|Dr Lopez, I Presume
Author: themostrandomfandom PM
And, okay, so maybe inviting Brittany Pierce-the blonde, spunky, perfect host of Animal Planet's most popular wildlife conservation show-to Africa to film an animal which may or may not even exist is the new stupidest thing that Santana Lopez has ever done, but, really, can you blame her?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Santana L. & Brittany P. - Words: 11,057 - Reviews: 58 - Favs: 199 - Follows: 48 - Published: 11-18-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8715776
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Lying to a parrot has got to be the second stupidest thing that Santana Lopez has ever done—because using up her limited bandwidth to send off this ridiculous longshot email is sure as hell the first stupidest thing she's ever done, even on a very long list of profoundly stupid things, and the parrot lie falls not far behind it.
If Santana were to trace the genealogy of all her stupid decisions, she supposes that Stupid Things #1 and 2 have actually been in the works for years, starting with when she made the stupid decision to spite her domineering father by attending veterinary school rather than medical school.
("It's harder to get into vet school anyway, Dad. Don't look at me that way! I swear to God...")
Don't get her wrong: Santana loves being a vet and she loves animals more than she loves people because animals don't judge you for shit and they're always honest about how they feel. Santana likes helping them. She also likes not having to deal with people and all the backstabbing, dishonest craziness that comes with them as part of her job.
It's just that becoming a veterinarian, enlisting with the African Conservation Foundation, and shipping off to Kenya before the ink had even dried on her DVM license was a pretty batshit crazy move on Santana's part.
Or, rather, a stupid one.
Sticking at the N-aápo Preserve for as long as she has, never mind the lack of funding, is another pretty stupid thing that Santana has done.
And taking on more cases in five years than most vets do in ten? That's stupid, too—and especially when Santana has as little help around the preserve as she does.
Investing her own money in the preserve in order to supplement their meager government grant? Stupid.
Taking a voluntary pay cut just to keep the damn place afloat? Stupid with stupid sauce.
(What can Santana say? Her heart really is in veterinary medicine. Just because people are lame and selfish doesn't mean that innocent animals should have to suffer or whatever. God.)
All of Santana's previous stupidity pales in comparison to Stupid Things #1 and 2, though, because, seriously, what kind of idiot falls in love with the blonde, spunky host of Conservation Nation on Animal Planet just from watching the show over Hulu and then invites that blonde, spunky host all the way to Kenya to film a damn animal that may or may not even exist?
Worse yet, what kind of idiot makes such a stupid-ass invitation and then lies to a forty-eight year old African Grey Parrot about her own intentions in doing so?
("If she comes to the preserve, she'll bring us a big check—that's how her show works, okay? I mean, so what if she also happens to be gorgeous or whatever? That's not what this is about. I'm doing this for you, Mejooli. Don't look at me that way!")
Basically, Santana putting her hopes on Brittany Pierce coming to N-aápo is stupid, no matter what Santana hopes to get out of it.
N-aápo is a small preserve and Brittany Pierce has better things to do than film there—like saving Pink Amazonian River Dolphins with her awesome fundraising skills, for one, or bringing attention to the polar bear population crisis in the Arctic by attracting big name donors, for two, or just generally being both environmentally conscientious and gorgeous at the same time, for three, four, five, and six through one million.
Things like this never really turn out for Santana anyways. Hoping for good things to happen is stupid and Santana doesn't want to add any more Stupid Things to her great, long list today.
Brittany probably won't even answer Santana's stupid email anyhow.
Brittany answers Santana's stupid email right away.
Almost as soon as Santana hits "Send," a new email appears in her inbox. At first, Santana thinks it's Gmail telling her that her message bounced back or something, but the new email isn't from Gmail.
It's from Brittany.
that sounds like a great opportunity! i'll have my producers contact you. expect an email by Friday.
So maybe rereading Brittany's email forty times like a total girl is the new stupidest thing Santana's ever done, but, really? Brittany Pierce just emailed Santana back. No, Brittany Pierce just freakin' responded to Santana's stupid-ass query. And what's more? Brittany freakin' responded to Santana's stupid-ass query favorably.
"I'm dreaming, Mejooli."
(The bird coos, perched on Santana's shoulder. Somehow he seems less judgmental than he did just a minute ago.)
Brittany Pierce just responded favorably to Santana's unspeakably stupid-ass query and she's going to have her producers contact Santana about the possibility of her coming to Kenya. The producers will get back to Santana by Friday, which is tomorrow.
(Suddenly, Santana only feels the best kind of stupid.)
And, okay, so maybe at least some of Santana's excitement right now has nothing to do with the fact that every episode of Conservation Nation ends with Brittany giving a one-hundred thousand dollar check to the organization she chose to feature.
Santana smiles at her computer screen, bashful, even without any human company to see her happiness.
"Shut up," she mumbles at Mejooli.
(He coos, knowing.)
Strictly speaking, Santana has yet to see the white lion herself.
The laibon from the Maasai tribe who live on the northwest corner of the preserve swears to her that he saw it with his own two eyes, though, and, God help her, Santana believes him, so it's not exactly as if Santana invited Brittany to Kenya without reason.
White lions are exceptionally rare in the wild and usually only appear in South Africa amongst a highly specific localized lion gene pool. While white lions don't have any natural predators, they frequently attract the attention of poachers, so if this cub really exists and Brittany shows it on film, not only will it boost the hell out of Brittany's ratings, but it might also create an opportunity to save the lion's life.
It's like a win-win situation.
Apparently, Brittany's producers love the idea of a white lion. They also love the idea of spotlighting a "little known" preserve like N-aápo. They book Brittany and her crew a private flight from L.A. to Nairobi. They make accommodations to bring Brittany to the preserve for three full days of filming.
Even though everything happens like a dream, inviting Brittany Pierce to N-aápo may just be the stupidest thing that Santana Lopez has ever done, not only because the white lion may not exist, but also because, holy shit, having Brittany at N-aápo means that Santana will actually have to talk her.
And the thing is that Santana is just a teensy-tiny-total bit in love with Brittany, even though she's never actually seen Brittany in person before.
The other thing is that Santana sort of sucks at talking to girls in general, which is to say nothing of girls that she likes, let alone the girl that she loves.
Santana's father would probably tell Santana that it's just a "celebrity crush" and that Santana cannot actually be in love with Brittany Pierce, having never physically met the woman, but he would be wrong. What Santana feels for Brittany now isn't like what Santana felt when she was thirteen and obsessed with Ali Larter, okay?
As stupid as it sounds, Santana actually loves Brittany, who is not only gorgeous, but also cute and clever and funny and who knows so much about animals that Santana wonders if Brittany didn't secretly graduate from veterinary school, too.
Brittany has a passion and a focus and she seems to really get it. She doesn't give money to bogus-ass causes, but rather only to genuine causes that really need her help. She also doesn't seem phony or judgmental at all.
Santana fell in love with Brittany watching an episode of Conservation Nation in which Brittany helped out this macaw sanctuary in the rainforest of Brazil.
While Brittany talked about how there are fewer than one-thousand Lear's Macaws left in the wild, one of the little local children whose parents worked at the sanctuary crawled onto Brittany's lap. Even though she was in the middle of filming her closing monologue, Brittany just smiled at the girl, held her close, and kept talking. At the end of the broadcast, Brittany waved the little girl's hand to the camera.
Santana fell in love right then.
And now Brittany Pierce will be at Santana's preserve in less than seventeen hours.
It's entirely stupid.
"Why did I think I could do this?" Santana groans, burying her head in her hands.
The lesser kudu whose injured hoof she's tending just bleats at her.
"Stupid, stupid, stupid," Santana mutters, wrapping his bandage more securely.
Somehow, Santana had failed to realize that Brittany's crew consists of three people plus Brittany herself, which means that Santana will have to improvise when it comes to the living arrangements these next few days—that's the first thing that Santana thinks when she sees Brittany's jeep pull into the carpool outside the clinic.
The second thing Santana thinks is Holy God, she has movie star sunglasses—because Brittany does indeed have movie star sunglasses to go along with her rockin' movie star body.
In fact, Brittany looks like she walked right out of the "Sexy Conservationist" category on some magazine Hot 100 list, which is both awesome and awful at the same time.
(On the one hand, safari shorts. On the other hand, Santana can't breathe.)
Brittany hails Santana from about five feet away, offering her a big smile and a ten-four wave.
"Dr. Lopez, I presume," she says in a phony British accent.
It's the most obvious joke in the world, and yet Santana feels so keenly stupefied in Brittany's presence that she can't think of anything to say in response to it and she even forgets to laugh. Instead, she just stares.
"It says your name on your shirt," Brittany says helpfully, stepping closer and pointing to the monogram on Santana's polo. Then, "You're way younger than I thought you would be."
Brittany hasn't stopped smiling yet.
Before Santana can think of anything not stupid to say to Brittany, one of the guys on Brittany's crew—he's got this lameass mohawk and the kind of smirk that Santana can't trust—intrudes, tapping Santana on the shoulder.
"You guys have indoor plumbing?" he asks. "I've been holding it since Masai Mara."
"Uh, just an outhouse," Santana blurts.
It's the first thing she's said in Brittany's presence.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Beyond Brittany herself, Brittany's crew consists of Puck, the lameass mohawk cameraman; Mike, the silent sound tech; and Tina, Brittany's on-the-spot writer, hair stylist, legal counsel, editor, and personal assistant.
(Santana's crew consists of Mejooli the parrot and a few local Maasai teenagers hired as part of a work exchange program.)
Unfortunately, Santana can't exactly take the day off just because the most perfect woman in the world is at her clinic, so after she gives Brittany and the crew the grand tour of the building, shows them where they'll sleep, and sets them up with a sampling of African Conservation Foundation issued maps of the preserve, she disappears, leaving her guests alone in the commissary to make plans for tomorrow's filming expedition.
In the meanwhile, Santana returns to her own daily duties, which include not only administering medicine to and changing bandages for all the sick and injured animals she has in her care, but also feeding the animals, cleaning their cages, writing up reports for the ACF honchos back at headquarters, and taking inventory. Though all necessary, it's hardly glamorous work, and it leaves Santana sweaty, sore, and with gazelle shit tracked into the treads on her boots.
The only good part about the work—aside from the actual helping animals part—is that it gives Santana something to do besides hovering around Brittany and acting like an idiot.
(Santana still hasn't managed to say a single intelligent thing to Brittany all day.)
In fact, for a while, Santana almost manages to forget that she has the bombshell host of Animal Planet's most successful primetime program since Puppy Bowl hanging out at her preserve—that is, Santana almost forgets until she happens past the commissary on her way to find some fresh gauze for a wounded Patas monkey and overhears someone talking about her.
Puck says: "... is that the doc is seriously hot. I would not mind getting acquainted with what's under those safari shorts."
Tina cuts in: "Oh my god, Puck! Please don't try to sleep with the veterinarian. She's the only credentialed employee here and if you get on her bad side, you could bomb this episode for us."
Puck huffs, offended. "Who's saying I'd get on her bad side? I could be just what the doctor ordered."
Brittany's voice enters the conversation and Santana's heartbeat picks up.
"You don't know that," she says evenly. "She may not even like what you have to offer."
"What I have to off—? What do you even mean?" Puck whines.
Tina ends the conversation. "She just means that you're not as universally appealing as you think you are, Noah. Now can we get back to planning the shoot? We're gonna need some long shots and it might be best if we framed them over this watering hole here..."
(Okay, so it's totally stupid for Santana to feel all fluttery about what Brittany said to Puck. After all, it's not as if Brittany told Puck to stay the hell away from her future wife, lest she be forced to duel Puck for Santana's heart or anything grand or romantic like that—she just mentioned offhandedly that Santana might not be into Puck or might not be into dudes or something.)
(Santana isn't into Puck or into dudes, just for the record.)
(The truth is that Santana doesn't even know if Brittany would like what Santana has to offer. After all, it's not like Brittany's bio on the Animal Planet website says anything about Brittany's sexual preferences and Brittany keeps a low profile, as far as the whole "celebrity gossip mill" goes. To make matters worse, Santana has like the worst gaydar ever when it comes to girls, so she probably wouldn't even realize what was happening if Brittany tried to flirt with her.)
Brittany tries to flirt with her.
Or at least Santana thinks that Brittany tries to flirt with her.
(God, why does Santana have to be so stupid when it comes to girls? Santana is a freakin' girl. You would think she'd understand them, like, even just on like a theoretical level or something.)
They pass each other in the hallway while Brittany is on her way back from brushing her teeth in the commissary sink and Santana is on her way to her makeshift bed for the night. Brittany smiles at Santana from about five feet away, brightly enough that Santana sees her do it, even in the dim light. Brittany offers Santana another ten-four wave.
"So do your pajamas say your name on them, too?" Brittany asks and the question takes Santana so aback that she just freezes.
Brittany laughs and tosses her hair. She looks like an expensive fucking shampoo commercial come to life. Santana's mouth runs dry. Luckily, Brittany doesn't seem to notice.
"My mom used to have to write my name in my underwear when I was a kid because I would just like randomly take it off when I was at the playground and stuff," she says breezily, as if it's a normal sort of thing to say in conversation with someone you've only barely met. "I was totally like a little extremist or something."
"Exhibitionist?" Santana guesses, her brain short-circuited because Brittany Pierce is actually talking to her and she has nowhere to hide.
"Right," Brittany nods, and, holy shit, she actually winks at Santana.
Santana scrambles for something to say. "Right," is all she can come up with.
Something glints in Brittany's eyes. She takes a step closer to where Santana stands. She smells like spearmint and heaven or something, Santana swears to God.
"So, I hope you don't mind," Brittany says, staring at Santana in a way that makes Santana feel keenly stupider than she has ever felt before in her life, "but I did some snooping... and I realized that there are four beds here, but five people."
Brittany's expression turns serious.
"Dr. Lopez, where are you going to sleep tonight?"
Santana should just tell Brittany not to worry about the sleeping arrangements or say something flirty and cool. Instead, her brain gets stuck on the fact that Brittany keeps calling her Dr. Lopez and that Dr. Lopez is her father.
"Santana," she blurts.
"Santana," Brittany repeats, turning the name over on her tongue as if testing the flavor of a new sweet. She nods, approving, then reiterates, "Santana, where are you going to sleep tonight?"
Santana answers before she can think better of it: "With Impére."
Brittany quirks an eyebrow, curious but not judgmental. "Who's Impére?" she asks.
Brittany looks so totally perfect in the dimness of the hallway that Santana flusters. "I can show you," she offers.
And so she does.
Santana leads Brittany out of the clinic proper and to the back pen, a walled enclosure built from timbers thicker around than a human body and taller than the clinic roof. Brittany watches as Santana unlatches the heavy, steel deadbolt on the gate, interested. Santana motions for Brittany to follow her into the enclosure.
"This is Impére," Santana says, gesturing to the massive bull elephant shuffling towards the back of the pen, as though Brittany could miss him. She watches a grateful sort of wonder bloom over Brittany's face—the same sort of grateful wonder that Santana fell in love with, watching Brittany's show.
"Wow," Brittany says. Then, "Hey, big fella. How are you doing tonight?" She talks in the exact same way that she would to a human, not using a baby voice or anything. Santana feels fairly certain that Brittany hasn't blinked since they stepped inside the back pen.
(Santana hadn't known until now that it's possible to fall in love with someone you're already in love with again, but, apparently, it totally is.)
"You can touch him, if you like," Santana says gingerly. "He's very gentle. They tell me he's one of the oldest captive elephants in Africa."
Brittany extends a hand toward Impére, but nods toward Santana. "How old is he?" she asks.
Santana shrugs. She finds it a little bit easier to talk now that Brittany has her attention focused mostly on Impére rather than on her, but not much. She tries to focus on answering Brittany's question instead of blurting out a love confession, John Hughes-style.
"Well, they think he's at least seventy or maybe even eighty years old. Nobody knows his real age because he was born in the wild back before the government even designated N-aápo as a preserve," she explains. "The Maasai have reported sightings of him dating as far back as the 60s, though. They can tell it's him because of that scar over his eye."
By now, Brittany is stroking Impére's trunk, allowing him to trace over her knuckles with the nub of his nose. Brittany looks entirely at ease and natural, like someone who's been hanging out with seventy year old African bull elephants her whole life. It occurs to Santana that maybe Brittany has been hanging out with seventy year old African bull elephants her whole life.
(How the hell would Santana know?)
"Why is he at the clinic?" Brittany asks.
Santana shrugs again and walks up beside Impére. She strokes over his left hind leg.
"Poachers," she says. "When he was about fifty or so, poachers set out snares to catch him. They wanted to sell him either for ivory or to a circus or something. Anyway, now the poor guy's got a bum leg. Younger male elephants sometimes live in, like, elephant frats, but Impére was all by himself without a herd to help him out, so they brought him here, where we could keep him safe from poachers and make sure he eats right and stuff. He's been here way longer than I have."
Somewhere in the middle of Santana's story, Brittany turned her gaze from Impére to Santana. Now Brittany's brow furrows.
"What?" Santana asks, nervous. She gives Impére's leg another stroke to calm her nerves.
(Brittany Pierce is looking at her. God, God, God.)
The corners of Brittany's mouth turn up into a smile. Brittany scrunches up her nose. "Elephant frats?" she repeats, incredulous. "Elephant frats?"
"W-what?" Santana stammers, both nervous and confused now. She has no idea if what she said offended Brittany or weirded Brittany out or maybe just sounded incredibly stupid to her or something. Her hand stills against Impére's hide and she swallows, hard.
For all of Santana's nervousness, Brittany just laughs and bites her tongue between her teeth, like she just took a bite of something that's almost just too sweet.
"That is like the cutest thing I've ever heard," she says, hands still wrapped up in Impére's trunk. "I'm totally gonna find a way to say that tomorrow during our shoot."
Santana laughs, fluttery, but also bashful. "Oh God, please no. It was stupid and—"
Brittany shakes her head, still laughing. "No, it wasn't stupid," she protests. "I'm pretty sure it's a technical term, right? I mean, you're a vet. That's gotta be the lingo," she teases.
Santana laughs harder.
Brittany goes on. "I'm gonna find a way to sneak it in tomorrow, no matter what Tina says. Please tell me that Impére's mother herd is still on the preserve—"
Santana can hardly speak, she's laughing so hard. "They're still on the preserve," she confirms.
"Yessss!" Brittany cheers and gives Impére's trunk a shake, as if it were his hand. "Okay, yeah, we're gonna find some elephants tomorrow and talk about the dangers of elephant pledging. Oh my God, can you imagine how much binge drinking these guys could do? I bet they're like Chi Chi Lambda or something—you know, like XXL?"
By now, Santana can hardly breathe.
She also feels one-thousand percent sure that it will be a miracle if she doesn't accidentally propose marriage to Brittany sometime in-between now and the time when Brittany returns to the States.
Santana ends up sleeping in a hammock strung up along the back corner of Impére's pen; she dreams that she's in a shampoo commercial, but she can't remember her lines.
When she wakes up in the morning, she doesn't expect to find Brittany and her crew still at the clinic. Somehow, she thought they'd be out the door at the crack of dawn, intrepid and ready to tackle a long day of filming on the savanna.
As it turns out, Santana was half right.
"We are ready to go," Tina says. "It's just that we don't know the area that well, so we thought that maybe—"
"—you could come with us to show us where the lions hang out," Brittany fills in, breathless. When she sees Santana about to protest, she hurries to add, "It wouldn't be for long! We could take two jeeps and you could just stay with us until we got our bearings or something. Then you could drive back."
If Santana were to make a list of all the things that she doesn't want to do right now, saying no to Brittany would be somewhere at the top of it, right around de-worming Impére and explaining to Dad that I'm actually paying my employers so that I can continue to work for them because, apparently, I am a dumbass.
Even so, Santana has responsibilities. The animals at the clinic depend on her. She can't exactly leave them.
"Sorry," she says, "but I can't play hooky this morning. Otherwise, I'll never finish all the work I have to do today. I could send one of the local boys with you. Leboo speaks okay English—"
Brittany interjects again. "'Many hands make work light,'" she quotes, bright. "What if we helped you with all your chores once we got back from our shoot? We'll really just be setting up capture cams today anyway and getting some prelim footage. We could come back for lunch and help you clean the cages and get everyone fed and stuff."
Puck, Mike, and Tina look less than sure about Brittany's offer, but Brittany herself looks like a kid spilling her fondest Christmas wish to a particularly trustworthy-looking mall Santa. She actually pouts her goddamn lip at Santana, and, God.
How could anyone say no to that?
"All right," Santana concedes, much to her own surprise, and also the surprise of Brittany's crew, who to a one look flabbergasted to see how quickly Santana caved.
"You'll do it?" Brittany says.
Santana nods, helpless.
"Awesome," Brittany smiles.
Puck, Mike, and Tina take one vehicle while Brittany—in her movie star sunglasses—volunteers to ride with Santana in the other. Santana leads their two jeep caravan and every time she glances in the rearview mirror, she finds Mike and Tina in various stages of canoodle in the backseat of the Animal Planet jeep, while Puck sings along to whatever music he's got playing from the tape deck, oblivious to what's going on behind him as he drives.
Santana smirks. "So Mike and Tina are...?"
"Together," Brittany supplies. "Very, very together."
Before Santana can stop herself, she blurts out, "And are you with anyone—?"
Brittany doesn't even allow her to finish the question. "No! Very, very no." Her own vehemence seems to surprise her. Her voice goes from loud to soft. "I mean, um... Tina says to do as she says, not as she does, anyway. I mean, I only really have time to hang out with work people and Tina told me that dipping your pen in the company ick is bad idea for someone with my kind of public persona, so."
Santana scrunches up her nose. "Company ick?" she repeats, incredulous. "Company ick?"
(It may just be the cutest thing that Santana's ever heard anyone say in her entire life, and that includes baby cousins with lisps trying to recite Spanish tongue-twisters at family reunions.)
Brittany's brow furrows in confusion. She glances at Santana in the rearview mirror, her eyes shielded behind wide amber lenses. "Yeah, company ick. Isn't that the saying?"
Santana laughs. "It is now," she grins, and she means it.
(She tries not to think of spunky, blonde babies with lisps saying adorable things like company ick at future family reunions because, hello, stupid.)
Brittany just shrugs. Then, "What about you?" She shoots another glance at Santana in the rearview. "Are you, uh...?"
"Dating anyone?" Santana supplies. "God, no! I mean, at the clinic, it's pretty much just me and Mejooli, so, uh... no."
It takes a long while before Brittany responds.
"Cool," she says, as if she just found out that she and Santana share a favorite band or something.
Santana's heartbeat picks up in her chest because, holy God, did Brittany Pierce just say it was cool that both she and Santana are single at the moment? Like, what the hell does that even mean? Santana tries desperately to keep her voice comparably even to Brittany's.
She doesn't want to say anything stupid.
"Cool," she repeats, nodding.
(Brittany Pierce is definitely flirting with her.)
(Holy fucking God.)
Santana leads the crew all the way to the northwest corner of the preserve, close to the Maasai village. Honestly, she has no idea if they'll find the lions here, let alone the white lion, but it seems like as good a place as any to start.
Eventually, they park the Animal Planet jeep along the dirt road outside the village and everyone transfers over into Santana's vehicle, never mind how loudly Puck complains loudly about the lack of legroom in the backseat.
After some internal deliberation, Santana pilots the jeep off-road and into the hazards of the savanna grass, headed towards what she hopes is a likely place to find lions.
It isn't hard to stumble upon wildlife at N-aápo in general—maybe just not specific wildlife, like a single elusive lion cub with an incredibly rare recessive pigmentation gene—so the party soon encounters a herd of Burchell's zebra taking dust baths in a sandpit.
The zebras' manes look coppery from the sand, and every time they kick their hooves or swish their tails, great hazy clouds rise up around them so that the whole scene becomes a sort of living mirage.
Tina tells Santana to stop the jeep because the zebras would make great intro footage and Santana does as Tina instructs, parking about one-hundred yards away from the herd and killing the engine. She and Brittany wait while Mike, Tina, and Puck sift through the equipment in the trunk, selecting the ideal camera for a long shot with a lot of back light.
With camera in hand, Puck stands up through the sunroof of the jeep to get the best angle, putting his boots on the back of Santana and Brittany's seat. Brittany takes off her sunglasses and pulls funny faces as Puck does his best to maneuver within the small space, grimacing every time his kneecap slips too close to her head and mouthing out the word Gross when Puck's crotch invades her personal bubble.
Santana does her best not to laugh out loud because, Jesus Christ, Brittany is perfect and was probably the most awesome class clown in the history of class clowns back when she was in high school and college or whatever.
Puck takes about ten minutes' worth of footage before Tina tells him that that's enough and that it's time to move on.
After the zebras, it's Thomson's gazelles, and then a herd of topi, springing through the grass. Brittany's crew collects footage of each animal in turn, and Puck even takes shots of a secretary bird wandering through the scrub brush, despite the fact that Tina tells him that walking birds are boring.
"It has a mohawk," he insists.
"Well, then that just means it's both boring and stupid," Tina snipes.
"Fuck off," Puck says, adjusting his lens.
Santana just wonders when the crew will notice that nothing they've seen yet today even remotely resembles a lion, white or otherwise.
And, okay, so maybe it's a bad sign when an elephant herd manages to sneak up on Santana because she's too busy watching the girl sitting next to her drum along to Iron Maiden songs on her dashboard, but, really, who can blame her?
The girl sitting next to her just so happens to be her dream girl—her dream girl, who seems increasingly comfortable in her presence and who is captivating on basically every level, even down to the way she messes up some of Steve Harris' most classic lyrics.
"Elephants coming... Run to the hills... Run for your lives," Brittany sings.
Santana actually snorts a little. "Um, I'm pretty sure that Iron Maiden did not write that," she says, glancing at Brittany in the rearview.
Brittany laughs, too. "No, they totally didn't," she agrees. "It's just that there are elephants coming."
"Yeah, behind us," she says, pointing to the side mirror just beyond her window.
And sure enough, Brittany is right: Three massive African elephants follow in the wake of the jeep, taking its same path through the grass. Two of the elephants are fully grown and one is a juvenile. All of them are fucking huge and something Santana definitely should have noticed coming up behind her vehicle.
"Holy shit," Santana mutters, mad at herself for being so unobservant.
"Should I grab the camera?" Puck offers.
"Nope," Brittany says, "because I'm gonna film this segment. Pass me a handheld."
Apparently, Brittany was dead serious about the whole "elephant frat" thing, no matter how much it sounded like she was joking about it last night.
"Female elephants are social and live in matriarchal herds," Brittany narrates, craning the handheld camcorder out the window in the direction of the elephants, who've stopped to denude some baobab trees of bark just beyond the jeep.
"But male elephants are typically solitary creatures. Rarely, a few males will come together to form 'bachelor herds,' or what my friend Dr. Santana Lopez, head veterinarian at the N-aápo Preserve, likes to call 'elephant frats,' which is what we see here, with three bull elephants who've come together for the purpose of seeking food.
Just like frat boys in the U.S., these big fellas are on the lookout for food, fun, and ladies. Zoologists have yet to determine whether elephants throw awesome toga parties or not, so I hope to collect compelling field evidence on the subject while we spend the next few days here at N-aápo."
It's a miracle that Santana manages to keep from laughing until Brittany stops recording. It's also a miracle that Santana doesn't blurt out that she's in love with Brittany and wants to have her lady babies at the same time she starts laughing.
Brittany just smiles at her. "Nailed it," she says, pleased with herself.
Tina groans from the backseat, "God, I am going to have to edit the fuck out of this segment, aren't I?"
Brittany smirks. "Not a chance."
Before Santana can stop herself, she nods in agreement: "Yeah, no, don't edit anything. It's perfect."
The timer on Santana's pager goes off at quarter to eleven, reminding her that she needs to get back to the clinic by noon to dispense meds and get all her patients their lunches. When it does, Puck jumps in the backseat.
"Holy fuck, what is that thing?" he says, pointing to the pager as if it's some kind of poisonous snake that will bite him if he drops his guard around it.
"I thought they stopped making those in the 90s," Mike says reverently.
(It's the first time Santana has heard him speak.)
Santana blushes, embarrassed at her Late Cretaceous era technology. "Welcome to Africa," she mumbles. "Stuff from the 90s is pretty cutting edge around here."
She expects someone to take a crack at how N-aápo must really need the donation money from Conservation Nation if the ACF can't even afford to get its chief veterinarian a legit smartphone or something. No one does, though.
Instead, Brittany pipes up. "Tubular," she says, nodding. She seems genuinely impressed.
"Brittany loves stuff from the 80s and 90s," Tina explains, rolling her eyes as if Brittany's taste were some kind of tragedy. "Even the slang."
Santana feels her heart melt for Brittany even just a little bit more than it has so far today, because, seriously, the girl is absolutely flawless.
"Bodacious," Santana says, smiling at Brittany in the rearview.
Brittany's whole face lights up. "You liked Ninja Turtles, too?" she squeals and Santana just smiles and starts humming the theme song.
(She thinks she just started flirting back at Brittany Pierce.)
(She feels surprisingly smart doing it.)
At eleven o'clock, Santana drives the crew back to the Animal Planet jeep near the Maasai village. She shows them a few more places on the map where they might try to scope for lions before parting ways with them, for the time being.
They plan to stay on the savanna for a few more hours and return to the clinic for a late lunch, at which point Brittany promises that they'll help Santana with whatever chores she's got lined up before heading back out on the grasslands for Lion Quest: Part II.
As much as Santana hates to part ways with Brittany, even for little while—okay, so she might just have it bad, like really fucking bad—she does feel pleased that she hasn't managed to make a complete ass of herself in front of Brittany today, even though they've spent several hours in a confined space together. The whole way back to the clinic, Santana has a smile on her face.
"Michaelangelo is a party dude... Run for the hills... Run for your lives," she sings.
When she gets back to her office, she points a finger at Mejooli, perched on her chair.
"Don't even start with me," she warns him, unable to keep herself from grinning like the stupidest fucking idiot on the face of the goddamn planet.
Apparently, being in love with the funniest, cutest, most idiosyncratic girl in the world does wonders for one's work ethic because, even though Santana played hooky from the clinic all morning, she still manages to get all of the animals fed, watered, and medicated before Brittany and her crew return from their expedition. She waits for them in the carpool just to stop herself from making lunch for them—for Brittany, really—in the meanwhile before they get back.
When their jeep pulls up, she can't help but grin.
"Any lions?" she asks hopefully.
"Just more elephants," Tina shrugs, clearly disappointed.
Brittany grins. "It was awesome. You should have been there."
Only after Santana insists that Brittany and her crew should return to the savanna while there's still daylight and that she'll be okay running the clinic by herself in their absence does Brittany agree to make a second expedition in search of the lions—and even then it still takes a lot of bossing from Tina and whining from Puck to get Brittany to go.
Once again, Santana shows Brittany and her crew what she hopes are some likely lion hiding spots on the map, though she can't help but feel a keen stab of guilt knowing that even her best guesses don't count for much, considering that the white lion cub may not even exist.
"What happens if you can't find it?" Santana whispers to Brittany as she helps the crew load gear into the back of their jeep. "The lion cub, I mean?"
Brittany shrugs. "We'll have to scrap the episode," she says. She doesn't seem especially worried, no matter how dire that possibility sounds to Santana. "The network will air a rerun and send us off to film somewhere else next week or whatever."
"I could ask the tribe about it again tomorrow, if you want," Santana offers, shutting the trunk to the jeep.
"Radical," Brittany says. "So that means you're coming with us again tomorrow morning?"
Santana guesses that it does.
(Her mouth hangs open a little. How does Brittany do that?)
Brittany opens the passenger door to the jeep, wearing a smug look, like she knows what Santana's thinking. She actually wags her sunglasses at Santana, like a career gambler in a Vegas movie. "You know I'm going to get you on camera tomorrow, right?" she taunts. "Like, I have to interview you 'cause you're the wildlife guru around here, you know?"
Santana can't help but smile. "I'm not an anything guru, though," she stammers.
Brittany grins. "You so are," she says, slipping into the jeep before Santana can protest any further.
A warm feeling spreads through Santana's chest and doesn't fade for a long, long while until after Brittany and her crew drive away.
(Seriously, though, how does Brittany do that?)
(The thing is that Santana has spent her whole life feeling stupid, like she always says the wrong thing at the wrong time or makes the wrong choices or is just wrong in principle—innately, empirically, in every way—but somehow Brittany makes Santana feel keenly and wonderfully and inexplicably right.)
(Logically, Santana knows that someone like her has nothing to offer someone like Brittany Pierce, and, yet, Santana suddenly wants nothing more than to offer Brittany Pierce everything, from her time to her heart to her fucking last name. If this white lion exists, Santana swears she'll find it.)
Santana spends all morning grilling the laibon from the Maasai tribe about the last place he saw the damn thing and under what circumstances he did so and even about what the weather was like on the day of his most recent sighting. She asks him both in English and Maa and has him direct her to any other tribesmen who may have seen the cub.
Unfortunately, no matter how thoroughly Santana interviews the tribe, ultimately, both she and the Maasai know the same thing: the cub is a moving target and it could be anywhere, either on the preserve or beyond it or even in the imaginations of its few human observers.
(Santana just wishes she had more than spotty testimonials to follow up on.)
After visiting the village, Santana drives with Brittany out to the last place where the Maasai reported seeing the cub—near an outcropping of rock they call O-súpúkó, "the highland"—while Puck, Mike, and Tina follow behind them in the other jeep.
"You okay?" Brittany asks her out of nowhere as they pass over another hill, still no lions in sight. "You seem tense."
With anyone else, Santana might shrug a question like that one off or answer it with sarcasm, but not with Brittany. Santana worries her lip between her teeth and glances at Brittany in the rearview.
"I'm just worried we won't ever find the white lion and this trip will turn out to be like a gigantic waste of your time," she admits, sighing.
Brittany pulls a face, like what Santana just said makes absolutely no sense. "Santana, how could it be a waste of time?" she says, surprised. When Santana seems incredulous, she elaborates. "I mean, for one thing, we have gotten tons of awesome elephant footage," she lists, counting on her fingers, "and, for two, I got to meet you, and, for three, you sound totally sexy speaking the local dialect, and that was so worth a trip to Kenya, like, just right there."
(And, okay, so between the words Brittany says and the way Brittany blushes and smiles when she says them, Santana may accidentally slam on the brakes a little, and Puck may have to honk at her as he nearly rear ends the ACF jeep.)
"I, uh... thanks," Santana says stupidly.
Brittany smirks. "You could probably kiss me now, if you wanted to," she says, as if it's a normal sort of thing to say to the idiot who almost just caused a fender-bender in the middle of a grassland where the wildebeests outnumber the people like one-thousand to one.
Holy fucking hell.
Santana has to be dreaming.
"For real?" Santana says, even stupider than before.
"For real, for real," Brittany says, taking off her movie star sunglasses and setting them on the dash. She smiles and waits for Santana.
"Okay," Santana says.
She forgets to remove her hands from the steering wheel, but at least remembers how to lean in, which is a start, maybe. Her lips meet Brittany's and Santana forgets her own name and where she is and even to keep her foot on the brake. The jeep lurches forward, but she doesn't care; all she can think about is Brittany and the fact that Brittany is an awesome kisser who is actually friggin' smiling into their kiss.
Brittany reaches over and shifts the jeep into park.
"Sorry," Santana mumbles into their kiss.
It may just be the stupidest thing that anyone has ever said while kissing, but Brittany doesn't seem to mind.
(She slips her tongue into Santana's mouth.)
Puck honks and they jolt apart.
"Sorry," Santana apologizes again, automatic.
"For what?" Brittany says. "That was awesome."
"It was awesome," Santana agrees, awestruck, because, holy shit, she just kissed Brittany Pierce and it was better than she could have ever imagined it would be.
(And, admittedly, Santana has imagined kissing Brittany Pierce a lot.)
Santana and Brittany's eyes meet once more and Santana's breath hitches at the back of her throat, but before either Santana or Brittany can lean in again to resume their liplock, Puck issues another long honk from the AP jeep horn, clearly fed up with waiting.
"He's going to scare away all the lions," Brittany says, fake pouting, even though her eyes are smiling.
"Jackass," Santana smirks.
Brittany laughs, "Totally."
There are no lions, white or otherwise, at O-súpúkó, "the highland," and no lions, white or otherwise, at En-gúmótisho, "the valley," and no lions, white or otherwise, in O-séro, "the scrub brush," either. There are hairy, gnarl-faced bushpigs and pink-eared spring hares and about a bijillion klipspringers perched, deerlike, atop rocks, but not a single lion anywhere, and especially not before quarter to eleven, when Santana's pager alarm rings.
She gives Brittany a desperate look. "I could hire a tracker or something," she offers.
Brittany waves her suggestion off. "It's only been two days, Santana," she says earnestly.
(What she doesn't mention is that they only have one day left to go.)
(And, okay, so maybe Santana's panic has more to do with the thought of Brittany leaving than with her concern that they won't actually find this fucking lion, but, really, can you blame her? Santana sent this ridiculous longshot email into cyberspace, never dreaming that Brittany would answer it, let alone that Brittany would come to Africa and inexplicably fall in like with her, and yet that's exactly what happened. It has to be, like, fate or something.)
(Except what if it's not?)
(What if Brittany leaves?)
Santana spends all afternoon hoping that Brittany and her team will find the lions before they return to the clinic for lunch.
They don't find the lions before lunch.
They don't find the lions after lunch, either.
Santana doesn't wait at the carpool for Brittany and her crew to return from the savanna come nightfall. Instead, she hides in the back of the clinic with Mejooli, feeling supremely guilty for luring Brittany to Kenya on false pretenses and anxious because even though she knows she doesn't deserve to have Brittany around her she still doesn't want Brittany to go and confused because Brittany kissed her in the jeep this afternoon and she has no idea what it means or if Brittany will ever want to kiss her again or even how Brittany feels about her, really, beyond thinking it's cool that she liked Ninja Turtles back in the 90s.
(Like, should Santana even bring it up? The kissing and feelings stuff, not the Ninja Turtles. Any of it, actually.)
"You're doing that tense thing again," Brittany says, appearing in the doorway to Santana's office.
Santana gasps and claps a hand to her heart because, holy God, she totally sucks at paying attention to her surroundings when Brittany is involved.
"Brittany!" she says.
"Are you okay?" Brittany asks, furrowing her brow.
"Did you find any lions?"
"No, just elephants."
Before Santana can stop herself, she blurts out, "I don't even know if this lion exists. I mean, I think it does. The Maasai say they've seen it and I believe them, it's just... it's been a few months since they have, and, well... white lions usually don't survive too long in the wild, so... it might not still be out there. Oh God, please don't hate me."
Brittany pulls a face like Santana's started speaking Maa again without realizing it.
"Are you kidding?" she says. "Santana, you're not, like, in charge of nature. The last you heard, the lion was out there. If it's not anymore, it's not your fault. And it was still totally worth it to come here, even if we never find the lion."
(Just when Santana thought that Brittany couldn't get any more perfect, Brittany kind of does.)
"So you're not mad at me?" Santana asks. She hates how small her own voice sounds.
"Nope," Brittany says simply, "and especially not if you'll actually let me interview you tomorrow. I was going to do that today and then kiss you tomorrow, but then I made a last minute schedule change or whatever." She shrugs, "And, I mean, it's okay 'cause it's good to be flexible. I just want to make sure that I get in that interview."
(Santana's brain may go haywire for just a fraction of a second.)
"Wait. You were planning to kiss me?"
Brittany shrugs and offers Santana the coyest smile that Santana thinks she's ever seen. "A little bit, yeah, since I saw your picture on the preserve website," she says breezily. "And I'm planning to do it again, too. I mean, if you want to."
"I want to," Santana stammers.
Brittany nods, her smile growing brighter. "Cool," she says easily. "I might also have some other tentative plans for tomorrow night," she adds slyly. Then she waves her ten-four wave, "Goodnight, Santana. Goodnight, Mejooli."
(Was Santana stupid to not see that coming?)
(Brittany Pierce is like a force of nature.)
Santana is used to administering elephants pills the size of Twinkies and rubbing ointment onto pig snouts and lying to her father over Skype about how her job is going and when she's planning to return home to the States to "grow up" and "settle down."
("Well, my fellowship extends until next year, Dad. Yeah, I know Mom wants me home for Christmas. Listen, I've got to go—the caracal with mange needs another treatment. I love you, too. Sorry.")
She is not used to being interviewed for highly popular cable television programs, and especially not by an amazingly gorgeous television host who seems entirely intent upon teasing her during the interview.
"So, Dr. Lopez," Brittany says, pointing the camera towards Santana's face. "Can you tell us a bit about your friend?" She runs her foot up the side of Santana's leg, starting at the ankle and moving towards Santana's knee, tracing Santana's bare skin ever so slowly and well below where the camera can see it.
Santana's throat runs dry. She swallows. "Uh... this is, um... Mejooli... He's an African Grey Parrot."
Brittany smiles at her and gives her leg another stroke. "Awesome," she says, smiling a one-million watt smile at Santana. "African Grey Parrots are no bird brains, are they?"
Santana tries to remember the answers they rehearsed over breakfast. "Er, no...," she says, having a hard time focusing on anything that isn't the way Brittany's ankle feels twining around her own. "They're actually one of the smartest birds on the planet. They're also extremely long-lived. Mejooli here is forty-eight years old and he's only middle-aged."
(Her voice cracks a bit on the last word.)
Brittany smirks at her. "Cool," she says. She licks her lips, wicked. "So do African Grey Parrots make good pets?" she prompts.
Santana gulps and shakes her head. Lord help her. "Um, no," she says, stroking Mejooli's beak as he peeks down from her shoulder. "People think they do and every year dozens of African Grey Parrots are exported from Africa as part of a thriving black market trade. But like many large exotic birds, African Grey Parrots make demanding pets and require more specialized care than the average owner can give. Because of the black market trade, African Grey Parrots are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List."
For a few seconds, Brittany relents in teasing Santana. She turns genuinely serious. "How are they doing in the wild, Dr. Lopez?"
(Santana melts at the concern in Brittany's voice.)
"Well, um, their natural habitat is disappearing. They nest in old wood trees in the rainforests of West-Central Africa. Because their trees are good for timber, the logging industry has put their range in danger."
Brittany nods. "So what can our viewers at home do to help parrots like Mejooli, Dr. Lopez?"
Santana gives Mejooli's beak another stroke. "Well, Brittany, they can be conscientious about their consumer habits," she says, "and make sure to only purchase paper and timber products that come from renewable forests. They can also report any black market exotic animal trade they might know about in their areas."
(From the way Brittany positively beams at Santana, you would think that Santana had come up with those ideas herself, rather than getting them out of the ACF handbook.)
"Thank you, Dr. Lopez," Brittany says earnestly.
Santana smiles, blushing slightly, "You're welcome, Brittany. Any time."
Brittany's wicked smirk from before returns and before Santana realizes what's happening, Brittany deviates from the script: "So, Dr. Lopez, can Mejooli talk?"
Santana flusters. "Brittany, I told you before the interview that he can only say tits in Maa because Leboo and his buddies taught him, and, oh God, we shouldn't put that on TV—"
Brittany just laughs and sets a hand on Santana's knee. "Santana, calm down," she says. "I'm just teasing. We can edit that part out."
"Ul-kina," Mejooli croaks.
Santana steps out of her office into the hallway and pops a few buttons on her polo shirt because, Jesus Christ, Brittany's teasing really got to her.
"Hey, doc," says a male voice and Santana nearly jumps out of her skin to see Puck standing against a supply shelf, leering.
It takes her a full second to recover from the shock. "Hey, Puck," she manages weakly.
Puck just smirks. "Brittany is something else, isn't she?" he says, pointing towards the office.
Santana just stares at him, because, well. "Uhm hm," she mumbles and Puck laughs.
He claps Santana on the shoulder. "You're all right, doc," he says.
At the last minute, Santana decides to leave Leboo and the boys in charge of the clinic for the whole morning and early afternoon so that she can devote her time to helping Brittany and the crew find the lion, if he exists.
The boys can take care of feeding the animals, cleaning their cages, and administering some medicines without Santana's supervision.
She'll have to return by two o'clock to change dressings and take care of some of the more critical patients, but, if she works quickly, she may even be able to go out with the crew again on their late afternoon expedition and stay out with them until nightfall, if necessary.
And, okay, so maybe Santana wants to spend her day helping Brittany track the lion version of Moby Dick not only because she feels obligated to help Brittany nail this episode, but also because she's freaking out a little about how Brittany is set to leave N-aápo tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn and she still isn't quite sure what the hell is going on between them.
(She's like one-thousand percent sure that it is now her life's ambition to become Mrs. Dr. Santana Pierce, one-hundred percent sure that Brittany at least wants to kiss her again, and like forty-two percent sure that Brittany may or may not want to have sex with her sometime in the next twenty-four hours, which—holy God, brain malfunction—but she has no friggin' clue about whether Brittany returns her feelings or not because they haven't really talked about that and Santana kind of sucks at intuiting how those sorts of things work, okay?)
"So you're very cute with forehead all scrunched up like that," Brittany observes, turning to face Santana from the passenger seat, "but it's probably not good for your blood pressure for you to feel so stressed all the time." She pouts out her lip, sympathetic. "Do you want to talk about whatever's got you so worried? Because I'm a pretty good listener."
Santana does want to talk about what's worrying her—she really does—because maybe if she talked about it, she could actually figure out how Brittany feels about her, but Santana has this thing—this stupid thing—where she's an idiot, see, and sometimes that thing makes it so she can't talk, even when she wants to.
"I, uh... no," she says helplessly. "I mean, uh... I'm okay... It's just, I want to find that lion."
Brittany pulls a face like she's about to say the word malarky or bologna or something, but she doesn't. Instead, she just fixes Santana with a scrutinizing look.
"Okay," she says slowly.
(After another minute of driving in silence, Brittany reaches across the console and pries Santana's right hand from the steering wheel, setting it in her lap. She starts to play with Santana's fingers, massaging over each one.)
(Immediately, Santana relaxes.)
(Sometimes she has this thing where she doesn't realize what she needs until the moment that she gets whatever it is.)
Somewhere along the way, Brittany starts talking about college. It turns out that Brittany majored in zoology with an emphasis in behavioral ecology in college, which explains why she knows as much about animals and their habitats as she does.
"Get out of town!" Santana says, feeling more and more at ease the longer that she and Brittany talk. "I almost went into behavioral ecology when I was an undergrad!"
Brittany grins at her in the rearview. "Well, I almost went to veterinary school after I graduated college," she reveals.
"No way! What made you change your mind?" Santana asks.
Brittany shrugs, pinking a little around the ears. "I decided to get a Master's degree instead," she explains.
Santana nods, impressed. She whistles through her teeth. "So you're really Master Pierce," she says, giving Brittany's fingers a little squeeze where they hold hands in Brittany's lap.
"Indeed, I am, Dr. Lopez," Brittany says in her phony British accent.
They both laugh and the warm feeling Santana felt the other day spreads through her chest again. She sighs, contented, and hums from the back of her throat.
(It takes Santana two full seconds to recognize her own voice as the one that said the words.)
(This time, it's basically a miracle that Puck doesn't slam into the back of her jeep, considering how suddenly Santana hits the brakes.)
At first, Santana considers playing it off as a joke, but, seriously, who is she kidding? She is nowhere near cool enough to make a trick like that work.
Next, she considers bolting from the car in the hopes that maybe she might finally find some lions who could perchance eat her and save her from the humiliation, but then she remembers the animals who need her back at the clinic and knows that she's far too responsible to ever just bail on them like that.
She's halfway through her mental catalog of Iron Maiden lyrics, trying to figure out if she could feign like she had just randomly started singing a song when she realizes that Brittany just said something to her.
"What?" Santana says stupidly, again before she can stop herself.
"Okay," Brittany says simply.
"Okay what?" Santana says, feeling about fifteen days late and a hundred billion dollars short.
Brittany shrugs. "Just okay," she says again, like there's nothing more to it. "Like, okay, final answer."
So Santana has this thing where sometimes she is too stupid to function.
Something clicks into place.
"Wait. Brittany, do you mean—?"
Something hits the back of the jeep, hard.
(Santana is going to kill that lameass mohawked cameraman.)
Once Santana sufficiently recovers from the impact, she checks for damages: first Brittany, then herself, then the jeep. She finds none.
"Are you all right?" she asks Brittany anyway. Brittany nods immediately. "God, what the hell is Puck's problem? We've been stopped for like five minutes and—"
Brittany cuts her off.
"Santana, look!" she says pointing at something to the front of the vehicle.
Holy fucking God.
(It turns out that the white lion does exist.)
(Also, Santana is pretty sure that Brittany Pierce just freakin' agreed to her stupid-ass marriage proposal.)
It turns out that since Puck, Mike, and Tina have all of the filming equipment in the Animal Planet jeep, there isn't much for Santana and Brittany to do for the time being, aside from the obvious, really.
"He's beautiful," Brittany says vaguely, watching the white lion through the windshield as he cavorts with his tawny-colored littermates in the tall grass, batting at the other cubs' tails, somehow both ghostly and wonderfully alive all at once.
"They're not actually albinos, you know," Santana says dimly, "—white lions, I mean. It's just a form of—"
"—leucism," Brittany supplies. "It comes from a recessive allele."
Her savvy brings Santana back to her senses a bit. Santana jolts, but then a slow smile curls at her lips. "Oh," she says. "Quite right, Master Pierce."
Brittany full on grins at her. "Thank you, Dr. Lopez."
Santana swallows, remembering what happened two seconds before the white lion appeared. She searches Brittany's eyes, then takes the leap.
"I was thinking, actually, maybe...," she clears her throat, "that Dr. Pierce sounds pretty good."
Brittany smiles in a way that Santana has never seen her smile on TV. She gives Santana's hand a squeeze in her lap. "I think that sounds amazing," she says honestly.
And, okay, so maybe Santana melts a teensy-tiny-total bit because, honestly, is this actually happening to her? She has to check.
"Brittany," she says seriously. "We've known each other for three days. I mean, this is crazy, right? We shouldn't just jump into anything. I mean, we haven't even had sex or said I love you and you don't know my middle name or about my horrible domineering father and how I do stupid things, like, all the time and—"
Brittany stops Santana with a hand squeeze.
"Santana," she says in a gentle voice. "Has anyone ever told you that you worry a lot? I mean, like, you're right: We haven't known each other very long. And maybe we'll figure out we don't like each other like a year from now or five years from now or something, but isn't that kind of how it is for, like, every couple? Plus," she singsongs the word, "we can totally fix at least a few of those big don't know things, like, right now."
Santana blinks her eyes probably a few dozen times, just to make sure she isn't dreaming.
"Yeah?" she says stupidly.
"Yeah," Brittany says in a quiet voice. She leans in across the console. "Because I kind of fell in love with you when you introduced me to Impére and then really fell in love with you when you knew Iron Maiden and Ninja Turtles, and—," she draws out the word, "—I'm pretty sure that Puck and Tina are gonna want to film that lion for, like, at least twenty-five minutes, and I just so happen to have an open spot on my schedule and I thought that maybe we could take care of some of my tentative plans as long as we're waiting. What do you think?"
Santana swallows, hard. "That sounds awesome," she agrees. "Because I'm in love with you, too."
(And, okay, so maybe marrying a girl she's known less than a month is a pretty stupid, and especially considering the girl's crazy work-related travel schedule and the fact that she used to be Santana's longshot celebrity crush or whatever, but here's the thing: the girl is Brittany Pierce and she is pretty much the most perfect person Santana has ever met and the one human being who Santana wants to spend the rest of her life getting to know.)
(So maybe—just maybe—for once Santana has done something smart.)
(In fact, anyone who says differently is just plain stupid.)
Author's Note: I wrote this fic as a commission for taichou92, one of the winners of the Brittana U Monster Fic Mash on tumblr. As always, I'm still working on TKTD. I hope this tides everyone over until I can put up the next chapter! Special thanks to Sadie for cheerleading me through this story. Also, as always, I would not have been able to write this fic without the invaluable guidance of my flawless beta Han.