They're alone in the band room.
Ten minutes till glee starts, plopped down in the uncomfortable plastic chairs, Santana idly plays with her phone while waiting for everyone else to show. No texts since lunch, no pressing issues with her Farmville, she sighs from the boredom and looks over to Brittany who is staring blankly down at her shoes.
Santana knows the look, eyes glazed over, the rest of the world just a blur in the background while she's off on another glorious adventure in her head. Wondering where her friend has gone this time, (tap dancing on top of a rainbow or plotting to defeat the evil lizard queen), Santana brushes back the bangs that constantly cascade across the blonde girl's forehead.
Dreaming while awake is the best way she can describe it. And no, it's not something so stupid as resting your chin in the palm of your hand and fantasizing about the latest heartthrob to grace the cover of teen steam magazine. When Brittany goes, she's gone, living in a world entirely her own.
A text from Puck pulls her from her thoughts, asking to do something unorthodox after practice but no, she does not feel like crawling in the back seat of a Volkswagen. Not today.
Brittany inhales sharply as her eyes slip back into focus, smiling like she never left, and asks "did you know monkey's love vanilla pudding?"
They're eleven when Santana witnesses it for the fist time.
Playing Candy Land, even though she's like, way too old but Clue proved to be too confusing for Brittany and attempting Monopoly is just a disaster. So when the blonde jumps up and down upon seeing the brightly colored box in the pile, Santana can't say no.
It's the colors Brittany likes, and the pictures, clapping her hands whenever she gets her turn and laughing at something Santana never quite sees. Whatever, Brittany is like that all the time, talking to things that aren't there, saying the most random things and never once realizing it's not normal.
She's only half paying attention to the board, flipping a card in her hand, when she takes notice of Brittany's sudden silence.
"It's your turn," she says but gets no reaction.
Saying her name a couple times doesn't get one either, nor a does nudging a shoulder. Finally Santana just starts waving her hand frantically in front of the blond girl's face and shouting hey! directly in her ear, but that's useless too.
She's two seconds away from running to get her mom when Brittany suddenly recoils from the noise, and looks at Santana like she's lost her mind.
"What was that?" Santana asks. "Where did you go?"
Brittany looks shy all of a sudden, like she just let out a big secret.
"You can tell me," Santana insists. "I won't laugh."
"Pinkie promise?" Brittany replies, offering up her finger.
"The queen invited me for tea and cakes," she says as if it really happened. "But I told her it wasn't my birthday."
Santana doesn't know how to reply, staring blankly with the scrunched up face mom always tells her not to make.
"You think it's stupid," Brittany says quietly.
"No! I just, um…" Don't know what the hell you're talking about.
Santana watches as Brittany pushes away the board game and says they should practice those dance moves they saw on MTV.
Artie and Tina wander into the room, taking seats at the opposite end of the row. Santana forces a polite nod instead of the sarcastic greeting normally perched on the tip of her tongue for wheels and (former) stutters. She doesn't have to be that bitch here, she reminds herself, the one place in the whole school.
Brittany starts tapping her foot up and down, something Santana quells instantly; hand on her friend's knee.
"Yeah I just…" Brittany trails off. "Um, it wasn't a good place. I mean. I-"
"Ssh," Santana interrupts. "Not here okay? Later. On the way home?"
Brittany nods, face awash with relief, leaning over and resting her head on Santana's shoulder.
"It's okay," she assures. "You're okay."
They're thirteen when Brittany's parents get her tested.
She'd been slipping away with more frequently, and for longer periods of time, without any sort of rhyme or reason to set it off. Happy or sad, Brittany always comes back saying the weirdest things, and it gets so strange that the teacher takes to sending her to the nurse every time.
Brittany can't tell her where she's going, probably doesn't even know herself what exactly is going to happen, but she doesn't want to go. Santana can see the fear in her eyes and she almost grabs her hand and runs right then, but Brittany's mom is too close and Santana knows they wouldn't get far.
They hug until Brittany's mom says it's time to leave.
She'll never admit it, (to Brittany or anyone else) but it's pretty much the worst week of her life.
Santana never knows exactly where she's sent or what they do, but it's the longest they've ever been apart since the day they met. Five endless lonely days on her own, because Brittany isn't allowed to take her cell phone, or write emails, nothing to communicate to the outside world what is happening to her.
What she does know is that when Brittany finally comes back, she spends the next four days sleeping in Brittany's bed holding her while she shakes with nightmares and mumbles about vampires.
It takes two nights to figure out that it isn't monsters she's dreaming of, but how Brittany viewed the doctors. She won't talk about what was done to her, but Santana imagines the worst kind of sci-fi experimentation complete with leather straps and needles to the eye, nothing but poking and prodding, aimed at stealing her blood. Stealing her soul.
What Brittany does tell her, is that the doctors wanted to send her away, but her parents refused. Santana doesn't even want to fathom the possibility of what life would be like without her, squeezing tight as the words fill her mind with anger and heart with dread.
It still happens after that, but Santana coaches her into hiding it more suggesting she leave out the details, but some things always manage to slip through.
(What comes out of her mouth can never be helped.)
Quinn shows up, loosely followed by Puck and Finn, and god does she long to spit some venom out at the sight of that, but Brittany's still perched on her shoulder, so she keeps mum. Everyone else files in a minute later and the best part of her day can finally begin.
Maybe, she thinks, she should use that term more loosely when Mr. Schue subjects them to yet another mid-90's rap one hit wonder. Her scowl is instant at the ridiculousness of it, but is countered by Brittany's beaming smile, and before she can even think to reach for her other half, she's already up shaking her moneymaker.
It takes about ten seconds for the scowl to fade, watching her friend do the one thing she's truly better than anyone else at. Everyone claps when it's over, and Brittany returns to her seat, leaning forward to catch her breath.
Santana gently rubs the space between her shoulders, leaning close and whispering nice moves while the end of Brittany's ponytail tickles her nose. She doesn't have to see to know her friend is smiling, and maybe best part of her day isn't an overrated phrase just yet.
They're fifteen the first time they face the wrath of Sue Sylvester.
Both red shirt freshmen on the squad, something Coach rarely allows, but Santana won her over with attitude and Brittany with dancing. There's a misstep somewhere in the routine, and they're taking the blame because they're new and it couldn't possibly be the fault of her tried and true cheerios.
Coach is laying into them, megaphone and all, and Santana can see Brittany's hand reaching for hers against the barrage. She knows she can't reach back, Coach Sylvester exploits weakness like the media does violence, and no way in hell is she going to expose theirs to this ball busting nut job.
She watches from the corner of her eye as Brittany's hand slowly falls back to her side, head starting to tilt in that way, and face going slack. She's no longer flinching against the screams because she's gone, just gone. It's the first time Santana has ever felt envious of her friend's condition because at the moment she wants nothing more than to have some safe little haven to escape to.
It's also the first time she can recall being truly pissed at Brittany, because while she's off in Neverland, Santana is stuck here in the real world getting spittle on her cheek while being told that the stink of failure shall never reach Sue Sylvester's nose.
In the end she just grits her teeth, bites the inside of her cheek, and rides it out because she's Santana fucking Lopez. No one intimidates her. No one.
Okay, she knows Finn is pretty much the golden boy around here but why in the hell does Mr. Schue let him pick songs so often? It wouldn't be so bad if the boy actually had some taste but…
I would do anything for love? Really?
Clearly it's Finn still pining over Rachel (gag) in his no so subtle way, but does she and the rest of the group have to suffer because the two of them are too damn stupid to like each other at that same time?
Not even her parents are lame enough to listen to this old relic, and here a classmate of hers is actually volunteering them to belt out the signature tune of an over theatrical, overrated, over bloated drama king? Yeah, he would do anything for love, but he won't do that? What the fuck does that even mean?
Brittany sways next to her, head tilted back as her lips form the words in a way that has Santana trying not to stare. She's better when she sings, or dances, the effort of it all makes her focus in a way life just can't seem to get her to.
Their pinkies link on instinct, Brittany's head turning to her, the smile radiant against such a lame song. It almost feels like she could burst into her own, the way Brittany looks at her, and god how pathetic is that?
They're sixteen when they join glee.
And yeah, it may have been for all the wrong reasons, but sabotage and sarcasm are just second nature to her and when the opportunity to wield both character traits in a way that would diminish the one good thing these Lima losers had, how could she resist?
How was she supposed to know that it would somehow mutate into one of the best things that ever happened to them?
Sure all the kids in the club are geeks, dweebs, and nerds. But they don't judge, are easily forgiving, and understanding almost to a fault. The first time Brittany falls off in front of them, they all make faces, thinking that the weird cheerleader is being exactly that. But they don't call her stupid. And when it happens a second time there's genuine concern, questioning whether or not she should be taken to a hospital.
Santana explains (without fully explaining) that it's just something that happens. She goes off, but always comes back. It's a thing.
It would be touching the way they (sort of) care, choir kids of the world unite or whatever, if it weren't so horribly clichéd.
On the way home from another long day they get sidetracked through the park, Brittany skipping along the path and humming softly to herself until a flock of ducks skittering across the pond grabs her attention. She says something about wanting to give them all caramels, ducks just love caramel, and sits down on a bench to watch.
Santana sighs but doesn't contradict her, sitting down and letting her backpack drop to her feet. It's hard to be annoyed when something so simple can make her so happy, so she just closes her eyes and listens to her friend's giggles, guessing that Brittany forget they were supposed to talk about what happened before practice.
For anyone paying attention, it's not hard to figure out Brittany doesn't live the on same plain as everyone else. She's a girl who lives in a world of pictures, not words. It's why she draws on nearly every test she takes, her own way of communicating (what she thinks to be) the right answer.
Still, first impression is the one that usually sticks and most write her off dumb as a post or batshit crazy, never stopping to think (not even for second) about why she is the way she is.
Most of the time Santana feels like she's the only one who cares enough to understand, and the only one who ever will.
Reaching for Brittany, who's still staring out at the water, she would tell her so but one look and Santana knows she's already gone.
(Off riding a unicorn, ready to slay a fucking dragon.)