By the time Santana returns to the sidelines where the rest of the Cheerios are gathered, she finds Quinn waiting for her there with this proud look on her face. Knowing Quinn and how long she has been rooting for her and Brittany to finally get together, Santana already has an idea of what she's about to say.
"I saw that," Quinn comments slyly.
Santana fights the blush blooming, but it's hard when she feels like everyone in the entire stadium is looking at her – especially after that kiss.
She really couldn't help it though.
Similarly to the way she reacted when Brittany suffered that serious hit, Santana was drawn to the girl. Her feet were moving well before her head registered where she was going and this time was no different, but a flash of a camera brings her back down to Earth.
"Yeah, you aren't the only one," Santana quips in attempt to mask that uneasy feeling in her stomach.
It's an unnerving feeling, but there's no way she'd ever want to take back her actions. Hell, she should've kissed Brittany when she asked her to but she was still trying to appease everyone for some reason – she was still trying to play by their rules.
But there's this odd feeling beneath the surface – a feeling of empowerment, like the bonds have broken and she's finally been set free.
That was the last time she'll be playing by their rules, because now she has seen what a kiss like that can do. It doesn't matter who is watching because the way Brittany lit up, the way it made Santana feel to be just like everyone else celebrating on that field, to share a kiss with someone she loves – she loves – for once: it was magic.
She won't take it back and she isn't going to apologize for doing it either.
At some point she has to get used to the idea that people will stare and sometimes they won't, she just can't let it phase her because there's no way she can regress from this. She has to be unapologetically herself and that's hard, but it's better than trying to be someone else. She owes it to herself to keep pushing her own boundaries and she owes to Brittany to be brave.
"Way to rock the boat," Quinn jokes as she gathers her things and stuffs it into her duffle bag, "I've never seen someone look so happy. I couldn't tell if she was more excited about the win or you."
Santana relaxes a little and says, "I told her."
"Told her what?" Quinn quirks a brow but then she connects the dots on her own and her eyes widen, "Wait, you told her? Like you – "
Suddenly Santana can't stop the smile from forming at the memory, "Yes."
Apparently, neither can Quinn. She just pulls Santana in for a hug.
Santana laughs at how tightly Quinn's holding on, "What's this for?"
"I was going to tease the hell out of you but I'm just so proud," Quinn replies, "You've really come such a long way. It's about goddamn time!"
"Thanks," Santana replies and for some odd reason she actually feels a little choked up as Quinn pulls away. She swallows back whatever that is and adds, "I didn't even plan on telling her until I was saying it. It just felt right though, I said it and then wondered why it took me so long to tell her in the first place."
"You're always a little late to the party," Quinn teases and Santana swats her arm for that. Quinn only laughs, "What? It's true!"
Santana snorts, "Well, my dad's probably losing his shit right about now."
"That would explain why he's not with your mom," Quinn comments with a nod over Santana's shoulder.
They both look over to where Santana's mom is speaking with Whitney and Pete. From where Santana's standing, the conversation between the families looks like it's going pretty well. She wouldn't expect anything less, especially if her dad isn't involved. She knows after the stunt she pulled, he'll have something to say which is why he probably left – so they can deal with this privately.
"Great," Santana grumbles, "Just what I need."
"Your mom's still here so that's a plus. Right?"
"Yeah. I guess so."
Quinn lets out a tired sigh and Santana does the same.
Instead of making a move, Santana glances back over to Brittany. She can see the blonde talking excitedly with the recruiter from Ohio State and Santana swells with pride. After a great game like that, she's hoping that guy is offering Brittany everything she wants and then some.
If anyone deserves it, it's Brittany.
"You want me to go with you?" Quinn offers and nods in the direction of Santana and Brittany's families, "They're calling you over."
Santana takes a deep breath, "That's okay. I'll go."
"Okay," Quinn gives her an encouraging smile, "I'll see you at Puck's?"
"Hopefully," Santana nods before slinging on her duffle and joining her mom.
"Hi Mrs. Pierce," Santana greets politely before smiling down at Brittany's brother, "Hey Petey
"What an amazing performance," Whitney compliments her.
Santana smiles bashfully, "Thank you."
"I didn't realize this school had so many talented teams!" Whitney says.
"Oh no, it's just been the Cheerios for years," Santana replies with a chuckle, "The Titans actually being good is all thanks to Brittany."
Whitney gives her a knowing smile before Pete excitedly interrupts.
"Santana!" He shrieks, "I didn't know you could fly! It was so cool!"
Santana gives him a curious look before he goes on and on about how awesome Santana was during the Cheerios half time performance.
"Oh, you mean when they threw me in the air?" Santana clarifies. Pete nods with a toothy grin and it makes Santana laugh, "That was more like falling with style."
Pete's draw drops, "Like Buzz Lightyear?"
Santana smirks, "Exactly."
Pete matches her expression, "Super cool."
She knows he's only a kid but the praise makes her feel pretty good about herself and the proud smiles Whitney and Maribel wear only add to that feeling.
If only her dad was there to offer some type of praise of his own.
"So where's Papi?" Santana asks Maribel.
She instantly feels the vibe change at his mention. Whitney must feel it too and starts to look for an out of the conversation.
"Well, we better go see Brittany," She says, "I think she might be finished with that recruiter now."
"Let's go!" Pete tugs on Whitney's sleeve, "Bye Santana! Bye Miss Maribel!"
Maribel chuckles as she joins Santana in waving goodbye to them. Her expression falters just a little as she turns back to Santana, "Your dad had to leave right away. There was some paperwork that he needed to – "
"It's okay," Santana interrupts, "You don't need to make up an excuse for him. I know he's angry with me for causing another scene or whatever."
Maribel sighs, "It's not that, mija."
"No? Then what is it?"
Maribel gives her daughter that look that says watch that attitude. Santana softens but still crosses her arms over her chest. Honestly, she doesn't know why she expected anything different from her dad. Of course he'd react so dramatically and of course she'd be left in the wake of it all feeling like absolute shit.
"How many times did I say talk to him?" Maribel asks, "How many times did I say the sooner the better? How do you think he'd react when he found out you have been keeping things from him? You've harbored them until they've built up and now there's a mountain where there used to be a molehill."
Santana scuffs her tennis shoe at the turf. She can feel that empowered feeling from earlier fleeting but instead of feeling sorry for herself, she laughs bitterly.
"What?" She huffs, "He's mad because I didn't tell him about me and Brittany?"
"No mija," Maribel sighs, "He's hurt."
Santana's eyes widen at that, "He's… How? He hasn't exactly been too keen to know about my love life so why would I bother now?"
"Santana, it's more than that. Like I have been telling you all this time," Maribel replies, "You need to talk to him."
Santana sucks in an aggravated deep breath, "Why does this fall on me?"
Maribel softens, "This is your life, mija, what you have to say needs to come from you if you want things to change."
Santana frowns at that, but Maribel continues.
"He's still your dad and you might not think so but he wants to be included in your life. He just doesn't know how to do that anymore," Maribel adds, "You've both been butting heads for so long that neither of you know how to act around each other."
Santana grits her teeth and looks away, but Maribel reaches for her.
"At some point, a parent realizes that they might not know all the answers. You have to teach him, Santana," Maribel explains, "You have to give him a chance to get to know the real you and not the person you think he wants you to be. You have to give him the same opportunity that you've given me otherwise this is what your relationship will be: you both hurting each other without ever speaking about it."
Santana relaxes because her mom makes a good point. There's just so much to work through and Santana's scared that if she does give him a chance then he'll only hurt her all over again. But a little part of her thinks about Brittany and what wise words she'd have for her.
"You have to at least try, right?"
Santana sighs because even when she isn't there, Brittany's always like her guiding light, her beacon of hope, her rock.
"Okay," Santana finally says, "I'll talk to him."
Maribel smiles as she wraps her arm around Santana's shoulders and kisses her temple, "It'll be fine."
Santana only nods, hoping that she's right.
When Santana and Maribel return home, Santana skips changing out of her uniform in favor of going straight to her dad. She figures her uniform has always felt like armor so it only makes sense that she continues to wear it now when she feels the most vulnerable.
As she knocks at Hector's office door and is called in, she feels like she's about to see Principal Figgins – except this is much worse. Hector is at his desk and his brows are pushed together in hard concentration as reads the computer screen in front of him.
That stops when Santana takes a seat in the arm chair by the book shelf. It's the farthest she can be from her dad and it's also the closest seat to the door incase she needs to make a run for it.
Ridiculous, but necessary – maybe. She has hope, but it has been misplaced before.
Hector turns off the computer screen but is slow to make eye contact with Santana. It's nothing new to her though and they plummet into a heavy silence. She tries to put on a brave face like always, but she doesn't think this time will be like the others.
It can't be like the others. Something has to give.
She sits there in the leather arm chair feeling the smallest she's ever felt because above her are framed diplomas from Harvard in these ornate frames and they stare down at her like they know every one of her dirty little secrets.
It makes her want to run and hide.
It makes her want to abandon this whole idea, but the beginning of the truth has reared its ugly head and there's no turning back now – she can do nothing but face the inevitable.
In a sudden burst of confidence or courage or stupidity, Santana finally rips the band aid off and says what comes to mind first, addressing the biggest elephant in the room.
"I don't want to go to Harvard."
The words leave her lips for a second time and it's a relief to say them again – especially to her dad – but now she feels suspended in midair like she's waiting to either be caught or slam to the ground.
When Hector doesn't say anything it makes the wait feel even worse.
He just sits there with his eyes focused on his desk, unmoving and unreadable. It's like Santana's looking in a mirror and it's enough to push her to be different, to be better, to learn from his missteps so she doesn't fall into the same cycle. She feels the familiar need to apologize worming its way up, but she swallows it back because what does she have to be sorry for? She's finally being honest for once, why would she try to hide that?
Hector shifts in his seat and utters his first words, "Since when?"
Santana threads her fingers together in her lap and shrugs, "I don't think I've ever wanted to go there."
"But, we've talked about this for so long?" Hector replies looking shocked, "Harvard is your dream school."
Santana shakes her head, "We've never talked about it. You and Abuelo just assumed that's where I would go and you planned accordingly. I guess it's also on me though, because I didn't want to let either of you down. I didn't want to be the one to break tradition, but Harvard…it isn't my dream school."
"Oh," Hector breathes out and it's the most dejected sound Santana's ever heard.
"I should've said something sooner," Santana mumbles.
Hector continues to try and piece things together, "Can I ask what changed?"
Santana has thought about the answer to this particular question for so long and she has yet to come up with anything straight forward. It's more like a feeling that she can't really explain and she doubts her dad would understand that.
Her dad is someone who doesn't deviate from tradition, like ever. Hector does what is expected of him and follows every social cue on the planet, never being one to rock the boat. For awhile, Santana was like that too but then everything with Bree and Dani happened – she couldn't really follow the status quo anymore.
As much as she hated that time of her life, if it didn't happen where would she be today? Still in the closet? Still trying to pretend to be someone she isn't? She can't keep living her life by trying to please everyone else, it just makes her feel miserable.
"I just…I don't think it's the place for me," Santana answers instead.
"But you," Hector pauses to knead his forehead, "This doesn't make any sense. Do you even want to be a doctor anymore?"
Santana sighs, "Of course I do. I still want to help people, I just don't want to follow your exact footsteps. I want to go my own way."
Hector nods like everything's starting to sink in, "You've never been interested in going anywhere else. You can understand why this is a shock to me."
"Honestly, I didn't think I had a choice," Santana replies, "Especially after everything that happened last year. I just wanted to make you proud of me again, but I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon. I might as well do things for me now."
"Wait," Hector finally looks to Santana, "You don't think I'm proud of you?"
Santana shrugs, but she finally sees the hurt look in his eyes and it confuses her.
"Santana, that's…," Hector shakes his head, "That's not true."
Santana lets out a dry chuckle, "Let's be honest, you haven't been proud of me since Bree and JBI posted that stupid video. Since then, you can barely be in the same room as me."
Hector doesn't say a word, just listens.
"It was never my intention to ruin everything," Santana admits and she starts to feel that familiar lump form in her throat but there's no stopping the truth from escaping now, "I've tried so hard for so long to be the perfect daughter, but I'm tired of spinning my wheels for nothing. I make good grades, I'm Co-Captain of the Cheerios and I stay out of trouble…most of the time. I think that's pretty good considering I was outed to the whole damn town. Everywhere I went, there was always someone commenting on my life. There was also someone staring at me, someone whispering about how sinful my behavior was. Aside from Quinn, I was completely alone for so long. I could've gone batshit crazy but I didn't. I put my head down and tried to do everything I could to be someone you were proud of, to get back into your good graces."
Hector continues to listen silently, but his lack of response puts Santana on edge.
"Clearly, I haven't been done a very good job," Santana huffs in attempt to mask her hurt, "I've hated how we've grown apart this past year, but I shouldn't be the only one trying to fix things. Especially since I've been bending over backwards to redeem myself for what happened. You shunned me and yet I was still trying to please you. I'm not doing that anymore – I can't go back to the way things were before, I just can't."
Hector clears his throat and asks, "Before what?"
"God, before I told you that I'm gay!" Santana responds. She surprises herself by how confidently she said those words so much so that she says them again, "I'm gay, Papi, and I'm tired of it being another thing that we don't talk about. I'm tired of walking on eggshells around you. I'm tired of trying to make all this progress then come home to you taking it all away. I'm tired of you making me feel so inadequate."
Hector's shoulder drop as he slumps back in his chair like Santana just dealt him the hardest hit.
"I don't expect you to go waving around a rainbow flag or offer to take me to my first Pride festival but you're going to have to acknowledge it because that's a part of who I am," Santana continues, "I know it's not what you wanted, but I can't pretend anymore. I can't keep doing things to please everyone else. This is me and I'm not going to apologize for it."
She doesn't realize she has said nearly the exact same words she once did to her Abuela before she was shut out and it makes her heart clench painfully. She had felt so small in her Abuela's kitchen when she uttered those words last time, but now? This is her standing up for herself, this is her taking back her life and her dad can either support her or step aside.
"I'm gay, Papi," Santana says with a sort of finality, "And I have this amazing girlfriend that I love who just wants me to be me. You know how long I've waited for someone like that, someone who just…accepts me?" Santana bats away her tears, "I thought I'd have to leave this shitty town just to finally feel like myself but Brittany made me realize that I don't have to do that. I don't have to bend for anyone."
Santana she feels like a bottle rocket about to set flight after finally laying it all out there like that, but she takes a calming breath and speaks directly from her heart.
"I'm gay and I'm not going to Harvard," Santana says with confidence, "You either learn to accept that so we can all move on or you stay stuck like this – like Abuela – and we just won't have a relationship anymore."
Hector tenses his jaw at that and he actually looks a little hurt, but Santana has been hurt too by his words and lack thereof. She's not going to tip toe anymore, she's going to say how she feels when she feels it starting right now.
"Is that what you want?" Santana presses with tears streaming down her face, "Because I don't. I don't want to lose my dad because of a stupid legacy or something beyond my control. You think I wanted to be gay? You think I wanted to make my life harder than it already has been?"
"Santana stop," Hector finally speaks, his voice soft yet unwavering. Santana's chest heaves and her eyes blur with more tears as Hectors adds, "That's not my intention either. You aren't going to lose me and I don't want lose you."
Santana tries to calm herself down by taking slow inhales and it makes Hector look to his daughter guiltily. Her thoughts are a scattered mess but despite being scared as hell it feels pretty good to get these things off of her chest.
"I'm so sorry," He says. His lips part but the words struggle to form. It almost looks like he's tearing up too which Santana has rarely seen.
"I'm trying – I'm trying to find the right words to say," He admits, "I grew up very differently than you so these kind of conversations don't come easy for me. Your Abuelo and Abuela weren't easy to talk to as you can imagine. We didn't speak about our feelings or what hurts us. We just put our heads down and ignored them until we thought they went away."
"Well my feelings aren't going to be ignored," Santana says firmly.
"I know," Hector reasons, "I know. I just want you to know where I'm coming from too. I would never go against your Abuela or Abuelo like this. I'd fall in line because that's what I've always known, but that doesn't mean I've never disagreed with them. I have, but I'm not brave like you – I never spoke up."
Santana nods as she bats away her tears.
"You know I'm old school. The importance of family and reputation were ingrained in me a long time ago – same as keeping your opinions and feelings to yourself – and I've continued that with you when I shouldn't have. I could see that it was wrong but I did nothing to stop it because of that I have rarely done things for me," Hector adds, "But you aren't like that. You have your own voice and – unlike me – you actually use it."
Not as often as I'd like to, Santana thinks.
"To be honest," Hector says, "That's something I admire the most about you."
Santana looks confused, "Really?"
"Of course," Hector nods, "You're doing something I've never had the courage to do growing up. I should've done a better job encouraging it, even if we don't always agree."
Santana blinks away her tears, "That's just…not the impression I've gotten. You've been so distant and pushing Harvard on me for so long and then what you said to Brittany about having options? That has never been a thing for me, my future has always felt like it has been planned without my input."
"Because I thought Harvard was what you wanted," Hector replies, "You never said anything otherwise so I just assumed you had your heart set on that school. I love you, Santana, and I've always wanted what was best for you. If you wanted Harvard, I'd do everything I can to get you there – even if that means giving you some tough love."
Santana just shakes her head, "I can't believe this."
"I'm sorry that I haven't been approachable," Hector responds earnestly, "I'm sorry for making you think that I'm not proud of you or that I don't support you because I do. I'm just not very good at showing it. You being gay, sure it caught me by surprise but I'm not like your Abuela. It's new to me and I don't know the right things to say most of the time but I do want to learn. I would never love you any less because of it."
Tears stream freely down Santana's cheeks and Hector quickly closes the distance between them. He wipes away Santana's tears with his thumbs and holds her face gently in his hands as he continues to speak.
"You are still my girl, Santana, no matter who you love or what college you want to go to," Hector says through a smile, "I'm sorry I ever made you think otherwise."
Santana can't help but throw herself into her dad's arms. She's tried to be tough, tried to have this hard exterior and pretend that their rocky relationship didn't phase her too much, but it did. To finally be able to hug him again, to have this kind of reassurance means everything to her.
Hector holds her tightly; it's the first time they've hugged in nearly a year.
"I want to be included in your life. To see you out there after the game tonight with Brittany, you both looking so happy, it made me feel like I was missing something. You know?" Hector sighs as he pulls away. He sits back on his knees and stares at the young woman Santana's becoming, "I've never seen you that happy with any of the boys you've brought home and I started to understand a little more but it hurt at the same time. It hurt because I had to learn of your relationship rather than you feeling comfortable enough to tell me on your own. I don't want it to be like that, I don't want to miss anything."
Santana nods, feeling similarly. She just wants their relationship to be as close as it was before. Actually, no. She wants it to be better and she thinks after a conversation like this that maybe that's a possibility. Maybe they can actually grow from this?
"I don't want our relationship to be like mine and your Abuelo's was. I want you to talk to me, to tell me what's on your mind," Hector says softly as he brushes through Santana's hair with his hand, "You and I…we're a lot alike when it comes to this talking stuff. You're a lot better at it than I am, so I'm going to need your help."
"Okay," Santana mumbles through her smile. "I can do that."
"Okay," Hector agrees before going to take a steadying breath. He chuckles to himself as he rises from the hardwood floors and takes a seat on the foot rest next to Santana.
There's a change in the air and Santana's so grateful for it. There's a familiar warmth again that has been missing and suddenly the walls don't feel like they're closing in on her. The office doesn't feel so cold and uninviting, because Hector is there softly smiling at her.
"What?" Santana wonders with a nervous laugh.
Hectors shakes his head and shrugs, "I want to know so much but I don't know where to begin. I have a lot to catch up on I think."
Santana nods. She can faintly hear her mom's voice in her head reminding her to give Hector the same opportunities she gave Maribel in regards to inviting him in to get to know the real her.
So she tries it out and asks, "What do you want to know?"
"Well," Hector scratches at his stubbled chin in thought, "I guess if Harvard's out, where are you thinking now? College is still a must in this family after all."
Santana catches him wink and she knows that this is meant to be a less serious conversation than the one before. It's a good feeling to know that she and Hector are on the same page now and that she doesn't have to harbor this secret any longer – the weight has been lifted.
"I've been working on that," Santana tells him, "Miss Pillsbury says I could go anywhere I want but I'm keeping my options open for now. I just want to be certain before I make my decision."
"Smart," Hector replies, "And I'm assuming you won't want to follow me into dermatology?"
"Definitely not," Santana scrunches her nose and it makes Hector laugh, "I've actually been doing some research on Sports Medicine programs. With my background with the Cheerios and being so close to all kinds of games, I kind of like still being apart of the action on the sidelines…just in a different uniform."
"As long as you're sticking to medical I'm happy," Hector jokes before asking, "And what about Brittany? Has she decided where she will go yet?"
Santana relaxes more, loving how easily they're able to talk now, "She was speaking to a recruiter from Ohio State after the game tonight, but with her talent she could go anywhere too."
"That sounds promising," Hector replies, "She is very talented and what a great game! I'm sure that recruiter was very impressed with her."
"Yeah," Santana swells with pride, "She was amazing out there."
"Speaking of," Hector starts to smirk, "You said love before, that's pretty big."
Santana feels her heart skip a beat as she looks up at her dad, "It's a relatively new thing."
"Is it?" Hector asks, "I could sort of suspect something was going on with how protective you were being when she had lunch with us awhile back, but I wasn't certain. You sometimes act the same way with Quinn so I didn't want to assume."
Santana blushes, "I didn't realize I did that."
"You're a Lopez," Hector says proudly, "We're protective of who we love."
"Oh," Santana starts to blush, "I've never met anyone like her before. She makes me want to be the best version of myself. When I'm with Brittany I finally understand what people are talking about when they talk about love. I just hope she feels the same way."
"You're not sure?" Hector asks.
Santana pauses to wonder: Is she really unsure?
She has often heard the saying actions speak louder than words and if that's true then Brittany's speak loud and clear. She's been patient with Santana's journey even if she took the long way around, she challenges her when necessary but she's never forceful. She checks Santana when she needs to be checked, but she also cares for her like no one else has.
She's no expert, but that sounds a lot like love to her.
"I mean, think I might have an idea," Santana says, "But it'd be nice to hear it from her."
Hector smiles, "I'm glad you've found each other."
"That's part of the reason why I want to keep my options open for now," Santana explains, "Maybe that's a little crazy since we haven't been together for long, but I don't know. I want to at least stay close. We haven't actually talked too much about what we'll do after graduation."
Hector hums through his knowing smile, "You'll figure it out together. I hear Ohio State has a pretty good Sports Medicine program. One of the best in the country, actually."
Santana gives him a grin, "I know."
When Santana leaves Hector's office a moment later, she's never felt so light. It actually feels like a weight has been lifted and she's so happy that the conversation turned out a whole lot better than the one she had with her Abuela. There's still a lot to repair, but at least they're on the right track now. At least there's hope of turning the relationship around, because Santana hated the idea of going on about life without having her dad around.
After everything that happened tonight, after everyone saw her and Brittany together, at least she has one more person in her corner to support her.
Brittany stands in Puck's kitchen with her back against the wall and a red solo cup in her hand. Mike and Sam talk excitedly about highlights of the game for the hundredth time, but Brittany can't seem to focus long enough to be apart of the conversation. She just nods mindlessly and laughs when they do, but her head is elsewhere.
Anytime the front door opens, her eyes dart to it hoping that it's Santana but it never is.
As Sam goes on to re-tell the final play of the game, Brittany fishes out her phone to check if she has any new messages. She frowns when all she sees is the time and the lock screen background of her and Santana from the Homecoming dance.
No new messages. No missed calls.
As the minutes tick by and the house gets more and more crowded, Brittany's desire to be there dwindles. She can't celebrate yet, not without her girl, it just doesn't feel quite right. She recalls Santana mentioning being grounded forever when they spoke at the game and Brittany hopes that isn't the case – especially with how they ended things.
There's still so much she wants to say and the longer she holds it in, the more she feels like she's going to pop like a balloon. She should've just said it then and there. Who cares if she makes Beiste and Cooter wait? Making sure that Santana knows she's loved is important too.
She lets out a heavy sigh before taking a sip of her drink, but the sound grabs Mike's attention.
He looks curiously at her and asks, "Have you tried calling?"
Brittany blinks out of her thoughts, "Huh?"
"Santana," He clarifies knowingly, "I know that's why you're looking so grumpy. Have you tried calling her?"
"Oh," Brittany stares into her cup, "No, I haven't. She said she had something to deal with after the game so I don't want to interrupt. I just hope she isn't in trouble or anything."
"Why would she be in trouble?" He asks.
Brittany shrugs, "Don't know. Just a feeling, I guess?"
Mike nods, "Well Quinn isn't here yet either and they're meant to be getting ready together. Maybe they're just taking longer than usual?"
Brittany takes a calming breath, "Yeah, maybe."
Brittany tries to enjoy herself, or at least look a little more interested in the conversation taking place around her. If she spends the time trying to guess what's happening with Santana, she'll only ruin everyone else's time with her worrying. Mike's probably right anyway about Santana and Quinn taking a long time so there's no use in getting worked up over it.
However, it doesn't help that five minutes later Quinn breezes in through the door alone.
Brittany watches as the Co-Captain makes her way through the living room crowded with dancing partygoers, waving at fellow Cheerios as she goes. Her eyes dart back to the door, wondering if Santana is only a few steps behind but it remains closed.
Once Quinn makes her way over to where Brittany, Mike and Sam have been talking, she looks around confusedly.
"Is Santana here?" Quinn asks Brittany.
Brittany frowns, "No, I thought she was with you?"
Quinn shakes her head, "She wasn't answering my texts so I got ready on my own. I thought you two might be together already."
Brittany bites her lip, trying to keep that sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach at bay. She doesn't want to read too much into everything, but she remembers the look on Hector's face after Santana kissed her on the field. Brittany knows their history and it puts her on edge. She tries valiantly to keep the pestering questions stacking up in her head at bay but it's hard when Santana isn't around to explain.
"I'm sure she's not too far behind," Quinn adds reassuringly, "She probably has her phone on silent still. Coach makes us do that during games so no one is distracted by a notification."
Brittany nods, but she's still not convinced.
Brittany lasts another ten minutes before she's had enough of the waiting game. She's putting down her cup on the counter and grabbing her discarded letterman jacket.
"Where you off to?" Mike asks.
"I'm going to check on her," Brittany states to her friends as she shrugs it on, "Something feels off."
"Britt, you've been drinking," Sam points out.
"I'll walk," Brittany replies quickly, "I don't have my car here anyway."
"Do you want us to come?" Mike asks and Quinn nods too.
"Let me try her again?" Quinn offers as she gets out her phone, "She does take forever to get ready though so I wouldn't be too worried, Britt."
Brittany nods, but she's passed thinking this is only about how long it takes Santana to get ready. She keeps thinking back to Santana's cryptic words at the game and it makes her feel uneasy.
If Santana's being punished for that kiss or something ridiculous then Brittany wants to know for sure and she wants to be the one to give Santana's dad a piece of her mind. Out of everything Santana's gone through, he can't take this away from her too – no one can.
"I'm just going to go to her house," Brittany tells them, "I'll let you know when I see her."
She doesn't give them much room to argue, just leaves the kitchen and heads for the front door. The living room is packed with the usual crowd and once Brittany starts to weave through them, they try pulling her onto the makeshift dancefloor. Familiar voices call out her name and Puck's in the center of it all pumping his fist to the beat, but stops when he finds Brittany.
"Bout time, Pierce! I was wondering when you were going to tear up the dancefloor," Puck cheers, "Where's your drink?"
Brittany nods to the door, "I've got to go."
Puck frowns, "Leaving? Already? The party's just getting started!"
"I'll be back," Brittany assures him, "I'm only getting Santana."
"Ah right," Puck smirks before patting Brittany on the shoulder, "I mean, seeing you two after the game…if you guys ever need a third, I'm – "
"Not interested," Brittany says before narrowing her eyes at him.
"Woah!" Puck laughs, not really seeing that he's crossed a line, "I didn't even say what I was going to say."
"I don't need to hear it," Brittany states, "Don't make a comment like that about us to me or Santana again. Next time, I won't be so polite."
Puck instantly backs off, "Yo, chill! I thought it was a compliment?"
"Really?" Brittany grits her teeth, "You douse yourself in cologne after practice rather than taking an actual shower. So on personal hygiene alone, I don't think any girl would think your offer was a compliment."
"Damn, okay! My bad!" Puck says with his pride hurt, "Don't gotta be so mean."
Suddenly Kurt appears next to her with Tina and Mercedes flanking him. She's surprised to see them there, she must've been so caught up in worrying over Santana that she didn't see them there on the dancefloor.
"You okay, Britt?" Kurt asks, looking between the too curiously.
Brittany only glares at Puck one last time before shifting to Kurt, "I'm good. Glad to see you guys here."
"Wouldn't miss it," Kurt assures her then glances to Puck, "Especially since Puck graciously opened up the invite to everyone not just the high society."
"So kind of him," Mercedes comments sarcastically.
"See, Puckerman? Being a decent guy isn't so hard," Brittany adds and waits expectantly for a smart ass comment from Puck.
Surprisingly, Puck looks between everyone and decides he's outnumbered. With a sigh he waves them all off, "Yeah, yeah. Enjoy yourselves."
As he disappears back into the sea of dancers, Kurt turns to Brittany and quirks his brow.
"Surely you aren't leaving already?" He asks, "The night is young."
"Yeah Britt," Tina adds, "You'll have to dance with us!"
"At least one song," Mercedes says.
"I will," Brittany assures them, "I just – I'll be right back. I need to take care of something first."
Kurt looks a little unsure but it isn't his place to meddle, so he just shrugs and bids Brittany a goodbye for now. Brittany gives her friends a last reassuring smile before returning to her mission of finding Santana.
The mission ends up being short lived because as soon as Brittany swings open the front door she finds exactly who she's been missing: Santana. It looks like Brittany caught her in mid-pace and there's this surprised look on Santana's face, but it softens when she sees who is staring back.
"Santana," Brittany breathes out as she takes in the sight of her girlfriend, "I've been looking for you."
"Hey Britt," Santana replies meekly, "Sorry I'm so late."
Although there's a small smile playing on Santana's lips, something feels a little off. There's a strange heaviness in the air and Brittany isn't sure if it's because she has spent the last hour wondering where Santana was and now all of a sudden she's standing in front of her. She should feel relieved, except instead it feels like she's holding her breath – but why?
"That's alright," Brittany responds with a shrug, "I was only getting a tiny bit worried, but you're here now."
"Yeah," Santana starts to play with her fingers and that's all the confirmation Brittany needs.
Something's definitely up.
She closes the door behind her in hopes that it'll muffle the loud music playing inside and give them some privacy before returning to the party. It's such a contrast from once being surrounded by friends and music with a drink in her hand just a few minutes ago to now being alone with Santana in the eerie quiet. The only sounds are the muffled bass and the pounding of Brittany's heart in her ears.
She doesn't know why she feels suddenly nervous standing there, or why her palms are beginning to sweat, but she tries to shake it off. It's only Santana, there's nothing to be nervous about.
"What are you doing out here by yourself?" Brittany asks, filling the silence, "The party's inside."
"I know," Santana says shyly.
Brittany takes a step closer, "Is everything okay?"
Santana nods, "Yeah. I was just trying to find the courage, I guess, to go in on my own."
Santana squeezes her hands together, "Things are changing. Well, thing's have been changing for awhile now."
Brittany tilts her head to the side, unsure of where this is going.
Santana softens, "You know, on my way over here JBI sent me a link of his latest episode?"
Brittany bites her lip, "He did?"
"Yeah," Santana shifts from side to side, "I didn't watch it, obviously, but I can probably guess what it's about."
Brittany looks down at the space between them. Of course someone would find a way to ruin this moment for them, of course they couldn't just be like everyone else. She's trying to find the right words to say or some type of solution to all of this, but Santana only lets out a quiet chuckle.
"I'm guessing everyone knows about us now, even if they weren't at the game," Santana continues, "And I'm sure there will be talks and looks because you know this damn town loves to gossip."
Brittany nods. Even if she wasn't here for everything that happened to Santana last year, she feels like maybe this is history repeating itself.
"But you know what?" Santana asks.
"I don't think I care about what they'll have to say," Santana says confidently, "Actually, I know I won't because once I go through that door it'll mark the beginning of something new."
"Oh," Brittany gives Santana a hopeful smile because she wasn't expecting that kind of answer, "That's a good thing, right?"
"Of course," Santana answers, "I know that once I go in there I don't need to pretend to be someone I'm not anymore. I don't have anything to hide. I couldn't care less about what'll happen to my reputation because I don't really give a damn about what these people think of me. I can't believe how long it has taken me to realize that, but I just want to be myself for a change and have a good time with my girlfriend."
Brittany's breath hitches at the sound of Santana being so sure of herself. She really has come such a long way and Brittany feels so grateful to have witnessed her journey.
"But I'm still standing out here because I feel like this is a moment," Santana adds, "I feel like it's a big moment before everything changes and I wanted to make sure I was ready."
Brittany silently reaches for Santana's hand to hold as if to say I'm here for you too.
"And as much of a relief it is to be able to do that now, to be open and sure of who I am, I'm still working on it. It still takes me a second to muster the courage first," Santana explains.
Brittany nods in understanding, still quietly listening to every word.
"Maybe in the future it won't take as long," Santana says, "Maybe I won't even have to pause, it'll just come second nature? But right here, right now, I'm not quite there yet. I still have to take a moment because…this is big."
Brittany stares back adoringly before she's taking a step closer until she can pull Santana in for a kiss. It's their first one since being on the field and it's like coming home.
"You're so brave, Santana," Brittany tells her, "One of the bravest I've ever met."
Santana blushes, "Says you."
"No seriously. I've got nothing on you," Brittany teases before tugging Santana in for a hug. She kisses the top of Santana's head and inhales the sweet smelling shampoo as smiles, "I'm so proud of you. It might be a big moment, but we can do this together. You and I, we're in this together. We can stay out here for as long as you like. Whatever you want to do."
"Thanks," Santana grins up at her before leaning back, "How's the elbow? I see they didn't put you in a sling."
Brittany only shrugs as she glances to it, "It's a little bruised but it doesn't hurt that bad. I actually forgot all about it."
"Oh really?" Santana pokes at it lightly, "No tenderness?"
Brittany tries to stifle her groan, "Mm-mm."
Santana smirks, "Not sure if I believe you."
Brittany chuckles and tries to flirt, "Feel free to examine me yourself, Doc,"
"Maybe later," Santana winks before nodding over to the bench off to the side, "Can we sit?"
Brittany nods and lets Santana lead the way. It's only a few steps away, but once they sit they sink into each other's sides so comfortably. Brittany doesn't even mind the cold, not when Santana's pressed against her – it's like the warmest she's ever been.
"I spoke to my dad," Santana mentions after a pause.
"Oh?" Brittany's brows rise, "Is that what you were talking about at the game?"
Santana nods, "Yeah. That's why I was so late and couldn't return your texts."
"So," Brittany presses, "How'd it go? I'm guessing you aren't grounded for the rest of your life if you're here or did you sneak out?"
Santana chuckles, "I'm not grounded, no. It went surprisingly well, I think. I finally told him about not wanting to go to Harvard."
"And how'd he take that?"
"Fine. It was mostly all just a big miscommunication, but once we got to talking about it everything was fine," Santana answers, "It's kind of silly how long I put it off because I was so afraid of letting him down. I probably should've said something a lot sooner."
Brittany nods as she cuddles Santana closer, "But its okay because you got there in the end."
"True," Santana smiles up at her, "We actually talked about you too."
"Mhmm," Santana hums.
"What'd you say?"
Santana shrugs coyly, "Just stuff."
Brittany narrows her eyes and it makes Santana giggle.
"Nothing bad," Santana amends, "I promise."
Brittany pretends to look unconvinced but she soon relents after Santana presses a kiss to her cheek. Who could stand their ground after that, especially when Santana's cheeks are cutely bunched as she bats her long lashes.
"Alright," Brittany laughs, "Well…I'm glad everything worked out between you and your dad. I'm sure you feel way better after telling him the truth about Harvard too."
"Yeah," Santana replies, "There's still some work to be done, but we're in a lot better place now. I think things are looking up for us now."
"That's so good!" Brittany beams, "I'm happy for you."
"Yeah," Santana sighs as she looks up at Brittany affectionately, "I don't know what I would've done without you."
"I am pretty awesome, huh?" Brittany jokes despite her cheeks flushing from the compliment.
"Don't make me take it back," Santana chuckles, "But seriously, I don't see this year turning out the same way it did if you hadn't moved here."
"Hey, I needed you just as much as you needed me," Brittany assures her, "This year wouldn't have been the same without you either. With everything that happened at the beginning of the year: losing my dad, moving away from the place I've lived all my life, feeling like I had to start over. I needed you too. You're something else, Santana."
Santana only blushes before the front door is suddenly swung open and their peaceful little bubble is popped.
"There you two are!" Quinn sighs as Mike pokes his head out behind her, "So much for letting us know you found her, Britt."
Brittany gives her an apologetic look, "Sorry. We started talking."
Quinn looks between the two and it's like she's seeing something there that doesn't need to be said. She smiles and relaxes upon what she finds.
"Well, you guys coming in or what?" She asks.
"The beer pong table is calling you, Cap," Mike adds while Quinn rolls her eyes.
"Sam's apparently started taking bets for this rematch between you and I," Quinn explains and looks to Santana, "Your girl here thinks she's the reigning Champ, Lopez, but as I recall she was dethroned last time by me."
Santana laughs at that and looks to Brittany, "Oh really now?"
Brittany recalls how distracted she was last time – mostly Santana's fault – and shakes her head, "The last game was a stroke of luck on your part, Fabray. It won't be happening again."
Quinn grins at that, "Well let's see it then."
Santana looks back at Brittany and whispers to her, "Is it bad that I'm weirdly turned on right now?"
Brittany's eyes go wide at that, "Okay that isn't going to help me stay focused, babe."
"Did you guys find them?" Sam can be heard asking before he appears in the doorway, "Britt! You've got to play, the pot is huge!"
"Yo, what the hell's going on out there?" Puck is heard next, "Why's everyone crowding the door?"
Everyone starts to talk amongst themselves and the sound of the music is much louder now that the barrier is gone. Brittany only looks to Santana and smiles.
"I guess it's time to join the party, huh?" Santana asks.
Brittany shrugs, "Only if you're ready?"
There's a short pause as they stare at each other because Brittany's words carry a heavier meaning than the others realize. That first step into Santana's new chapter is here and Brittany just wants to be sure that Santana has had all the time she needs to reflect.
With the way Santana starts back at Brittany, a look of resolution on her face, Brittany thinks the answer is clear.
"I am," Santana rises and extends a hand for Brittany to take. The smile on her face starts to grow, "Let's go in together."
"Okay," Brittany beams as she takes Santana's hand.
"Alright," Santana clears her throat as she turns to their friends, "Move it, Fabray! Puck, get me and Brittz a drink! Mike, Sam get the table ready. We've got a bet to settle!"
As everyone scrambles, Brittany just grins and trails after her always in awe of how Santana can command a room.
The moment is short lived though once they make their way through the kitchen where several Titans have gathered to top up their cups. As if they could sense their quarterback's presence, they all stop and turn to her.
For a second, she feels Santana tense beside her. Brittany only holds her hand tighter.
"G.O.A.T, G.O.A.T, G.O.A.T!" They begin to cheer, their collective voices are so loud it feels like it shakes the walls. They barely even notice Brittany and Santana holding hands as they keep chanting happily.
Brittany laughs while trying to quiet them down, but no one seems to listen. She's all for celebrating, but the attention makes her feel shy – especially now that the alcohol in her systems is long gone.
"Okay guys," Brittany tries with a chuckle, "We get it. Thank you."
The Titans settle and give their congratulations again with pats on the shoulder and fist bumps as they disperse from the kitchen. While Sam, Mike and Quinn make their way into the other room where the beer pong tables are set up, Puck heads to the island counter where the drinks are kept.
Brittany and Santana follow, but the blonde can feel Santana's eyes on her, curious and impressed.
"Were they calling you a goat?" Santana asks around a laugh.
"It's a compliment," Brittany explains as Puck comes around them to pour their drinks.
"Greatest of all time," Puck says proudly, "That's your girl, Lopez. She's got big things coming up in her future. Another chance at being the hot shot on campus!"
"I mean, obviously," She quips as Puck hands them their drinks, "She's hot no matter the campus."
"Yeah, but not just any campus…" Puck smirks.
Santana glances between them looking slightly confused, "What's he talking about?"
It isn't until then that Brittany realizes she's been so caught up in finding Santana and their conversation on porch that she hasn't told Santana about the OSU recruiter yet.
"So that recruiter Coach wanted me to meet after the game?" Brittany tells Santana, "He wants to schedule a meeting with me after Christmas break, maybe have me come up to tour the facilities."
Santana's eyes widen as she turns to her, "Really? Oh my God! B, that's huge!"
"I know," Brittany replies, "He said he was impressed. Apparently, I've got one heck of an arm and that my accuracy is like crazy good. All things I already knew, but it was really cool to hear it from someone like him. Ohio State is one of the top schools in the football world so if he's complimenting me then…it's something to be proud of. Nothing's set in stone yet, but it looks promising for me."
"That's amazing," Santana replies as she glides her hand up Brittany's arm lovingly, "He'd be crazy not to take you on. You're like a football goddess."
Brittany blushes, "I don't know about all that..."
"It's true, Pierce, and you know it!" Puck smirks, "Now can we see what that arm can do at pong? I've got big money on this game!"
Santana rolls her eyes at him, but instead of cursing him out she just looks to Brittany and holds her hand tighter.
"I'm proud of you, babe," She says softly, "Really. If anyone deserves this, it's you."
Brittany can only smile fondly in response as they make their way to the other room.
Just like their first showdown, the match between Brittany and Quinn is a nail biter.
The audience is even bigger than before, but Brittany isn't phased too much by them – she's more focused on impressing Santana with her mad skills. Unlike the last time, Santana lingers by her side whispering sweet words of encouragement mixed in with flirty compliments that makes Brittany's face feel flush.
Thankfully she's able to blame it on the alcohol and no one else seems to notice.
So far, she's ahead of Quinn by three cups but Brittany knows she can't get cocky just yet – even if Santana's doing all the shit-talking for her.
"Where the hell were you aiming, Fabray?" Santana jokes as the ball bounces off the edge of the table and into the crowd of bystanders, "I thought you were good at this game? Britt's working with a sore elbow, step your game up!"
"Will you pipe down over there?" Quinn grumbles before Brittany sinks another cup.
"Drink up," Brittany smirks while Santana cheers.
Quinn just rolls her eyes as she goes for the cup, "I play better when I'm drunk anyway."
"Excuses," Santana laughs before leaning in to kiss Brittany's cheek, "You're doing great, B."
"It's all in the wrist," Brittany giggles.
"Whatever it is, keep doing it," Santana grins and fires down another insult in Quinn's direction.
Brittany laughs at the way Santana's being so carefree but she's sure it's also the alcohol taking effect. Either way, she curls her arm around Santana's waist and gives her a kiss back loving how comfortable they are about doing this in public. As she takes a look around them, she notices no one stares – no one even looks their way.
Maybe Santana's right about this being the beginning of something new? Maybe the hype of something they've all deemed so scandalous has died down? Maybe they can finally be like any other couple out there?
Brittany's train of thought is broken by the sound of a pong ball plopping into one of her cups though. Quinn and Mike cheer from the other end while Santana waves them off.
"Whatever! You're still losing," Santana tells them but they don't hear her – Mike and Quinn are too busy sharing a celebratory kiss.
"Quinn's about to redeem herself, Britt!" Sam warns, "Watch out."
Quinn just smirks as she takes a big gulp of her drink.
Although Quinn's able to tie the score, her redemption tour doesn't end up working in her favor. With just one cup left on each side, it felt reminiscent of their last match. Only this time, Santana's there to whisper into Brittany's ear a very promising reward should she win this game.
That was all the incentive Brittany needed to set the record straight on who the real champ of beer pong was. On her next go, she sinks her ball into Quinn's last cup with one swift motion.
"Yeah! Take that, Fabray!" Santana quips.
The room erupts in cheers along with Santana while Sam moves around to collect the winnings.
"Well earned, Cap," He says as he hands over a wad of cash to Brittany.
Brittany chuckles as she takes the stack. She flips through it before handing him a twenty, "For your support."
Sam bows his head before tucking the bill away in his pocket, "Thanks!"
As Brittany does the same, Santana comes up from behind and slides her arms around Brittany's waist.
"What about me?" Santana husks against the back of her neck, "What do I get?"
The sound tugs at something deep within Brittany – something that makes her want take Santana to a dark empty room where they can be alone – but she just bites her lip as she turns in Santana's arms. There's this familiar glimmer in her pretty brown eyes that seem to darken as they lower to Brittany's lips.
Santana's not being subtle and Brittany revels in it.
"Baby, you can have whatever you like," Brittany flirts lowly.
Santana lets out a raspy chuckle, but soon they're interrupted by Quinn and Mike joining them from their side of the table.
"Well played," Quinn points out around a smirk, "Even with your elbow."
Brittany chuckles as she wraps her arm around Santana's shoulders, "Had my good luck charm with me this time."
Santana snorts at Brittany's corniness as she pinches lightly at her side. They all fall into casual conversation as they watch the next round of beer pong, sipping their drinks and laughing along with whatever impression Sam tries.
"So what's the plan now that the season's over?" Mike asks before taking a sip of his beer.
"Yeah," Sam chimes in, "There's still that spot on my team for synchronized swimming?"
Brittany shakes her head, "I think I'll pass."
"I'm sure Coach Sylvester wouldn't say no to you joining the squad?" Quinn offers.
Santana scoffs, "Sure she would. She's not going to extend the offer twice. Think about her pride."
"True," Quinn nods.
"Sorry babe," Santana nudges Brittany as she begins to smirk, "You'll have to do a little begging if you really want it."
Quinn practically facepalms at Santana's lack of subtilty while the guys playfully catcall the couple. Santana's looks quite pleased with herself for that innuendo too and it makes Brittany laugh, trying to mask being so flustered by the comment.
"Oh, I'm sure I could get myself on the team," Brittany says, "I can be pretty convincing."
"Ooooh," Mike and Sam tease in unison.
Santana rolls her eyes at their commentary, "Shut up."
Brittany chuckles, "But on a serious note, I don't think I'll try joining the Cheerios either."
"What then?" Quinn wonders.
"Going to whip the Puck Heads into shape next?" Mike jokes.
"They need it!" Sam laughs, "Wait can you play hockey too?"
Brittany shakes her head, "I'm not very good."
"So there is something you can't do?" Santana teases quietly.
Brittany bumps her girlfriend with her hip before replying, "I think I'll keep up my training instead and just focus on my studies for the most part. You know, spend more time with my family and my girl."
"My girl," Mike parrots to Sam before they start giggling like a couple of school girls.
"Q, do something about him," Santana groans.
Quinn smirks, "No way. You too are cute. Mike and I might actually have some real competition when Prom season comes around."
"Please," Santana holds up her hand, "Brittz and I totally have that in the bag."
Brittany nods, "It's true. We're awesome."
"That's right," Santana lifts her chin proudly.
"We'll see," Quinn waves off although there's a proud smile on her face, "If you change your mind about the Cheerios, Britt, let me know."
"Sure," Brittany nods, "I think I'll be set on just training though."
"Especially if you're headed to OSU," Sam cheers before he and Mike high five.
Brittany smiles at their enthusiasm but then she catches a glimpse of Santana's look of somberness. She's not really sure how to interpret it, but the unsettled feeling in the pit of her stomach makes her want to explain further.
"It's not a done deal yet," Brittany clarifies, "I still want to weight up all my options when they come."
She makes a point to glance in Santana's direction as she speaks, wanting to give her this reassurance that she hasn't made a decision yet. Santana seems to catch on and smiles in return.
"That'll take you forever," Santana jokes, "There's bound to be a lot of them."
Brittany just smiles. She hopes Santana's right, but even if she isn't she's happy with her current outlook.
The rest of Brittany's night is spent mostly on the dancefloor with her friends, a cold drink in her hand and her super hot girlfriend grinding against her. It's the most fun she has had in awhile and it feels even more relaxed than usual now that she has another Championship win beneath her belt.
Actually, there's so much to celebrate tonight so it seems that everyone is in high spirits. Crowds of people that wouldn't usually mingle are mingling, the drinks are flowing, the dancefloor is packed – even if Finn looks like he's sleepwalking and Sugar's taken over the DJ booth again.
There's this satisfying buzz in the air, this comforting feeling that everything will somehow be alright from now on. When Brittany looks to her side, she finds Santana watching her with this knowing grin.
"What?" Brittany starts to smile too.
Santana only shrugs, "You wanna go outside with me? I need some air."
"Sure," Brittany says and as she starts to lead the way to the back door she's hit with a strange sense of déjà vu. She wonders what it could be as she swipes a water bottle from the cooler and slides open the back door.
They continue to out onto the back porch and head to the pool chairs across the way. There's a few others standing around the fire pit but they're too far away for them to notice Santana and Brittany taking a seat. The two cuddle up together for warmth, but the fresh air feels nice on their flushed faces.
"You having a good time?" Brittany wonders as she twists off the cap of the water bottle and hands it to Santana first.
"With you? Always," Santana winks before taking a sip. Once she finishes she passes it back to Brittany, "You?"
There's a comfortable pause where they just stare in the direction of the house, watching the shadows of partygoers cross the windows. While they pass the water bottle they share back and forth, something still feels oddly reminiscent but Brittany can't quite put her finger on it. She has a pretty strong buzz going on so it's no wonder she can't think straight, but it still makes her ponder.
"So Ohio State, huh?" Santana says after a moment and it sounds like there's a hint of nervousness in her voice. Maybe it's only the cold though as she adds, "Keeping it close to home?"
''I don't want to get my hopes up just yet, but it would be pretty cool," Brittany explains.
"They'd be crazy not to have you."
"So you've said," Brittany smirks.
Santana laughs but becomes a little shy as she averts her eyes to the bottle in her hands. She doesn't say anything for a moment as she picks at the label. When she does, it makes Brittany's heart race.
"Maybe I'll see you there?"
Brittany thinks her ears have deceived her once again. She blinks and asks, "Wait, where? OSU?"
"Yeah," Santana says hesitantly.
Brittany can't help but smile in disbelief, "You applied?"
"Yeah. I mean, I've applied to a lot of places," Santana responds. There's still a little hesitance but it slowly fades as she takes in Brittany's initial reaction, "But Ohio State is at the top of my list if it's at the top of yours."
This is the first time she's hearing Santana suggesting the idea of them potentially going to college together. She thought it might've been a pipe dream, a silly wish that would never be fulfilled, but hearing Santana's offer makes her feel like she's on top of the world.
"It has a pretty good Sports Medicine program," Santana continues upon Brittany's silence, "And I kind of also like the idea that I wouldn't be too far from you if that's where you decide to go. I know you'll be super busy with practice and training. I'll probably be super busy too but – all the more reason to stay close by?"
There's a momentary lapse of judgment on Santana's end though because Brittany still hasn't said anything so she quickly begins to ramble on.
"Unless you don't want to do that. That's cool too because maybe it's weird to think that far ahead. Is it weird?" Santana questions, "A lot can change in the next six months. Like what if we break up or end up hating each other?"
Brittany softens, "I could never hate you. That's silly."
"Yeah, you're right," Santana shakes away the idea, "I know we've only been dating for a little while and we've never really talked about what we want to do in the future – like after we graduate – but I don't know. Staying close to you felt right so I just…I wanted to put it out there."
Brittany finally finds her voice and replies, "That sounds like an awesome idea."
Santana looks hopeful, "Really?"
"As long as this is what you want to do too," Brittany clarifies, "I don't want to be the one to keep you here just because we're together. I want you to follow your dreams too, even if that means being apart for a little bit. It might be hard, but we could find a way. I just – I want to make sure that you're not doing this because of me."
"It's what I want," Santana says confidently, "I'm sure of it. I'm only doing things for me now. I've actually been thinking about it for awhile now, I was just a little nervous about saying something out loud too soon. I didn't want to scare you off."
"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it a few times too," Brittany chuckles as she drapes her arm around Santana, "You and I in college together sounds so cool."
"It does, doesn't it?" Santana smirks.
Brittany nods, "So Sports Medicine, huh? You really want to be a doctor after all."
Santana blushes, "You know, I could never see myself being the kind of doctor my dad is because it's super boring and I couldn't justify going through all that schooling to be bored for the rest of my life. No offense to him, but no way."
Brittany giggles at Santana's reasoning and the way she crinkles her nose cutely.
"I figure it's time to have something of my own. I can continue the Lopez legacy in a roundabout way, I'm just adding my own touch."
"Makes sense," Brittany shrugs.
"So, I've done my research though and I think Sports Medicine might just be my thing," Santana adds, "I'm apart of the action without actually being in it. It's exciting and just my speed and who knows, maybe I'll come across people like you?"
"Yeah," Santana shrugs, "You know – people who strive to make a difference in a sport that they love. People who do the work to leave a positive impression behind. People who can influence entire teams for the better – like you."
Brittany's a little in awe of Santana, "You really think that about me?"
"Of course I do," Santana replies easily, "You're smart, you're talented, and you're a good person. You know how hard it is to be all three? You do it with such ease. You've inspired me, Britt, and I'm sure I'm not the only one out there. I'm just the lucky one that gets to date you too."
Brittany chuckles at that as she starts to blush. Santana grins and leans in a little closer.
"In a way, you've made me remember why I ever wanted to be a doctor in the first place."
Santana hums, "You've taught me so much without realizing it. You've taught me how to go after the things that I want, no matter what the obstacles may be, because what awaits at the end is so worth it. I know it's true because here I am sitting with you."
Brittany's so taken aback by Santana's words that she can only say three in response. It's the only three words that have been repeating over and over again in her head since they were back on the field together. At first it was a quiet whisper, but after everything Santana just said – Brittany can't hold back any longer.
"I love you."
She says it simply around a look of pure adoration because that's exactly what she feels at this very moment for Santana – complete adoration.
Santana sputters out a disbelieving laugh, "You do?"
"Don't sound so shocked," Brittany giggles, "I meant to tell you earlier at the game but I guess I was just stunned more than anything. I didn't expect you to be the one to say it first."
"You and me both."
"Yeah," Brittany says shyly, "Actually, I've been meaning to tell you for awhile now. There's been so many times that I felt like I was just going to blurt it out, but I didn't know if you'd feel the same way and l was nervous that – I don't know. I was nervous that maybe I was moving too fast. I didn't want to scare you off either."
Santana smiles at that and it eases Brittany's nerves a little as they settle into another comfortable silence.
After all the loss she has endured this year and all the obstacles she has faced since moving to Lima, she's never felt so wholly content than she does at this very moment. There's been times when everything has felt too serious, too hopeless even, so to be where she is now is something really special.
Brittany always felt like she was a great playmaker, not just on the field, but in life too. She always felt like she could make the best out of any situation, but this year really tested her. The hurt she felt after losing her dad was something she didn't think she'd ever recover from and she didn't think it was possible to pull herself out of that dark place she'd sometimes find herself in.
But here, in Lima of all places, it was like the sun began to shine on her once again.
She met Santana and found herself on a brand new football team and everything else started to fall into place – she began to thrive once more. That unbearable pain from before still lingers but it's only a dull ache now compared to what it once was. When she thinks about how much she has grown in such a short amount of time, she's reminded of where it all started – and that's when it hits her.
That feeling of déjà vu that has resided in the back of her mind starts to make sense!
As Brittany glances over to the clear glass of the sliding door they exited from earlier, she remembers what it was like being on the other side of it months ago. She remembers the similar thrum of dance music, the faceless bodies swaying about to the beat, the cold beer in her hand. She was starting to get used to the idea of spending her senior year in Lima.
She remembers thinking that maybe this place won't be so bad after all, maybe it won't be so lonely? She was already off to a great start by finding herself a place with the Titans and there was also her budding friendship with Mike and Sam. She even had a place to sit at lunch so she didn't have to do the new kid walk of shame into the cafeteria.
Brittany felt hopeful and then she remembers seeing her for the first time.
Santana, in her tight skirt and low-cut top. Santana, with her hair and make up perfectly styled. Santana, looking like she belonged on a cover of a magazine with how gorgeous she was just sitting poolside.
At the memory, Brittany glances from the door to her side where Santana watches quietly. She finds herself smiling at how it's nearly the exact same spot as the first time she ever saw her.
"What?" Santana wonders, "What are you smiling about?"
"I was just thinking," Brittany answers, "This spot is pretty special."
Santana quirks a brow as she looks around, "Is it?"
"Totally," Brittany replies before pointing over to the edge of the pool, "The first time I ever saw you, you were sitting right over there."
Santana chuckles, "Was I?"
"Yup!" Brittany grins, "You were sitting by the pool with Quinn and I remember thinking how I've never seen a girl looking so sad at a party before."
"Oh," Santana blushes, "I used to hate coming to these things. You know, I nearly didn't go to that one?"
"I just didn't have the energy for it," Santana shrugs, "But I showed up because I thought I had to – for appearances sake. Also because Quinn wanted to see Mike and she didn't want to go alone."
Brittany chuckles, "Well I'm glad you came anyway. Could you imagine what it would've been like if you hadn't?"
"For one, I wouldn't have embarrassed myself by being the sad girl…"
Brittany gives her a amused look, "I also remember thinking that I've never seen someone so beautiful."
Santana smirks, "Oh really?"
"Mhmm," Brittany starts to smirk too, "This spot is even more special now because this is where you kissed me for the first time."
Santana softens, "It is, isn't it?"
They keep trading these smitten grins as they sink into each other's sides. It feels like it has been the longest day ever, but she's so happy that she's ending it like this – with Santana by her side in there little bubble of happiness and…so in love.
So in love, that gets Brittany thinking.
She contemplates if she really wants to be this truthful but she figures the alcohol is making her speak more freely than usual, so why not? Honesty has always been the best policy anyway, so Petey says.
"You want to hear something funny?" Brittany quietly asks a moment later.
She inhales a shaky breath before saying, "I've never said that to anyone – I love you. I mean, I've had love for people and I've said I love you to people in like a friendly way and I of course tell my mom and Pete that I love them too but I've never meant it like this before."
Santana stares back with this adorably confused look on her face and it makes Brittany blush. It all makes sense in her head, but she isn't sure if it's translating the right way out loud.
"I've never meant it like," Brittany pauses for a moment before she smiles, "Like I'm in love with you."
Santana turns to her with this awed expression on her face. It's like she can't believe what she's hearing or that Brittany's speaking in gibberish. Dark brown eyes shift back and forth as if she's waiting for a punchline that isn't going to come. When Brittany only continues to stare back – sure and unwavering – Santana lets out a shy giggle.
"You're in love with me?" She asks breathlessly.
Brittany nods, "I am."
"Wow," Santana blushes. Her lips part and press after that but the words don't form. It isn't until Santana let's out another shy giggle before staring back at Brittany and softening, "Well, don't I feel special."
"So you should," Brittany laughs at the way Santana's trying so hard to be cool about it although she can tell that Santana's anything but cool on the inside.
Santana gives her one last look of disbelief before leaning in like she's about to tell her a deep dark secret, "You know what?"
Santana bites her lip before saying, "I've never told anyone that I love them before. You're the first."
"Really?" Brittany feels like she's floating again, "Now I feel special too."
"So you should," Santana teases.
Brittany giggles at her response before settling into her side.
What a whirlwind of a year it has been! Never would she have thought that this is how she'd be ending it, with an amazing girlfriend by her side and another championship title in her possession. It makes her wonder what the rest of the school year has in store for her, it makes her wonder what obstacles she's bound to face.
She knows they're inevitable, because nothing comes easy. If anything, this past year has taught her that much. But this time she has something she didn't have before – she has someone she loves and who loves her back.
She has Santana.
With her, Brittany thinks anything is possible.
A/N - And that's a wrap! Thank you for being patient and loving this story enough to leave reviews and even create awesome artwork and gifsets. It's been quite the journey (and ngl I'm kinda glad it's over). I know many of you would love to see this continue, but I've struggled massively just trying to find a satisfying conclusion. I hope this chapter did just that. Maybe I'll do random one-shots in the future, who knows. Thanks for sticking with me & I'll see you around!