘lezzing it up’ after hours. And once again, to absolutely no one’s surprise, William violated all standards of appropriate teacher-student boundaries and asked Hummel what he’d seen. Apparently the kid wouldn’t give him details.”
Sue’s hand is on Emma’s neck now, and Emma pushes back into it slightly, settling.
“What’d you say?”
“I just told Will that if he spent half as much time attending to his academic responsibilities as he does eavesdropping we’d have a school full of kids who might, just might, know enough español to get arrested in Arizona. And then I smiled at him and told him his hair was stupid. He left after that.”
Addison DeWitt is still sparring with Eve on Emma’s screen. That I should want you at all suddenly strikes me as the height of improbability. But that in itself is probably the reason. You're an improbable person, Eve, and so am I. We have that in common.
The hand on Emma’s neck has strength behind it, cupping her firmly.
Improbable, Emma says to herself, and kisses Sue, gently, just below the corner of her mouth.
Sue makes a little sound as Emma’s lips touch her skin, and she turns her head and they’re kissing, and maybe it’s weird and maybe Emma’s still kind of terrified of Sue but none of that matters right now, because one of Sue’s hands is in her blouse and the other’s pushing up Emma’s skirt and Sue’s saying Emma’s name into her neck, her real name, over and over again like it’s all she’s ever wanted to say, Emma, Emma, Emma.
Afterwards, they try what in any other scenario, with any other person besides Sue Sylvester, might be called cuddling: stretched out along the length of the couch with Emma spooned in against Sue. It’s a little awkward, like everything Emma does, but she tries to breathe slowly and Sue’s thumb rubbing absently against Emma’s shoulder is actually kind of nice. Comforting.
“I feel like I’m marinating in bacteria,” Emma blurts, because she can’t help herself, honestly; that was a great deal of wet. She's trying not to fixate on the scrub brush in her shower and the specially ordered antibacterial skin cream on the table at the other end of the couch.
Sue chuckles, and her mouth is distractingly near Emma’s ear. “That,” she says, “is the worst pillow talk I’ve ever been subjected to, and I’m including my post-coital acronym-sharing session with Gary Busey in that count.”
Emma twists back to look at her, nearly falling off the couch in the process.
“Don’t judge, Cindy Lou Who,” Sue admonishes. “It was the eighties.”
She almost asks Sue what happens now? with you and me? but she doesn’t really know want to know the answer to that, isn’t sure if she wants a life where Sue brings her inappropriate gifts and calls her by cartoon character and old lady names on a regular basis, and where Will, unable to hide his hurt, avoids her in the hallways. But there’s something, she thinks, to not feeling alone. To getting at least one other person on your side.
It strikes her that maybe Sue’s already come to this conclusion.
“Oh, you bet I’m judging,” she returns, smiling.
In response, Sue rests her hand on Emma’s back, tracing the faint outline of her spine. Backbone, her fingers say. Look at that backbone.