Title: Influence

Pairing: Brittany/Santana

Rating: T for language and themes. M in later chapters for physical intimacy.

Spoilers: General, Season 2.

Description: Brittany has spent most of her life being what people want or need her to be, and nothing more. She realizes that this isn't working, and decides to do something about it. 1/?. Brittana.

There's a point in your life, usually when you're young, when you determine who you're going to be for the people around you. It's never really an exact moment in time, like sitting down to make a list of things that you will alter about yourself to fit the socially acceptable mold. It's more a series of moments, when you concede to the idea that someone else knows better. No one ever makes these decisions consciously, with the purpose of someone who knows they are changing themselves forever and unalterably. But still, these decisions are inherent in growing up, and will shape the way we live the rest of our lives; the way we act and react to situations that are thrust upon us when we age.

When you're young and still moldable, there's a level of influence that friends hold, no matter what the guidance counselors and motivational speakers will tell you about being yourself. Be yourself and people will like you. Be yourself and you'll find out who your true friends are. Be yourself and you can do anything.

Chances are, if we were all really ourselves all the time, everyone would be alone.

Your friends during childhood are those perpetual determiners of your fate. No matter how old you get, you look back at those first remembered friendships for guidance in how to proceed with new ones. Your first friends taught you friendship etiquette. They taught you want traits of your personality were unacceptable, and you changed to accommodate. They molded you into someone they were comfortable with, and you, in turn, molded them. Some people are more accommodating to these changes. Others retain more of their original selves.

In the end, though, we all cast ourselves into our surroundings, bending until we fit without discord. The people who don't… well, they don't really fit anywhere, do they?

No one liked that I could sing, so I danced in the background and let others stand in the spotlight. No one liked that I was smart, so I played dumb. It was easier to follow than lead, because leading meant showing people all these things I could do, making myself stand out when it was better to fit in.

When we were eight years old, Santana found me on the playground at recess. We'd never spoken before that day, but I'd admired the way her long brown hair fell across her shoulders, and how her skin always stayed tan, even in the winter. She was beautiful, even at eight. I, on the other hand, was lanky. Too tall too fast, and brazenly loud. The combination of the two made for snickers in the hallways. Lurch. Big Foot. Lumberjack was especially hurtful. That day on the playground, I had found myself cornered by a group of older girls. After several minutes of taunting, I ended up in a mud puddle. I was still sitting there when Santana came up, her arms crossed over the picture of Justin Timberlake emblazoned on her chest.

"What are you doing down there?"

"I fell down."

"No, you didn't. I saw what they did. Why'd you let them do that?"

"I dunno. They're older."

"So? You're bigger."

"Why do you care? Either help me up or leave me alone."

She stared at me for a minute, her dark eyes narrowed, as though she was seriously weighing the two options. After a beat she reached out her hand and pulled me to my feet. I stood a full head taller than her, and as I wiped the mud from my jeans I caught her watching me again, sizing me up.

"They wouldn't pick on you if you stopped standing out so much."

It seemed like a ridiculous comment. "I can't help being tall."

"Not just that. I heard you singing by the swings. I hear you in the bathroom at lunch. No one likes a show off. Maybe if you stopped, they'd leave you alone."

Friends. The perpetual determiners of fate. This tiny little brunette stared up at me with her huge eyes filled with nothing but sincerity in her sentiment. She wasn't warning me or threatening me. She meant it. She wanted them to stop bothering me, and this was the one way she knew how to make it stop.

I think I fell in love with her in that moment.


She smiled at me, something more than happiness at my agreement on her face. "Come on. We'll show 'em."

I followed her across the soccer field next to the playground, where the older girls sat indifferently on the bleachers, chewing the sugar-free gum their moms bought them and picking at their nail polish. Santana crossed her arms again, her feet planted firmly shoulder-width apart. She called out the pack leader, who scoffed and got to her feet. Santana, as small as she was, stood on her toes and whispered something in the girl's ear. After a moment the girl's eyes went wide, and she took a jerky step backward, her fingers at her mouth. Santana smirked. I would come to know that face well over the next few years.

"Come on, Britt."

She grabbed my hand and together we walked back to the swings. I waited until she picked her favorite before sitting next to her.

"What did you say to her?"

"Doesn't matter. She won't bug you again."

"Well… thanks."

"That's what best friends are for."

When I was eight years old, Santana told me that she would be my best friend forever. Her loyalty was fierce, unwavering, and unquestionable. No one ever bothered me again. But I learned rather quickly that this was contingent on a few concessions on my part.

When you're young and still moldable, there's a level of influence that friends hold, no matter what the guidance counselors and motivational speakers will tell you. It's taken me eight years to realize that, sometimes, maybe you weren't supposed to let them mold you at all.

A/N: This is just an introduction. The meat comes later. If you like what you're reading, review/favorite. Please and thank you.