AN: I did not mean for so much time to pass between this update and the last, but this chapter gave me a lot of trouble and I'm not entirely happy with it. Also, I did some editing in chapter 9 so Brittany's coming out as bisexual would be clearer. It was something I failed to capture the first time I wrote it. Hopefully the revised version is better. Anyway, enjoy!
"So," I started as I pushed around the crumbs of what remained of my cake, "what do you think about Quinn?" Brittany looked up from her second piece and I tried to avoid the questioning look she gave me by keeping my attention on my plate. I cleared my throat before I dropped my fork on the table and folded my hands so I could rest my chin as I asked, "I mean on a scale from one to ten, how hot do you think she is?"
Brittany's brow furrowed. "I don't get why you're asking."
"Well, I already know your type when it comes to guys. I think it's my duty as your best friend to figure out what your type is when it comes to girls," I explained. She stared back in response. I rolled my eyes and said, "How am I going to be a good wingman if I don't know what kind of girls you like?"
"Getting a pilot license would be a good first step," Brittany responded. I tilted my head, raised an eyebrow, and Brittany blushed before looking down at her cake. "Do we have to talk about this right now?"
"This is juicy stuff, Britt," I said. "Or are you embarrassed about who you like? Don't tell me you're secretly in love with Berry." Brittany shook her head and the corners of her lips twitched upward. "Come on," I groaned. "I'm going to be the worst best friend ever if I don't know this stuff about you."
She tapped her fork against her plate, thinking over my words. Maybe it was too soon to ask her about this. I wasn't even sure I was ready to know. But she was my best friend and it was the best idea I had to show her I was still there for her. She glanced up from her cake and I stuck my lower lip out in a pout and batted my eyelashes. The smile that had been fighting to appear came out in full force.
"You win, but stop with the puppy pout," she said. I pushed my lower lip out even further and Brittany leaned closer to trap my pouting lips in a kiss. It was different from the others we had shared. Softer and more restrained, most likely for my sake. It should have felt strange, kissing her after what she had admitted, but the only thing strange about it was how reserved she was being.
She pulled away and the grin on her face had shrunk into a shy smile that she tried to hide by ducking her head once more. She mumbled an apology as she played with the half-eaten piece of cake on her plate. I wasn't sure who I surprised more when I placed a finger beneath her chin, tilted her head up, and returned the kiss with a deeper one.
It tasted like spice cake and sugar.
When I pulled away, her grin had returned.
"I didn't know if you'd want to do that anymore."
I shrugged. "Like you said before. It doesn't mean anything."
And just like that, any trace of the smile was gone, and Brittany was looking at her plate again. Her fingers tapped against the table for several seconds before she pushed her chair back and grabbed both of our plates. They both still had cake on them, but Brittany tossed the slices in the trash before she placed the plates in the dishwasher and slammed it shut.
"Hey, I wasn't done with that."
Brittany turned to face me, but her expression was unreadable. It wasn't angry or sad or happy. It was blank and I couldn't tell what was going on behind those bright blue eyes. The morning after we had slept together for the first time, she had worn a similar expression.
Before she could answer, the front door opened and her family walked in, led by a disheveled and muddy Gracie holding a soccer ball, followed by Mrs. Pierce and Brittany's Aunt Hannah. The blank look on Brittany's face was replaced with a thin smile at the sight of her family shuffling inside. Gracie used her feet to pull off her muddy cleats at the door and cut across the living room to the kitchen. Her eyes widened at the sight of the carrot cake on the counter and she dropped the ball on the floor before hurrying to the cupboard to get a plate.
"How was practice?" Brittany asked as she watched Gracie place two slices of cake on her plate.
"Muddy and gross, but I guess it was fun if you like that kind of thing."
After the candle debacle that burned their house down, the Pierce parents had thought getting Gracie into a sport would give her an outlet for her stress. She had been playing soccer for almost a year. In theory, it should have helped, but her parents still expected her to excel in all of her classes while doing well in soccer. Sometimes I felt sorry for the little brat.
Mrs. Pierce stepped into the kitchen soon after Gracie, but her reaction to the cake was a far cry from Gracie's. "Brittany, what did we tell you about cooking while we're gone?"
Just like their treatment of Gracie hadn't differed in the two years since the fire, their treatment of Brittany had stayed the same as well. She may not have been the one to burn down their house, but her parents still acted as if it had been her fault and still treated her like she was going to bring Hannah's house crashing down around them.
"Lisa, leave the poor girls alone," Hannah said as she joined her sister at the counter with Gracie's soccer bag slung over her shoulder. "It's not like my house isn't insured." Mrs. Pierce glared at the other woman. I was almost certain it was a jab about the lack of insurance Brittany's parents had on their own home when it burned down. "Besides, it's baking. The worst they can do is make the place smell like smoke for a week."
Mrs. Pierce grumbled, but refrained from making any more statements about Brittany's baking abilities. Instead, she went on to talk about Gracie's soccer practice. The coach didn't know talent, apparently, because all she did was yell at Gracie during the practice. The youngest Pierce turned a deep shade of red and focused her attention on the cake she was eating. Brittany looked just as uncomfortable, shifting her weight from one foot to the other even as she placed a hand on Gracie's shoulder.
"Do you want to go catch up on some episodes of Sweet Valley High?" I asked, trying to give Brittany an out from what her mom was most likely going to talk about next. Normally, after discussing anything Gracie, Brittany's parents would bring up Brittany's academic shortcomings. Brittany hesitated before she nodded and started for the door to the basement. She and Gracie both were surprised when I asked Gracie to come with us.
"Don't think I'm inviting you because I'm starting to like you, Nerdette," I said as we walked down the stairs. "And if you talk during the show, I will get the duct tape out."
Once we were in Brittany's room, I told Gracie to load the first disc into the DVD player. She muttered under her breath, but did as she was told. While she set up the show, I attempted to shove Lord Tubbington off Brittany's bed, but it was a futile attempt. In the end, Brittany had to coax him off the mattress with the cat treats she kept in her desk drawer. One or two would have sufficed, but Brittany poured a pile on the floor to keep him happy.
With the furry blob removed from the bed, Brittany and I took our usual spot beneath her light pink comforter while Gracie sat on the floor. Brittany tossed Gracie the pillows we weren't using and I kicked one of the blankets off the bed so she could get comfortable. She grumbled her appreciation. I could hear her shifting the pillows and blanket. Once I felt her weight against the edge of the bed, I asked her to turn the light off. Brittany chuckled when Gracie groaned, but got out of the bed herself, taking the warmth of her body with her. The room darkened and I hit play on the remote, fast-forwarding through advertisements until Brittany climbed back under the blanket.
All too aware of Gracie's presence, I made sure our bodies weren't as close as they normally were. If Brittany noticed, she didn't say anything. She kept her gaze glued to the screen. Halfway through the first episode, I found myself wondering why we even watched the show. Then I remembered we normally didn't watch.
Brittany seemed to remember at the same time because I suddenly felt her breath on my neck. Her mouth was dangerously close to my skin and I knew what I would find if I looked over. Even in the darkness of our bedrooms, I could always tell when Brittany's eyes darkened.
"Britt, Gracie is in here," I hissed as I jerked away from her.
"I can be quiet if you can," she teased in a low voice.
I turned my head to glare at her, but found her smiling. Her eyes weren't the dark blue I was used to seeing whenever she was in the mood to fool around.
"You're such a—" I wanted to say tease, but Gracie was still in the room. "You know what you are," I growled before rolling onto my side, away from her.
She laughed and soon I felt her body pressed against mine, her arm draped over my side and her fingers running along my stomach. I could feel the tips of her fingers through my Cheerio uniform. My eyes flickered to the edge of the bed, where I could see the top of Gracie's blonde head, but the younger girl hadn't budged since we put the show on. Soon, Brittany's chin rested on my shoulder and her soft breath was on my neck once more.
"I'm not trying to seduce you," she whispered, "but I'm pretty sure the show would be way more interesting if I was."
I glanced at the edge of the bed again, wondering if Gracie had heard her. Brittany sighed and her hand slipped away from my stomach, her arm away from my side, and she rolled away from me. Her absence was noticeable and I wanted to move closer, to rest my head on her chest while we watched the show like I normally would, but Gracie's presence made me hesitate. It wouldn't be the first time she caught us in that position if she looked over, but things were different. Brittany was… Well, she was still Brittany, despite what I had learned in the kitchen.
I took a breath to steady my nerves before I scooted across the mattress until I was pressed against Brittany's body. Her eyes flickered down to meet mine. When she saw me looking back at her, she smiled and slipped her arm around me, pulling me closer so we could both get comfortable. I resisted the urge to look at the edge of the bed again, but my heart still pounded in my chest at the thought of Gracie catching us. Then Brittany's fingers were running through my hair. She turned onto her side and pressed her forehead against mine. Even if I couldn't see it, I knew she was smiling. And for a moment, I forgot about Gracie and I smiled, too.
"Thank you, Santana," she whispered. Her voice shook slightly, and it finally clicked just how afraid she had been of losing me and our friendship over what she had told me.
Brittany S. Pierce, the girl who had walked through a burning house without a second thought, had been terrified of losing me. I remembered the way I had felt the morning after the fire. The terror of knowing how close I had come to losing her and the relief from realizing I still had her. She needed to know she still had me.
"It's no problem, B," I said before placing a soft kiss on her lips.
It was only meant to reassure her that nothing had changed between us, but as I pulled away, I wondered if that were true. Had my heart always sped up whenever we kissed? Had I always felt this content whenever we touched? Without a word, we shifted back into our usual position—my head on her chest, my arm over her stomach—and I stared at the television, biting my lip.
It was true: Nothing had changed.
And that's what scared me.
We spent the next three nights practicing the dance for Glee club. I kept telling myself it didn't matter, that we had more talent than any of those losers, but there was still a need to prove it to them. They didn't want us there, so what would be better than showing them how much they needed us to win? The practices with Brittany were intense—I never realized how hard Brittany pushed herself in dance until that first practice left me sitting breathless on the floor, each muscle sore—but they also kept my mind off that night in her bedroom and the path my thoughts had taken.
The day of our performance, Brittany was practically bouncing in the hallways as we walked from one class to another and she couldn't keep the smile off her face. While the performance didn't matter to me, her excitement was contagious and by the end of the day, I was actually looking forward to performing.
"How pissed do you think Berry will be when she realizes she's not the only star in the room?" I asked when we stepped out of our last class together.
"You don't think she'd quit, do you?" Her pinky hooked around mine as we walked down the hall.
I shrugged. "You know how she gets when she isn't the center of attention." When Brittany didn't respond, I looked over and found her frowning. "It's what Sylvester wants, Britt. And okay, maybe it's a little entertaining to watch Finn try to dance, but don't forget what we're here to do."
She pouted, but there wasn't much I could do. What Sylvester wanted, she got.
"Look, even if Rachel leaves, maybe the club won't fall to pieces, but I wouldn't get your hopes up," I said. "And if it does fall apart, what's to miss about a room full of losers?"
"It's fun," she said with a shrug. Something told me there was more to her reasoning, but I didn't press the issue. We were too close to the choir room and it would have been a disaster if one of the Gleeks overheard that one of us actually enjoyed their club.
Our conversation shifted to our plans for the weekend, but when we stepped into the choir room, we both fell silent. Schuester had apparently conned three new people into joining Glee. I didn't care much about Mike and Matt. I was more concerned about the idiot with the Mohawk sitting between them.
Puck wasn't supposed to be there. He was supposed to be on the football field with twenty other guys, smashing his head in and losing more brain cells. But there he was, taking up one of the plastic chairs in the middle row of the choir room, a smug smirk on his face as soon as we stepped through the door. My footsteps faltered and the urge to flee the room was overwhelming. I felt a tug on my hand towards the hallway and allowed Brittany to lead me back outside, away from Puck's gaze.
"What the hell does he think he is doing," I said as she led me away from the door. "Shit, what are any of them doing here?" I pinched the bridge of my nose and groaned. "What the hell are they doing?"
"Maybe they discovered the power of Beyoncé," she said with a shrug. I glared at her. "I'm serious, Santana. Last week they did that Single Ladies dance at the football game. Maybe they're just trying to absorb that power."
I sighed and shook my head. "Why today?"
Brittany bit her lip and looked at the floor. She scuffed the tip of her shoe on the linoleum as she said, "If you don't want to do the dance, you don't have to."
She glanced up at me and I knew she was serious. But I also knew she had been looking forward to the performance since Schuester announced the assignment and if I backed out now, all of our hard work over the last few days would have been for nothing.
"It's not like we haven't danced in front of them a million times before," I said, and I was rewarded with a smile. "Now shouldn't be any different, I guess."
I meant it when I said it in the hallway, but as we watched Kurt and Mercedes dance, my fingers started to fidget in my lap. Brittany took the fidgeting fingertips in her hand and gently squeezed. I gave her a shaky smile in response and tried to ignore Puck, who kept looking back at us. It wasn't until we were the ones standing in the center of the choir room that I realized how different it really was from dancing at parties. There weren't dozens of people to surround us, to hide us. More importantly, there was no alcohol to blame our actions on. And when Schuester hit play on the CD we brought, my stomach tightened into a knot. The backbeat pulsed from the stereo and Brittany's foot tapped along with it.
I tried not to look at Puck as I started to sing in a shaky voice, "It's getting late. I'm makin' my way over to my favorite place. Gotta get my body movin', shake the stress away."
I almost sighed in relief when Brittany started to move around me, taking some of the attention away. My voice got stronger as we got further into the song. And when I kept my eyes on Brittany, I mostly forgot about Puck and his friends. When we reached the chorus, her hand slipped into mine and she spun me, just as we had practiced, but when I faced her again, there was a look in her eyes that hadn't been there in her basement.
They seemed softer somehow and I couldn't help but smile while I sang. Her eyes were glued to mine and mine to hers. The rest of the choir room melted away so Brittany and I were in our own world. A world where we could dance together without judgment, without the need to use alcohol as an excuse. A world where I could tell her everything. Then the chorus ended. Her hand was gone and it took the moment with it. Shocked from the sudden loss, I stumbled over the next couple of words, but quickly regained my place in the song.
"Don't you feel the passion ready to explode?" I glanced at our audience to gauge their reaction to the dance so far, but all I saw was the smirk on Puck's face. "What goes on between us no one has to know." He shoved Mike to get his attention and whispered something in his ear. "This is a private show—"
A sharp wolf-whistle from the audience interrupted the performance and I knew without looking it was Puck. Then I heard his familiar laughter. When I finally looked over, he was laughing with Mike and Matt. My heart sped up. My feet stopped moving. I couldn't sing the words anymore. The music still played, but all I could hear was Puck's idiotic laughter. When I looked back at Brittany, she had stopped dancing as well. The way she was looking at me, her mouth drawn in a thin line, it was like she knew what to expect next. And as much as I wanted to surprise her—to stay and finish the dance—I couldn't.
"I'm sorry," I said in a tight voice before turning on my heel and fleeing the choir room.
She didn't follow.
I didn't know where I was going, but anywhere was better than being trapped between Puck's lecherous gaze and Brittany's disappointed one. Soon I was walking out the front doors of McKinley and wandering down the street. The cool fall air made a shiver run up my spine and I wrapped my arms over my torso. I couldn't go back to get my jacket. It was still sitting next to my chair in the choir room and going back for it meant seeing Brittany again. Another chill crawled up my spine, but it had less to do with the weather and more to do with the idea of seeing that blank expression on Brittany's face again.
I ended up on the bench in front of the dance studio where Brittany practiced. I held my phone in my lap, willing it to buzz with a text message or a phone call, but the screen stayed dark and the phone stayed still. I groaned and leaned forward to rest my head in my hands. It was stupid to expect her to text me after I bailed on her, but I still had hope that she understood. That hope was dwindling when the phone finally vibrated. Brittany's name flashed across the screen beneath a virtual envelope and my heart hammered in my chest while my thumb hovered over the 'open' button. I closed my eyes as I pressed the button, trying to put off reading whatever Brittany had sent me. When I opened them, however, there was only one sentence in the message.
Your stuff is at the park.
I waited for any other messages that might follow. When none came, I sighed and slid the phone back into my bra before getting to my feet. Of course she would go to the park. It was no mystery where she would be waiting either.
The cool air was hardly noticeable as I walked down the streets of Lima. My thoughts were too wrapped up in what I would tell Brittany when I saw her again. By the time I reached the peeling white archway of the park, I still hadn't come up with anything to tell her. I fidgeted for a moment before I stepped under the arch and headed for the pond.
It didn't take long to spot her when I reached the grassy area of the park. She was at the water's edge, her knees pulled up to her chest and both our backpacks beside her. Luckily, the ducks were all bobbing the water so I didn't have to worry about them swarming me when I approached her. Still, it took several seconds for me to gather my courage and walk over to her. She didn't even glance at me when I sat next to her. Her only acknowledgement of my presence was scooting over to put space between us.
"Please don't, Santana."
I let the words die on my lips and brought my knees up to my chest, mimicking her position. No words were spoken between us for several minutes. When she broke the silence, her voice was barely above a whisper and I strained to hear it over the sounds of children playing nearby.
"I used to come here by myself to feed the ducks and I'd pretend I wasn't here alone. That I had a friend beside me to laugh with," she said. "Then I met you and I didn't have to pretend anymore." She finally looked at me and I immediately wished she hadn't. I couldn't stomach seeing the disappointment on her face. "Except now we're older and I'm stuck pretending again."
I reached out to wipe the tears away, but she jerked her head away and went back to staring at the pond. I huffed and returned my gaze to the pond as well. Why did she have to make me the bad guy? I didn't ask for any of it—whatever 'it' was—to happen.
"What the hell do you want me to say? I'm sorry for running out on you? Because I am."
"The truth, Santana," Brittany said. "That's all I've ever wanted, but it doesn't look like I'll be getting it any time soon if you can't even dance with me in Glee club."
"Puck was there!"
"Why does that even matter?" she said as she plucked a piece of grass and rolled it between her fingers. "Puck is an idiot, and that's coming from me."
"Don't do that."
She glanced over at me before she returned her gaze to the blade of grass between her fingertips. "You know, you were the only person who never made me feel like an idiot, but do you know how stupid I felt after you just left me?"
My hands balled into fists and I looked away, choosing to stare at the pond instead. Why couldn't she see that I had tried?
"Do you still want to know what my type is?" The question took me by surprise. When I looked back at Brittany, her stare was so intense that I almost scooted away from her. She didn't wait for an answer. "Someone who fits perfectly beside me while we watch Sweet Valley High. Someone who acts like she's the toughest person in the world, when really she would take a class she didn't need just because she's looking out for me. Someone who doesn't mind holding me through the occasional thunderstorm," she said before looking back down at the grass. She wiped her eyes with the back of her hand before getting to her feet. "And she's someone who isn't afraid to dance with me."
"I… Brittany, I can't."
She sighed and stared down at her shoes. "Then I guess I'll just have to keep waiting, huh?" She picked up the backpack and jacket she had brought with her and dropped them in my lap. "I'll see you tomorrow, Santana."
I watched her walk across the park until she disappeared beneath the arch. "See you tomorrow, Brittany."
I clutched my backpack to my chest and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to keep the tears at bay. But the backpack still smelled like Brittany and I imagined her holding it close while she waited for me. I lost my battle against the tears and they silently fell down my cheeks and pooled on the rough fabric of my backpack.
The sky was starting to darken when I finally got to my feet. The sensation of pins and needles attacked my legs and I nearly ended up on the ground again. Once the feeling returned to my legs, I started for the entrance of the park. When I reached it, however, I didn't go towards home. Instead, I headed for a place I hadn't been since eighth grade. I didn't even know if it was still standing.
The nice homes near the park soon turned to apartment complexes that gradually got worse the further I walked. The apartment complexes turned to factory buildings. Finally, the factory buildings turned into the faded houses of Brittany's old neighborhood. It had been nearly two years since my last visit, but my body still reacted the same way: quickened heart rate, cold sweat on my neck, trembling hands. I stuffed my shaking hands into the pockets of my jacket and tried to ignore the way my muscles tensed the closer I got to my destination.
The warehouse was still there.
The remains of Brittany's old house may have been long gone, but the abandoned warehouse was still standing. It's presence was just as ominous as it had been the last time I saw it. It seemed the surrounding lawn had become a small junkyard over the years. Cans and glass bottles were littered throughout the dead grass, most likely left by teenagers who needed a place to drink away from their parents' eyes. Pieces of rotted wood were scattered throughout the yard, leftover from who knew what. A section of someone's rusty fence stuck up from the ground. I clenched my jaw as I approached the building. The side door was wide open, but I couldn't get myself to go anywhere near it. Instead, I slid my backpack off and exchanged it for one of the empty bottles.
I tested the weight in my hands for a moment. Then I closed my eyes and threw it as hard as I could at the rusty structure, grunting with the effort. The glass shattered, but the warehouse was still there. I scowled and picked up another bottle.
"This is all your fucking fault," I said before I chucked the second bottle. It broke against the large door as well and its remnants fell to the ground to join the other broken shards. I stepped closer and picked up a can this time. "If I hadn't spent the night here, I wouldn't be like this." The can didn't get much distance when I threw it and some of the liquid still left inside sprayed on my face. I decided to stick with the bottles. "Things could be different if it weren't for you," I shouted before I grabbed another bottle and threw it. It sailed over the roof.
Since throwing things was getting me nowhere, I went with a more direct approach. I picked up one of the rotted boards and walked towards the building. The closer I got, the slower my steps were until I came to a stop several feet in front of the large door. My hand shook, so I tightened my grip on the piece of wood, hoping it would stop.
"If I hadn't stayed here, maybe I could have… I could have…" I slammed the piece of wood against the aluminum door and it shook from the blow. "I could tell her what she wants to hear if it wasn't for you," I shouted before hitting it again. "I could be happy!"
The wood split against the rusty door, but at least there was a dent left behind. I dropped the broken board and stared at the mark I had left behind. I traced the dent with my index finger for a moment and scowled before kicking the warehouse. The kicks turned into pounding fists accompanied by unintelligible shouts. Sweat matted my bangs to my forehead by the time I finished pounding on the warehouse door and several strands of hair were free from my ponytail. I breathed heavily and rested my forehead against the cool metal.
I thought going there would help, but all I had managed to do was wear my voice out and make my hands hurt. I didn't know where to go from there, but home didn't feel like an option. The place I wanted to be wasn't much of an option either. That only left one other place to go and the thought of going there made me groan. I sighed before I pulled my phone out of my bra.
I scrolled through my contacts, hesitating when I passed Brittany's name. The other contacts in my phone were useless until I got to Quinn's name. My thumb hovered over the button for several seconds. Then I hit 'call' and hoped she would answer.
AN: This fic is my baby. I know it takes me a long time to update, but please never feel like I'm abandoning it. I'm almost always thinking about it. Anyway, thank you for reading and hopefully the next chapters go smoothly.
Song they danced to was Please Don't Stop the Music by Rihanna