|The Greatest Present
Author: Eve Random PM
Santana and Brittany have some last minute shopping to do on Christmas Eve. Spoilers up to S3 Ep9- to be safeRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Words: 4,212 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 3 - Published: 12-22-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7663117
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
All is calm
All is bright
Round yon virgin
Mother and child
So tender and mild
The mocha skinned baritone nodded his head with a smile as Santana proceeded toward the automatic doors. Her arms were crossed tightly at her chest in a frail attempt to block the sharp wind from piercing through her form fitting black pea coat. She tucked her head lower into the raised collar as a swift breeze caught her off guard with enough force to bring tears to her barely open eyes.
"Happy holidays, miss."
She shifted her body just enough to smile back at the Salvation Army caroler.
He laughed innocently at how much effort it had taken for her to spit out the words and she couldn't help but chuckle a little herself as she finally felt the blast of heat from the vestibule of the mall. A shiver shook her entire body when she unclasped her arms. She let out a loud sigh as she walked forward, lowering her collar and assessing her surroundings at the same time. The lights in the expansive shopping centre were always dimmed this time of year. Amber beams reflected off the polished floors giving the illusion of a gentle golden pond. The artificial tress adorned with twinkling lights and metallic ornaments only added to the dream of a reclusive getaway. A fantasy that was ruined by the mass of people bustling through it, frantically searching for last minute gifts for loved ones. Their voices were horribly discordant with the soft holiday music coming from the speakers high above the hated that she was allowing herself to be a part of this crowd, out shopping for Christmas gifts, or actually for one gift, on the eve of the holiday but she had let time escape her. It wasn't as if Brittany was hard to shop for.
"Mom always says the greatest present is a person's presence", the blonde had shrugged when Santana asked her in passing what she wanted for Christmas this year.
"Uh huh. So I guess that means you're not getting me anything either, right?"
Brittany's head tilted to the side a little as a smile appeared on her face. She winked at Santana and ended the conversation with that.
Her initial plan had involved 12 days and 12 gifts. She knew it was corny but Brittany would have loved it. The smallest gesture always made her girl smile and to see that smile grow bigger everyday with anticipation for a week and a half had seemed so glorious to Santana. But… time had escaped her. She pushed her way through the thick crowds as she perused the windows of the shops. Clothes, lingerie, candles, lotions and perfume, accessories… She paused for a second at the window to the toy store. Helmets and skateboards were attached to the mannequins on display and she laughed at the memory of Brittany once trying to teach her how to rollerblade when they were younger. Every time she had fallen, Brittany would patiently try to help her up and tell her to keep trying - and to stop cursing. Santana got up on her own every time and kept trying. But she never strapped those skates on again after that day. Brittany never pushed her on the subject either. Forever patient, letting Santana find her own way.
As she turned to walk on to the next store, she felt her right knee buckle from the impact of something small but solid.
She looked down to find a young ponytailed girl clinging to her leg. Immediately she froze and scanned the large lobby for anyone else with a look of alarm on their face as well. She placed a hand on the child's dark hair as she spoke.
"Hey. You okay?"
The child didn't look up. Santana could hear that she was quietly crying. She looked around for any adult that possibly belonged to the girl. Still not seeing anyone, she pried the girl's tiny hand off her thigh and kneeled down to her level. She placed a finger under the crying child's chin, lifting her head just a bit as the girl rubbed the tears from her eyes. Santana spoke with a soft voice just above a whisper.
"It's all right, sweetie. Where's your mommy?"
"I dunno! I can't find em!"
"Okay. Okay. Don't worry. We'll find her… What's your mommy's name?"
She stopped crying then and looked at Santana as if she were the daftest human being on Earth. Santana was instantly awed by the sharp contrast of the girl's deep blue eyes versus her dark brown hair.
"Mom, Mommy? Duh!" The little girl laughed at an untold joke. Glad that there were no more tears, Santana laughed along.
"Right. That was silly of me, huh? Okay. Let's find her then." She stood up and took her new buddy's hand in hers. They hadn't walked more than twenty feet when they could hear the yelling of a name cutting through the other noises. Two very loud, very alarmed voices. The little girl stopped first. She yanked on Santana's hand as she listened intently.
She squeezed Santana's hand tightly. "That's them!"
Them? Santana spun toward the voices of the two women across the lobby of the mall. "I can't find em!" "Mom, Mommy? Duh!" She looked down at the eager girl who had a wide grin that mirrored her own. They crossed the distance with Lyra dragging Santana at the fastest speed she could muster on her little six year old legs. She leaped into one of the women's arms with a squeal. Both women breathed in a rush of relief. They huddled around the child as Santana backed away from the family moment. As she turned to rejoin the masses, a voice called out to her.
Santana turned around but she didn't make a gesture to walk back to the couple and child. The woman had hair as sleek and dark as Santana's own. In fact, now with a moment to take it all in, Santana noted that the woman's sharp facial features were also much like hers. She was basically looking at a reflection of herself in fifteen years time. Which explained the little girl's lack of inhibition in approaching Santana. She just smiled and dipped her head to the mother. The woman mouthed "thank you" as she held a hand to her chest. Santana was still lost in a thought as she turned back around and headed to the second level of the mall, straight to Kay Jewelers.
Brittany, picked at the remains of the banketstaaf, a traditional Dutch holiday pastry, as she listened to the lame Christmas music on the phone. She used her pinky to scoop out the last of the amandelspijs (almond paste) from the center of the flaky treat, and dabbed it in the powdered sugar left on her plate. The old country food was Brittany's favorite thing to look forward to this time of year. Sucking on her finger, her stomach growled in anticipation of the delights in store for the next two days: speculaas spiced cookies, raisin and cinnamon apple oliebollen donuts, the red and white Christmas wreath cookies, the kerststol Christmas loaf, and the gourmetten grilled meats.
Christmas was a big deal in Lima (of course), but in the Pierce household, the old Dutch traditions were strongly upheld. As a result, 5 December, Sinterklaas, the day St Nicolas delivered presents if the Pierce girls had been good all year, was Brittany's favorite day of the year. Once Sinterklaas passed, Brittany turned to thoughts of how all the food her mother would make for the traditional two days of a Dutch Christmas (Eerste Kerstdag- First Christmas Day on December 25 and Tweede Kerstdag –Second Christmas Day on December 26) would fill the house with wonderous aromas that were second only to the incredible tastes in store. Although, eating anything other than Coach Sue's Master Cleanse, even with the spoonful of sand, usually tasted like heaven.
"Ms Pierce?" Brittany paused her cataloging of the meals to come when the voice on the phone returned.
"Uh, no. This is Brittany…I just called you…you put me on hold?" Brittany replied.
"Brittany Pierce?" The woman repeated, undoubtedly double checking the information scrawled across a brightly colored sticky note handed to her by a happy-not-to-be-bothered assistant.
"Yes?" Brittany answered. Setting right the spray snow frosted pinecones she and her sister had made and strewn across the fireplace mantle. Decorating the house was always fun because Santana came over to help. Despite her Scrooge exterior, Brittany knew this was a Christmas tradition that Santana loved. She always dropped not too subtle hints to remind Brittany to invite her for the decoration night. They'd done the best job yet this year, Brittany thought looking around. The green, white, silver, and gold bells and stars on the Christmas tree had been with the Pierce family for as long as Brittany could remember. She couldn't wait until she'd have her own set of decorations to share with her own little family.
"Okay, Ms Pierce, I see that you're calling in regards to your dissatisfaction with a recent visit to the Columbus Zoo?" the woman intoned in her best the-customer-is-crazy-but-still-always-right voice.
"Yes, that's right. I ordered a Christmas present for my girlfriend, Santana, and it wasn't there when I went to pick it up." Brittany still grinned her biggest smile when she got to say that aloud: my girlfriend, Santana. It'd only been a few days since she'd been able to disconnect the words, the grin, and bouncing up and down on her tiptoes in glee.
"Ms Pierce, I don't show any record of you ordering a Friends of the Zoo membership. In fact, you aren't even a member of the zoo."
"My order has to be there. I ordered it a month ago to be sure," Brittany's mind wandered as she looked at her cellphone hoping to find a text from 2 days ago. There were a dozen versions of 'meet you in 5 by the…' and at least 5 sexting sessions to scroll through before Brittany found the text where Santana had asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She'd repeated what she said every year: the greatest present is a person's presence. She was always sincere when she said it to Santana. She really would prefer a walk in the park to watch the ducks or lying atop Santana's car watching the planes take off from the Lima County airport to any present Santana could buy her. But this year, was the first year that they were officially girlfriends, real girlfriends. Girlfriends that went out on dates and held hands (even if it was just under a napkin) and bought each other real presents. Santana had participated in the Pierce Family Sinterklaas and Christmas days for years, but this year, Brittany wanted an extra special present for her girlfriend- her girlfriend. So when Sinterklaas Eve arrived and Santana's present had not, Brittany nervously suggested they skip Sinterklaas this year. With all the chaos of quitting New Directions, joining The Trouble Tones, and dealing with an unplanned coming out, Santana had been more than willing to delay presents until the 25th.
"I'm sorry Ms Pierce, our records don't show anything. Would you like to place another order?"
"It takes a lot of time to ship from China though doesn't it? I mean, I guess you could get one from another zoo, but I bet Santana would be able to tell the difference, I want one straight from China," Brittany replied. "Oh! I have the receipt, what if I can give you the numbers off the receipt?" Without waiting for a reply, Brittany jumped off the kitchen barstool and ran up to her room to retrieve the receipt. She pulled out the brown tanned paper that read 'Adoption Certificate' at the top, from under a pile of Spanish homework with many renditions of sombreros drawn across them.
"Hello?" she asked as she bounced back on top of the stool back in the kitchen.
"Ms Pierce, I think there's been some misunderstanding…" the woman on the phone began.
"Ready? 69420 dash 11111," Brittany read slowly, enunciating so she wouldn't have to repeat herself. Brittany heard the clicking of keys over the phone and hoped the woman would be back in a moment with an explanation of what had gone wrong with Brittany's well thought out plan.
From the day at the mall this past summer where they'd seen it on huge TV screen in the window of the Nature Channel store, Brittany had been sure what she was getting Santana for Christmas. Never one to apply compliments liberally, Brittany had taken special note when Santana paused at the window and said, "oh my god, they are so adorable". Brittany took a quick picture with her cellphone camera to be sure and made it her mission to get Santana the first thing she'd ever heard her call adorable, besides Brittany. She'd double and triple checked online and from every image file Google could find her, they were called giant pandas and they truly were adorable. Santana was so hard to shop for- she really was never more specific than "bling", so Brittany leapt at the chance to surprise her with something different and unexpected.
She'd gone back to the Nature Store the next day, but they only had DVDs of pandas. They directed her to the toy store, but all the pandas there were stuffed and had already been named- Po or Poo or Pooh or something. She'd searched online and again found lots of stuffed pandas named Po, but when Brittany found the World Wildlife Federation site, she knew she'd struck gold. For $50, she could get Santana a real live panda that she could name, and that they could walk around the park with, and dress in cute outfits. She'd waited until November to order because she didn't think she'd convince Lord Tubbington to share the bed with another guest. It was hard enough getting him not to hiss whenever Santana visited. But now as Brittany waited for the woman from the Columbus zoo to explain why Santana's panda wasn't ready when she showed up driven out there, Brittany was wishing she'd ordered this summer, at least her perfect present would be here by now.
"Ms Pierce…uh, there's been a mistake," the woman from the zoo started.
After a long explanation and several exasperated restarts, Brittany plopped down on the kitchen floor and sobbed.
Santana distractedly waved the waitress off with a flick of her left hand. The waitress looked to Brittany for a response but quickly walked away when she noticed the glass in front of her was still filled with orange juice and there was no coffee mug next to it. Santana still continued to study Brittany's less than cheerful expression, wearing a worried expression of her own. The Christmas morning had started off rough for Santana but she had been looking forward to Brittany being the remedy to that. The rest of her family was at her abuela's house celebrating the holiday. It was a tradition that Santana had indulged in her entire life. But things were different now. And she was dealing with it. Somehow, she had even found the maturity to smile as she told her parents that she had plans with Brittany and that she didn't mind them going to her grandmother's without her. Inside it was destroying her but she hadn't wanted to create tension between any more members of her family.
But now, sitting at the pancake house with a trinket in her pocket and her heart on her sleeve, desperately trying to read the eyes of the sad girl across the booth from her, Santana wanted to be anything but strong. She moved her booted foot beneath the table, seeking out Brittany's. She tapped the girl's crossed feet twice to rouse her attention.
"Hey." She dipped her head to get into the viewing field of Brittany's eyes.
"You okay, babe? Is it too early?" Brittany lifted her head, giving Santana a quick peek of her face before she went back to tracing the circular designs of the mock wood table with her finger. They had been there for a little more than ten minutes and Brittany hadn't said more than 3 words; orange, juice, and please. Santana was reaching a breaking point as she extended her hand to Brittany's side of the table. She gently took the busy finger between her own index finger and thumb. Brittany's eyes locked on to Santana's fingers on hers. Santana used the rest of her fingers to unclench the rest of Brittany's then slid her own in the gaps. She rested both their hands atop the table without a care of how it looked to anyone else. At that moment, all she cared about was how it felt. The buzzing in her stomach, the strong beating in her chest, and the quietness in her mind… it all felt right. This was the Christmas she had wanted and would always want.
Brittany ran her thumb back and forth along the curve between Santana's thumb and pointer finger. She could feel herself smiling widely. Before she knew it, a giggle leaped out of her mouth. She looked up at Santana's face, shocked at her own reaction to the PDA. Santana was smiling just as goofily. Her deep brown eyes were glowing like gold thanks to the sunlight streaming in through the unshaded window. Every inch of her long black hair was curled and flowed freely down her back and framed her face beautifully. Brittany was saddened again as she thought of her failed gift idea. She frowned and turned to stare out the window to her left. She ignored Santana's hand squeeze, wishing she could disappear until next Christmas, when she would for sure get it right.
"Brittany. Brittany! Will you please tell me what's wrong? Please?"
Her voice had cracked on the last 'please'. Brittany winced as she turned back to face her. She closed her eyes and let the words loose.
"I couldn't get your gift, San. I tried really really hard and I thought I had planned it perfectly but I didn't and I called the panda people and they couldn't help me and I wanted to have you call them and tell them to do their job like you always do but then you wouldn't be surprised and I really wanted you to be surprised and I just… I'm sorry, Santana. I ruined Christmas."
"I love you." Brittany opened her eyes, thinking she was imagining things.
"I love you." Santana repeated. She grabbed her coat and stood from the bench. She put it on quickly and grabbed Brittany's from the same spot. She shook it open and held it up for Brittany to put her arms in.
"Let's get out of here."
"But we haven't gotten our food yet." She stood anyway and slid into the waiting coat. Santana reached around tucking it closed as she sneakily squeezed Brittany into a hug from behind.
"We'll find something else later. I'd rather just be alone with you right now."
Brittany smiled as they headed for the register. Santana quickly paid for the coffee and juice before they left the restaurant. Santana started the car and threw it into reverse, not giving it time to warm up from its short slumber. One hand on the wheel and one hand holding Brittany's, she drove the small distance to a pond they hadn't visited in years since the ducks no longer visited it. Santana had been there numerous times on her own when she needed to remember what happy was, but she hadn't told Brittany that. There was so much she hadn't told Brittany. But she was ready for all of that to change.
Brittany quickly recognized where they were headed. When they were younger, she and Santana had thrown quite a few loaves of bread to the ducks that inhabited Marshall Pond. It had lost its appeal when the new condos were built and the ducks stopped visiting. But Santana had been visiting still. Brittany had seen her car a couple of times as she drove by but she never mentioned it to Santana. But now she was curious as to why they were going now.
As she pulled into the parking spot, Santana took a deep breath before she released Brittany's hand and put the car into park. She shifted her position in the seat to face Brittany. Her left hand slyly slid into her left coat pocket as she palmed the small box. Brittany looked back at her, smiling obliviously. Instinctively, Santana's head fell against the headrest of her seat as she admired Brittany's naturally beautiful face.
"My adorable, sad little panda." She hadn't even meant to say it but that happened a lot around Brittany. Brittany shifted her position as well to face Santana. She shyly bit her lip before leaning over and placing a quick peck on Santana's nose. Santana squeezed the box tightly in her concealed hand as she thought of the right words to say.
She couldn't think of the next line. Everything sounded stupid and cliché. But she had to say something.
"I love you."
"I love you too, Santana."
Okay. We got that established. Now move on, stupid.
She was pressing the box so deep into her skin, one of the corners was starting to hurt her. She couldn't find the words to say as she clumsily pulled it out of her pocket and handed it to Brittany. Brittany's eyes lit up but her mouth was frowning, no doubt still thinking about the lack of a panda in their lives. But now without the burden of the gift in her pocket, Santana was herself again and she pressed a finger to Brittany's mouth before she could protest.
"Don't even think about that. Just open it."
Brittany conceded without much resistance as she opened the small square box with a pop. Inside rested a small silver band with a stone encrusted infinity symbol on a pillow of black velvet. She stared at it, not really sure what to make of it. Her confusion was apparent to Santana and she found her voice in that moment.
"I know we're young. And I know we may not be a couple forever. But… I want to think it's possible, Britt. I want to prove that first loves do last. I'm not attaching anything to that ring but hope. You make me better in every way and I never want to lose you. Maybe someday that ring will be replaced with a better one. One that you'll wear around your finger until we're too old and you have to put it on a chain around your neck. Or maybe it will just be a ring that some young girl in love with you gave you on the best Christmas of her life. But either way, I want you in my life forever. And I want to be in yours for the same length of time."
Brittany was still staring at the gift.
Santana's heart was racing. She started to feel like she had made a huge mistake and began to search for words to fix the dilemma. She looked out at the frozen pond thinking of a solution. She shut her eyes as her brain started to cloud. She turned back to Brittany.
The index finger of Brittany's left hand was pressed to Santana's lips now. She looked down and noticed the ring was on Brittany's ring finger. When she looked up again, Brittany's face was serious but soft. She leaned forward smoothly as she replaced her finger with her lips. She kissed Santana slowly letting Santana warm up to her. Santana's heart slowed down, but only for a moment before speeding up again as she let herself give in to the kiss. After a moment, Brittany broke the kiss but kept their lips touching barely.
"Vrolijk Kerstfeest, Santana."
"Merry Christmas, Brittany."
A/N: Nocturnal Elf Missions Operative- N.E.M.O. is responsible for the lovely parts of this one. Blame me for the bad Dutch. Happy Holidays! Thanks for reading! See you in 2012!