Note: Hey y'all! Thanks so much for reading and reviewing. I hope you'll all enjoy this last part of the story. In the end, it took me a little longer than expected to write, because Brittana is complicated, and as much as I wanted them to get a happy ending, I also wanted to get that complexity to show in the story. Let me know how I did. :)
Santana waited at their lockers until after the bell, but Brittany didn't come.
Still, she lingered in the hall after it had emptied, fiddling with the lock on Brittany's locker. She knew the combination, but she didn't open it. She just ran through the sequence of numbers until she could tell that the lock was ready to give. Then she dialed past the combination, her careful fingers feeling the mechanism clamp down on itself again.
She did that three times. Then, a dirty look from a teacher trolling the halls sent her sauntering off toward pre-calc, 10 minutes late.
"Miss Lopez! So kind of you to join us." Santana rolled her eyes. Teachers were all working off the same corny script.
"Sorry." Santana shrugged and moved toward her seat.
"Wait a second Santana, do you have a pass?"
"A pass?" Santana echoed blankly. Passes were something Coach usually took care of, but the demotion to the bottom of the pyramid had meant the loss of a few perks as well.
"This is your third unexcused lateness this month"
Santana remembered now. Two weeks ago she and Brittany had driven out to IHOP to get B smiley face pancakes for breakfast. Most of first period had been over by the time they got back. Still, it had been so much fun they had done it again two days later.
Mrs. Caldwell was filling out a slip on her desk. She finished writing, tore off the sheet, and waved it in Santana's direction.
Santana took the paper, glaring. On A days, she had double Bio and honors English way the hell on the other side of the building from Brittany. If she couldn't see Brittany at lunch, they wouldn't be able to really talk until Glee.
She slid into her seat. Kurt, at the desk in front of her, turned around, his mouth open to say something. Santana didn't want to hear it, so she kicked his chair. His chest hit the desk in front of him, knocking the wind out of him and that smug look off his face for a second. He fixed his eyes on his math book and didn't turn back around.
Santana crossed her arms and started thinking hard. If she had all day, she had better come up with something good to say.
Brittany bounced through the halls, happily greeting her friends, smiling at everyone. Hanging out with Kurt last night had really cheered her up. And today had been a pretty decent day so far. That morning, the sexy dentist had said her 68 cavities were all fixed and she didn't have to come back for another 6 months.
But as she approached the lunchroom, her pace slowed and the grin faded from her face. Although she had decided last night that she theoretically didn't really care about all that stuff Santana had said, the reality of walking into lunch and actually seeing Santana set bees buzzing in her stomach.
She dawdled on the lunch line, taking way too long to pick out a plain bagel and an apple juice.
As she paid for her food, she scanned the room. No Santana. The bees in her stomach buzzed a little harder. Brittany wondered if they were sad or mad.
Quinn and Sam were sitting at a table in the far corner. Quinn waved her over.
"Hey Brit. Come sit."
"Ok, that's worse than my 'Sam I am'"
Quinn laughed at Sam's joke, but Brittany just slid quietly in next to Quinn, her eyes still roaming the room.
Sam noticed and looked to Quinn, eyebrow raised. Quinn watched Brittany for a moment, and then shot a look back at Sam.
Sam got it. "Well ladies, if you'll excuse me, I have to go over there and do…some…super manly stuff."
He was pointing at a table where Artie, Finn, and some of the other football guys were having a chocolate milk chugging contest.
"Thanks" Quinn mouthed. Her fingers lingered on his arm as he got up.
Sam nodded, smiling. Brittany looked up and had to smile too. His mouth was just so giant.
Quinn watched Sam go and then turned back to Brittany.
Brittany ripped her bagel in half and tore a bite-sized piece from one of the ragged edges. "Where's Santana?"
Quinn was surprised. "You haven't seen her today?"
Brittany shook her head. "I was late." She pointed to her teeth. "Dentist. Again."
"Oh. Cause I know she wanted to talk to you."
"Really?" The hope in her voice was evident.
"Yes, really." Charmed by her guilelessness, Quinn felt a surge of love toward Brittany.
"Brittany, you know, if Santana's been mean to you, it's perfectly reasonable to still be mad."
Brittany tore her bagel into smaller pieces. "I was mad…I am. Sort of. But…I don't know…she…" She crinkled her brow, then fell silent.
Quinn frowned a little. Brittany's pretty blue eyes were still restless, scanning the room again. Quinn sighed and just gave the same advice that seemed to have worked last night.
"Just talk to her. She's your best friend. She loves you."
After 8th period, Santana booked it to the choir room. But when she got there, she stopped short at the door. She could see Brittany inside, standing and talking to Mercedes. Even from that distance, Santana could see her eyes sparkle and snap as she giggled over something Mercedes had said.
Santana breathed hard and pushed the door open, her eyes still on Brittany. She saw Brittany see her, watched a thrill come over her face. Like every thrill, it was equal parts excitement and fear. Santana felt a rush of power, then a sick lurch in her stomach.
Mercedes looked up when Santana spoke. Her eyes moved from Santana to Brittany and back again. Then she quickly melted away from her conversation with Brittany, moving up to the second row of chairs.
"Hi." Brittany spoke softly and waved, one of her little baby hand crunches.
"Where were you this morning?" Santana realized too late what she sounded like.
Brittany blinked at Santana and stayed quiet.
Santana tried again. "'Cause...I waited for you. I wanted to talk to you."
Brittany tilted her head to one side, listening.
As long as Brittany was looking at her, Santana would keep talking. "I waited so long I missed the bell. Caldwell gave me lunchtime detention. 'Cause we were late those other times too..."
Brittany broke into a grin. "Pancakes!"
Santana smiled back.
"I wondered where you were at lunch."
Santana crossed her arms over her chest and pressed hard against her ribs, trying to calm the wild beating of her heart.
"Come over after Glee."
Brittany sat down. She didn't speak right away.
Santana realized she should have made it more of a question. "Please?"
Brittany looked up at Santana, her eyes wide with surprise. Santana never said please. The fact that she was saying it now, with a hitch in her breathing and doubt in her brown eyes, here in front of everyone at Glee made Brittany feel warm, almost feverish. The bees in her stomach buzzed again.
"Or we could go to your house. Or anywhere you want..."
"San." Brittany kicked a little, her sneaker bumping Santana's. "I'll come."
Santana breathed again.
Coming back from the bathroom, Kurt saw the look on Santana's face. His chest still hurt from the shove she had given him this morning, but even he couldn't deny that she looked kinda gorgeous right then, beaming.
"My seat." Kurt pointed to the chair next to Brittany. Santana looked down. His bag and jacket were piled on the seat.
Her smile evaporated. She mumbled a goodbye to Brittany and stomped up to the back row.
Kurt raised an eyebrow in Brittany's direction, but her gaze was trained on Santana, watching her mount the risers, her back ramrod straight. When she turned back to Kurt, he changed the subject.
"What are you going to be for Halloween?"
Rehearsal was over, but Santana stayed in her seat. The others jostled and joked around her, collecting their jackets and book bags, discussing Rocky Horror plans.
Slowly, the room cleared. Kurt and Rachel walked out first, bickering over who should host a viewing party. Mercedes and Tina were right behind them, piping up with suggestions. Sam and Mike playfully elbowed each other through the doorway, and Finn helped Artie zip his sheet music into his bag and then pushed his chair out into the hall.
Santana made her way down to the front row where Brittany and Quinn were standing, talking about Columbia and Magenta costumes.
Quinn saw Santana coming. "I'm gonna go catch up with…everyone."
Santana smirked. "You're gonna go catch up with Sam."
Quinn blushed. "Be nice." She kept her eyes on Santana and inclined her head toward Brittany. "Seriously, be nice."
Santana nodded. "Yeah." She took a deep breath. "Yeah."
Quinn walked out, and Brittany turned to pick up her backpack.
"You want to follow me?" Santana asked.
Brittany shook her head. "I don't have my car, my mom dropped me off after the dentist."
"Oh. Ok. We'll take mine. And I'll drop you home after."
Santana felt a wave of calm wash over her. Even though nothing was really better yet, just having Brittany by her side, the prospect of two car rides and a whole afternoon together ahead made everything more bearable, successes more likely.
They headed out into the echoing halls. Brittany almost reached out to link her pinky with Santana's, but the small, persistent ache in her heart kept her hand at her side.
Out of the corner of her eye, Santana saw the quick, hesitating motion of Brittany's hand and saw her instead drop her fingers back to her side, fingering the fringe of her cheer skirt. The implications of the gesture scared her into silence.
In the car, the silence persisted. The 15-minute ride to Santana's house would usually have been filled with analysis of the day's events broken up by rounds of "Would You Rather…" and "Fuck, Marry, Kill." But today, Brittany fiddled with the radio and Santana just drove, her eyes straight ahead, her pretty mouth tucked into a straight line.
Santana was relieved to pull into her garage. For a moment, things were familiar. She unlocked the door and punched in the code to disarm the alarm. But inside the door, she hesitated. Usually she and Brittany would head right up to her bedroom, ignoring the rest of the empty house.
Santana thought about leading Brittany upstairs, skipping the talking and convincing Brittany with tickles and lingering kisses instead. She knew she could do it with enough insistence, zoom them straight back to normal.
But…Brittany's eyes lacked a certain something that she was used to. A certain glow that she preferred. She wanted it back and she strongly suspected that the part she wanted to skip might be the part that got that spark lit again.
So Santana tried the next easiest way she knew to make Brittany smile.
Brittany nodded enthusiastically.
She and Santana stuck to Coach Sylvester's bizarre diets…some of the time. But the rest of the time they just said fuck it and ate whatever the hell they wanted. They were busy, active, growing girls, and it didn't seem to make any difference anyway. Hence, the chocolate chip pancakes with whipped cream smiley faces, and the double plates of pasta at Breadstix and the bounce in Brittany's step as she followed Santana into the kitchen.
"Hot or cold?"
Brittany knew this game. "Cold."
"Sweet or salty?"
Brittany scrunched her nose. "Mmm….sweet."
Santana pulled open the fridge and freezer doors. "Get bowls." She directed Brittany over her shoulder. "And spoons."
Brittany thought she knew what that meant. When she came back with the bowls and spoons, the growing pile of food on the counter confirmed her suspicions – chocolate and vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, maraschino cherries, a can of whipped cream and sprinkles were all in evidence.
Santana was standing on tiptoe trying to reach a bag in a high pantry cabinet. With a little hop, she dislodged a bag of mini pretzels and caught it as it tumbled from the shelf.
She turned and held the bag out to Brittany.
"It sounded like maybe you wanted a little something salty too."
Santana was rewarded with a quick flash of the adoring smile that she missed so much. Her heart sped up. She ducked her head and quickly fell to work making her sundae, to cover up the fact that Brittany had her tongue-tied.
But this wasn't the awkward silence from the car. A more companionable quiet fell upon them as they scooped ice cream.
Brittany made decisions as she went and ended up with a scoop of vanilla and a scoop of chocolate covered in caramel sauce, topped with two crushed handfuls of pretzels and a squirt of whipped cream. Santana made the same sundae she always made, chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles. Her only diversion from tradition was the cherries – she had three.
Santana packed everything back into the freezer and fridge.
"Want to eat outside?"
They picked up their bowls and stepped through the sliding doors onto the deck.
The past week had been colder than usual for October, but today was bright and clear, and warmer than it should have been. Even now, as the sun dipped in the sky, casting an amber glow on the afternoon, it was still warm enough for them to sit outside without their jackets.
Brittany put her bowl down on the picnic table and turned to brush a few leaves off of a deck chair.
"You don't have a cherry." Santana took one of hers and dropped it onto Brittany's sundae, expecting a smile.
But Brittany just looked at her, curiously. And when she sat down and picked up her spoon, she ate around the cherry, digging deep and loading up a spoonful of chocolate ice cream, caramel sauce and pretzels instead.
Santana ate one of the cherries off of her own sundae, but it hardly tasted like anything.
Seated cross-legged on the chaise, Brittany watched Santana poke at her ice cream, still standing.
"San," Brittany said softly "sit."
Santana moved to drag another chair over.
"No." Brittany said. "Sit." She gestured to the end of the chaise lounge she was sitting on.
Santana let out a breath and quickly sat, facing Brittany, mirroring her cross-legged pose. The next bite she took reminded her why she loved chocolate sundaes – the rich, dark flavor of the ice cream and chocolate sauce mixing with the velvety smooth whipped cream.
Santana was still trying to figure out how to start when Brittany spoke.
"Was Coach mad at you? Yesterday?"
Santana shook her head. "Not really. Actually, she was pretty nice." She took another bite, stalling. "…She asked me why I was so mad."
Brittany licked caramel from the back of her spoon. "You have been kind of smash-y…" She trailed off, swirling her spoon in her melting ice cream. "I mean, it seemed that way. From across the room."
"That's kind of what made me mad."
Brittany looked up, needing clarification.
"That you were way across the room." Santana explained.
"I made you mad?"
"No! No..." Santana's gaze darted from Brittany's eyes to her mouth, to her own hands in her lap, then finally focused on a scrape on Brittany's knee. "Not having you next to me made me mad."
"Cause you're like a lizard? You get cranky when you're cold?"
Santana looked up quickly, and caught a wry grin flitting over Brittany's face.
Santana tried to answer, but her throat was tight. She picked the remaining cherry off of her sundae and bit it off of the stem. She chewed, swallowed, and it was easier to talk.
"I shouldn't have said that."
"It doesn't matter that you said it. It only matters if it's true." Brittany forced Santana to hold her gaze. "Is it?"
Santana breathed out. Her mouth was slightly open and she felt the delicate whisper of her own breath over her lips. She didn't breathe back in.
She looked at Brittany, bathed in the light of the setting sun. Her hair glowed gold and rose, her blue eyes matched the fading streaks of daylight in the sky.
Santana gulped air. Her voice was strained and small, but she got it out. "No."
She reached down and put her empty bowl on the deck, under the chair. She was glad the light was behind her, keeping her features in shadow as she tried to explain.
"Glee's cool and all. And everyone's into expressing their feelings and being supportive and whatever. But…me and you…we're private."
"Private, or secret?"
Santana didn't answer. Her jaw tensed, she ground her front teeth together. She breathed fast through her nose, trying hard to keep tears back.
Brittany didn't wait for them to spill over. She reached out and took Santana's hand, ran her thumb over the pads of Santana's fingers.
"You kind of suck at apologizing."
"I'm better at other things," Santana tried to smirk, but tears wet her long eyelashes, undermining the effort.
"I know you are."
Brittany leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss on the corner of Santana's mouth.
Santana sighed, so hard it was almost a sob. She moved her head, searching for more of Brittany's mouth, but it was already gone.
Brittany was surprised at herself, but her voice gained confidence as she spoke. "Just…for right now."
Santana looked away, off into the darkening sky.
Brittany picked up her bowl, almost empty now. She used her spoon to slurp up the last of her sundae, and scoop up the cherry from the bottom of the bowl. She plucked off the stem and held the cherry out to Santana.
Santana looked back at Brittany.
"I saved it for you."
Santana managed a smile. She leaned in and bit into the cherry. The acid chemical sweetness coated her tongue.
She left a kiss on Brittany's sticky fingers.
Brittany laughed and the sound was like a flash of fire, streaking through the dim evening light.
The next day, when Brittany's hand strayed toward Santana's as they walked down the hall together, Santana didn't give her a chance to hesitate. She linked her pinkie to Brittany's, and swung their hands between them, happy to feel Brittany's warm skin close to hers.
The day after, Brittany climbed up and joined Santana in the back row in Glee again. She laughed at her jokes, made fun of Finn with her, and let her knees bump and linger against Santana's. She asked her to come over for dinner and played with her hair while they sprawled on the couch in the den and waited for Brittany's mom to call them to the table.
And a few days after that, while they spied on Mr. Schue and Ms. Pillsbury, Santana's hand trailed along Brittany's thigh and Brittany shivered into the touch. And when they bounced off through the halls, laughing and dancing, and Santana said she wanted to be dirty, she meant it and Brittany could tell, and pulled her down a dark hallway and laid a bruising kiss on her mouth.
The knot in Santana's chest finally came loose. She caught Brittany's lower lip between her teeth and pulled it into her mouth, sucking a sweetness that was anything but artificial. She breathed in deep, breathing Brittany's breath.
And it was almost like nothing had ever happened.