Author's Note: Hi there! So, this fic was originally posted on tumblr, but due to quiet a few requests, I've decided to put it up here as well. I have to just go ahead and thank all of you for your support while writing this, particularly my braintwin Nic, who constantly let me bounce ideas off of her as I tried to turn a short prompt into a full story.
The biggest thanks of all goes to the wonderful mad-cow-mama, who offered to proofread and edit this entire story for me, and is largely responsible for this being cleaned up significantly, and ready to post on here sometime this century. I definitely could not have done this without her!
The story is written in second person, and it alternates perspectives between Brittany and Santana. If you haven't read it on tumblr, the deaf!brittany tag on my blog has the answers to a lot of questions you might have while reading. I hope you enjoy!
You were seven, the last time you heard a sound. It was the splash of limbs against water, it's a sound you'll never forget, it's a sound you've clung to for the last twenty-two years, like maybe, somehow, thinking of it, you'd suddenly be able to hear again. But for twenty-two years, it hasn't worked.
You'd nearly drowned, that's what had happened. You don't remember that anymore, just that sound. You don't remember falling in the ice cold pool at your Aunt Sally's Halloween costume party. You don't remember your Uncle Ned pulling you out. Wonder Woman costume and all. You don't remember the hospital, where your mom cried for hours and the doctors told her that you'd suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen.
You do remember waking up in an unfamiliar place, the hospital. You remember screaming, because it still felt like you were underwater. You remember how hard it was to focus on the words on your mother's lips, because you needed to read them so you could see her telling you everything would be alright. She didn't. You remember her crying that you were alive. But she never told you the words you needed to hear. You remember clawing at the sides of your face, at your ears, trying to figure out why they didn't work. You remember the years after, in school, when you had to learn to read again, because the letters on paper no longer made sense.
But you learned to read again. You learned to sign. Though you still knew how to speak. Because sometimes it was easier to pretend you couldn't. Because then you wouldn't have to feel your body vibrate with the laughter of others. Because after a few years of not hearing people speak around you, your own words started to sound funny. You didn't have many friends. And that. That was okay. You liked being by yourself, you and Otis. Otis, the service dog your parents got you, because they were afraid for you to cross the street alone. You and Otis. Your best friend is a dog. Has been since you got him. And you can't imagine anything different.
When you were twenty-three, you'd finally moved out of your parents' house. They treated you like you were made of glass most of the time, it made your sister jealous. They treated you like glass, all the while wishing you were the girl you were before you fell in the pool. Wishing you were the little girl with the whole universe before her. But you aren't that little girl anymore, and that's okay. For you. At least. You'd accepted it. You made your own universe instead. You painted it on canvas, on paper, on the backs of receipts and old tiles. You got lucky, for the second time in your life, because the first had been when you didn't drown in the pool. You got lucky, because you were offered a job doing art for children's books. You got lucky, because even though you can't hear, even though your parents don't understand you, and your sister may hate you a little, you made a pretty good living for yourself.
You didn't close yourself off, really, not intentionally. But. You prefer your solitude. You and Otis, on the top floor of a townhouse in Rittenhouse Square. You're happy there. You paint, you go for long walks, you dance at night to the music you can't hear, you try new foods, you drink strong coffee, you read books about places you probably won't get around to seeing, and mostly, you feel fulfilled. You're pragmatic. You don't have expectations of a whirlwind romance or wild nights where you wake up the next morning not remembering where you'd been.
It comes when you least expect it. You're walking on Third Street, you just dropped off a new batch of prints to your publisher, and you aren't paying attention. You keep headphones in your ears. Headphones that are attached to nothing. You'd learned to do that a long time ago. You'd learned that if people thought you were listening to music, they wouldn't try to talk to you. You'd learned to trust Otis, because he was good at his job. He was good at tugging at his leash to warn you of approaching strangers. But this time, he doesn't. You don't see her. You don't see her until your bodies collide, and you feel the spray of hot coffee all over your chest and face. You don't have to hear her screaming to know she's angry. No, angry isn't the word. She's livid. Her eyes seem to burn fire as she wipes coffee from her cream-colored suit jacket, and you feel your body shrink at her presence. She's beautiful, more beautiful than anyone you'd ever seen in your life, but she is entirely terrifying.
Are you blind? Or are you just stupid? You watch her perfect lips move, and the crease in her forehead deepen. Are you going to take headphones out? Or are you just going to stand there and stare at me and my ruined jacket?
"I'm deaf." You speak back, self-conscious of your words." I wasn't paying attention. I'm sorry."
The words die on her lips as her eyes lock with yours. You can't help the small curl of a smile at the corners of your mouth when she looks at you, and a small, surprised gasp escapes her. Your heart races in your chest, and Otis, Otis who seems to be up to something, simply lies down at your feet while you reach into your purse and offer her a small pack of tissues. She raises an eyebrow, as if to question really? but she accepts them anyway. She dabs at her ruined clothing, and you look down sheepishly. Your tissues won't help, not in the slightest, but, it's the best you can do. It's the best you could do, and somehow, it seems to work, if not to sop up the coffee, but her frustration with you.
"Let me give you my information. I'll pay for. For your cleaning bill. Or a new suit. Whichever you want."
Maybe— she begins, looking to see that you understand her, and you nod. Her anger keeps melting, melting, and it's the strangest thing you've ever seen. The daggers in her eyes retract, and you dare to believe that they're replaced with an unexpected sort of softness. You could start by buying me a new cup of coffee.
"I think I can handle that." You smile again. "I'm Brittany, Brittany Pierce."
"Santana Lopez." You repeat, though you're positive the unfamiliar name sounds wrong when you spoke it. "It's nice to meet you."
I wish I hadn't met you by ruining my jacket, but— She waves her hand, as if to brush it off, and you relax a little. Hi, Brittany Pierce.
You walk alongside her. Though it's usually against your nature and means of self-preservation to go toward an unfamiliar destination, you follow where she leads you. Otis remains at your side, far more on alert than he'd been a few moments earlier, and you scratch the top of his head, assuring him that all is forgiven. As Santana walks, she strips off her jacket, revealing a lacy sage camisole beneath it. You try not to stare, really, but she's beautiful. She's beautiful, and the perfume she wears sort of short circuits your working senses and makes you blush deep, deep red. You hope she doesn't notice, because you're mortified at your own innocence, feeling your body heat up at the sight of a mostly clothed woman, but the wry smile on her mouth told you she does. It tells you she does, and it tells you she was used to that reaction, that she knows she's beautiful, and she's sure to flaunt it.
When you reach a bakery you've never seen before, she opens the door for you, and you reach in your bag for the card you carry for Otis. You hate bringing him new places, places that don't know you both, but you follow Santana in, and you can't see her mouth move as she talks to the girl behind the counter, her body shaking with laughter. Normally, you'd think she was laughing at you, making fun of your clumsiness, your stupidity, but somehow, somehow, you know she's not, and you feel an unfamiliar tingle at the back of your neck.
"Coffee. Black. Please." You say to the girl, crisping your words as best as you can.
Santana finds a seat while you pay for the drinks, and she smiles at you when you approach, Otis' leash around your wrist and a plain white mug brimming with coffee in each hand. You're careful, more careful than you've ever been as you set them down on the table in front of you and take your own seat. She nods, teasing, you think, maybe, though you're never really good at reading other people. You watch her as you take a sip, and hold back a moan at the taste on your tongue. It just may be the best coffee you've ever tasted, and you're sure you'll never go anywhere else.
Good, right? She asks, tucking a strand of black hair behind her ear.
"The best, maybe." You confirm.
You speak well. Santana tells you, and you're not sure you understood her correctly, so she repeats herself, and you flush. I've never heard a deaf person speak before.
"I could hear until I was seven," you find yourself saying, though you never, ever tell anyone about yourself, you never tell anyone about the accident. "I almost drowned. Sometimes I think my mom wishes I would have, rather than have me damaged. I—I'm sorry, I don't know why I'm telling you this."
I'm sorry. She frowns, and you can tell by her eyes that it's not a pity apology. She means it, you think— or maybe, you just hope that's the truth. I'm sorry I called you stupid. I wouldn't have if…
"It's okay, I've been hearing, or, not hearing it, I guess, my whole life."
I'm sorry for that too. She shakes her head. Is this hard for you? I can't sign, but I have paper in my purse, I could write for you.
"I can read lips probably about as well as you can hear. Sometimes I think, if I try hard enough, I can hear voices I've heard before. I don't know what your voice sounds like, but I bet it's beautiful." You look down, you can't control the words that come out of your mouth.
Well, I hope so, it's kind of how I make my living. She smiles, and your smile in return.
"Are you a singer?"
I wish. I can sing, but, I realized when I was nineteen that the hope of a record deal didn't pay the bills. I'm a radio host, the morning show, on WIOQ.
"Oh, wow." You feel a little bit of sadness pull your face down. You hate when you feel wistful like that, but it hits you sometimes, and you always try quickly to shake it away. "That sounds really fun."
I like it. Her fingers sort of dance along the table, and you flex yours, resisting the unexpected urge to reach out and touch them. What is it that you do, Brittany?
"I paint. For children's books, professionally. But. For me, too."
That's awesome. I can't even make stick figures.
"We all make art in our own way." You shrug a little. "Thank you, for not being mad anymore. I am really sorry about your jacket."
Don't worry about it. My New Year's resolution was to stop overreacting.
"It's June?" You can't help but tease.
Slow starter, sue me.
"I won't, if you won't."
I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure a lawsuit over spilled coffee won't hold up well in court.
"I hope not." Feeling bolder than you've ever been, you reach across the table for her hand. Your nerves jump, and you didn't expect it, and you force yourself to continue the pretense, turning it over and inspecting the skin there. "No physical damage."
Except to the jacket.
"Which I offered to pay for. How much is it, by the way? Can I write you a check? Or I'll get you cash, or, I'll give you my card and you can—"
How about dinner? Santana doesn't pull her hand away from you, and instead, you feel her thumb stroking the back of yours making your skin tickle.
"You want me to take you to dinner?"
Actually, I was hoping I could take you…and, your dog too. You haven't introduced me, by the way.
"Oh, I'm sorry." You look down to Otis, and he lifts his head a little. Even he doesn't hear your voice very often, so he must be shocked by how much you're speaking. "Santana, Otis, Otis, Santana."
Hi there, Otis. She continues to look at you when she speaks, something most people forget to do, and you appreciate it, you appreciate it more than you think she'll ever understand. Something about her, it makes you feel like you never even remember feeling, and you smile at her for what feels like the hundredth time in a half hour. What do you say to dinner with me and Brittany?
"I think…I think Otis would like that."
Just Otis? Santana winks at you, and butterflies fill your stomach.
"Not just Otis." You shake your head. "I think I'd really like it too."
Good. I hate to leave now, Brittany, but I have a meeting in a half hour. Can I…um…can I text you, and we'll make a plan?
You realize you're still holding her hand, when she goes to take down your number, and slowly, you pull it away, shivering a little at the loss of contact. You don't understand it, really, you've never been one for physical touch, or making plans, opening up, but suddenly, there's Santana. There's Santana, who'd yelled at you in the streets, who'd then taken a cup of coffee and a dinner date as repayment for what was clearly a very expensive jacket. There's Santana, the most gorgeous woman you've ever seen, Santana, who's known you for all of thirty minutes, and yet, has made more of an effort to treat you like a person than your own mother has since you were seven years old. There's Santana, who's awakened something inside of you, who makes you smile, giddy, as she taps your number into her phone, and immediately sends you a message so you'll have hers, too. There's Santana, who somehow makes you feel, for the first time in twenty-two years, like maybe, maybe, you're not so abnormal after all.