Hi... I haven't died! I've been here all along, just busy with some original work, and some life stuff. THANK YOU SO MUCH to all the people who continue to harass me to finish what I start. This is the last chapter of this roadtrip fic. It turned out differently than I originally envisioned it, but I kinda like where it went. Let me know what you think... :)
Midnight in one last roadside motel found Rachel and Quinn and Santana tossing back beers and ignoring the clock. They were slated to start for home at 9 the next morning, but they were in no mood to be punctual. The three of them couldn't wait to leave Lima, and they sure as hell weren't too thrilled about heading back.
Brittany was happy wherever she was, but if going home meant no more Santana sleepovers, it wasn't her favorite direction to head in. She snuggled her forehead into Santana's neck and didn't remind anyone what time it was.
But after a week on the road, Tina wanted her bed, her boyfriend and some food that didn't come off a convenience store shelf. So when Brittany and Santana finally went back to their room at 2AM with half of the last six pack and Quinn and Rachel took the other three bottles with them to sit out by the motel pool, Tina stayed behind, neatly folding her t-shirts and thinking of Mike's arms folding around her. She zipped her bag, swallowed two Advil and put herself to bed.
But now it's almost 9:30 the next morning, and Quinn and Rachel still refuse to move from the other queen sized bed. Tina reaches out and shakes Rachel's shoulder, but she just groans and turns over without opening her eyes. Tina sighs and kills a few minutes by walking down to the vending machines for a Diet Coke. On the way back, she considers knocking on Santana and Brittany's door, but loud giggles and the rhythmic squealing of bedsprings stop her before her fist hits the door. Knowing those two, they are just as likely to be jumping on the bed as they are to be having sex, but it's too early in the day for Tina to be faced with either reality.
Back at the room she's sharing with Quinn and Rachel, Tina makes sure to clink the keys and make the door squeal on its hinges. She plinks her soda can down on a table with force. Quinn stirs at the noises, squints against the sunlight that streams in from the open door.
"God. Tell me you have Advil?"
Tina nods and crosses to her bag to retrieve the bottle. She tosses across the room.
Quinn catches it; the rattle of the pills as it smacks into Quinn's hand awakens Rachel.
"Ow…" Rachel winces, and covers her head with a pillow. "Soft sounds, please. Soft sounds."
Quinn and Rachel look so pale and pathetic, Tina takes pity on them, finds a half full bottle of water and brings it over to their side of the room.
"So…I guess I should text Mike that we'll be home later than we…"
"Stop yelling." Rachel's muffled voice floats up from under the pillow.
"Can you turn up the AC? And close the blinds?" Quinn whines and pulls the covers up over her head.
Tina finishes texting Mike before she follows Quinn's directions. In the middle of the dim, chilly room, she stops to consider her options. After a minute, she opens her neatly packed bag, takes out her bathing suit and sunscreen and turns to grab a stack of Rachel's Entertainment Weekly magazines. If she has to waste the morning waiting for their hangovers to clear, she might as well do it out by the pool.
By 11:30 all the girls have trickled out to the pool, and are drowsing on deck chairs, letting their stomachs settle and their minds wander. Quinn holds "The Stranger" open with her index finger but doesn't actually read anything. Rachel flips through songs on her ipod, humming. Santana tans, Tina burns, and Brittany watches two kids in the pool play Marco Polo.
Santana decides she's awake enough to be bored, gets up, pulls a pair of shorts on over her bikini bottoms and walks the perimeter of the motel. When she gets back to their group of lounge chairs, she nudges Tina's chair with her knee.
"I know you wanna get back to loverboy. Let's get lunch, then we'll go"
"What?" Tina takes out an earbud and sits up halfway.
"Lunch?" Santana points at the deli across the highway. "Then back to..." Santana trails off, a scowl on her face.
"Oh. Cool." Tina smiles, stands up, slips a cotton dress on over her bathing suit.
Santana squints into the distance, but in the end, she can't keep her eyes from tracking downward toward Tina's cleavage.
"Santana!" Tina throws an arm over her chest, scandalized.
Santana rolls her eyes. "Learn to take a compliment." she turns to Quinn. "We're gonna..."
Quinn raises a hand, waves lazily without glancing up.
In the next chair over, Rachel takes her headphones off and pipes up. "Are you getting food? Do you think they have any citrus fruit? I really feel my vitamin c intake has been..."
"Rachel, I doubt 'The Turtle Creek House of Pizza and Roast Beef' is importing fresh mandarins daily."
"Oh, well. Maybe some juice?"
Santana shakes her head and turns toward the pool. "Brittany!"
"Yeah?" Brittany surfaces in the shallow end. She's jumped in to join the game of Marco Polo, but the game disintegrated the minute she dove in. The older boy, who seems to be about 12, has swum to the deep end, where he's clinging to the ladder and watching Brittany bounce around the pool with a stupid grin plastered on his face.
The smaller boy is about 5. He's leaping at Brittany, trying to land on her back.
"Jason, leave that girl alone." The small boy's mother is spread across a few deck chairs at the far end of the pool, tending to a set of 2 year old twins, both of them itchy from sunburn and cranky from the heat.
"Brit, We're gonna hit that deli. What do you want?"
"Salty or sweet?"
The older boy climbs out of the pool, gets a running start and tries a forward flip into the water. He smacks his back a little on the entry, but his effort is passable. He surfaces and looks hopefully in Brittany's direction.
Brittany is busy flicking water at Santana's knee. She lowers her eyelashes, coy. "I've already got sweet."
Santana grins, sticks a toe in the water and splashes back, aiming at Brittany's cleavage.
Jason leaps for Brittany's shoulders again and lands short, giving her a face full of water.
"What did I just tell you, Jason?" his mother really raises her voice this time. "Connor, get your brother away from that girl."
Connor hesitates, intrigued but terrified by the idea of moving any closer to Brittany.
"It's ok!" Brittany calls to Jason's mother, "I'm not a bad person!" she turns back to the boy. "Want a piggy back ride?"
Jason nods happily and takes hold of Brittany's shoulders for a ride around the pool.
Santana smiles at Brittany and the little boy, but when she catches a glimpse of Connor she grows wary. She's seen that look more times then she cares to recall. Puck, Finn, Artie and especially Mike seem to have grown out of it. But Jacob Ben-Israel still gets that gaped, gasping face every time he's aroused. Which is inappropriately often when he's around her and Brittany. She makes a mental note to look up sexual harassment laws. Maybe there's something she can sue Jacob for. That would make senior year a hell of a lot more interesting.
Santana walks to Connor's end of the pool and nudges his elbow with her foot. "Hey."
He looks up, startled, blushing.
"No piggy back rides for you, you little perv. You got that?"
He stares at her, open mouthed.
Santana waits a minute, but gets nothing but silence. She takes a deep breath, shakes her head and leans in closer.
"Ok then, let me slow it down for you, mini mouthbreather. You do not touch that gorgeous blonde girl with your grubby little adolescent paws. You do not touch her with any part of that walking collection of uncontrolled excretions that you call a body. If you do, I will bust the locks on these flimsy ass motel doors until I find where you sleep and I will cut you. Do. You. Got. That?"
Connor blinks, gasps, barely manages to nod.
Santana flashes him a smarmy, tight lipped smile and turns on her heel.
The boy gapes at her back, then turns to Tina, searching for an explanation for the force of nature he has just encountered.
Tina shrugs. "The last guy who touched her girlfriend...is in a wheelchair."
By the time they finally pile into the car at 1:30, the sun has gone in and there's a light drizzle starting up. When they cross the Ohio state line an hour later, a steady stream of rain is hitting the windshield .
Quinn and Rachel and Tina are in the back seat, cuddled up against a week's worth of souvenir plush toys, feet placed carefully to avoid stepping on the shot glasses they've brought back for the boys, the mugs and magnets for moms and dads. In the middle, Rachel has to tilt her knees to one side. Right now they're tilted toward Quinn.
The car bounces a little over a rough patch of road. They all sway, and Rachel's knees dig into Quinn's thighs, harder than a nudge.
Quinn pushes back a little and squirms in her seat. "Move, Rachel."
It's a soft, grumbled sigh, with none of the old sharp sting underneath.
Rachel tries to give Quinn a little more room, but there really isn't any. Quinn frowns and butts her head into Rachel's shoulder.
The boundaries of personal space have softened and shifted over the past week for everyone in the car. Quinn decides she's perfectly comfortable there, her cheek nudged against the outside of Rachel's left arm.
Santana is in the passenger seat, watching them in the rearview mirror. Since she's not driving, she has plenty of time to turn around and raise an eyebrow at Quinn.
Quinn rolls her eyes. "There's such a thing as platonic cuddles, Santana."
"I wouldn't know anything about that."
Brittany takes a hand off the steering wheel and gives Santana a high five.
Tina snickers. Quinn decides to change the subject.
"Santana, can you pass me a juice box?"
There's a pile of Motts White Grape juice boxes at Santana's feet, but she doesn't reach down.
"You guys need to stop with the fucking juice all the time. We've barely been in the car an hour and we've already stopped to pee every…"
Quinn nudges the back of the Brittany's seat with her knee. "Nice mom, tell mean mom to give us our juice."
Brittany giggles, but Santana scowls and chucks three juice boxes in the back seat, without regard for who they land on.
"When Britts and I have kids they're not gonna be juice whores like you three."
The girls are laughing at "juice whores" but Santana's cheeks are suddenly hot. Everything she thinks is just flying out of her mouth these days.
"We'll still love them if they're cookie addicts though, right?"
At Brittany's voice, Santana looks up. The very beginning of a grin lifts the left corner of her mouth.
"Yep." She laces her fingers with Brittany's. "We'll get them into a good treatment program."
Brittany nods, eyes still on the road. "Cookieholics Anonymous. My uncle went. He's so much better now, but it kind of sucks that his breath doesn't smell like chocolate chips anymore."
In the backseat, Tina and Rachel are exchanging incredulous looks, but Quinn doesn't join in. Instead, she watches Santana's grin go from tiny to tremendous, sees the embarrassed flush fade from her face.
The rain beats on and they all relax. Even with only one hand on the wheel, Brittany is the one they trust most on a slippery road. She hasn't bothered to turn on the GPS. She knows exactly where they are and exactly how to get them home.
Tina bounces out of the car, waving to her mom and dad on the porch. Mike is already at the trunk of the car, lifting out Tina's bags.
Tina answers him with a kiss.
"Is that your father's car?" Santana is driving now, and Brittany is in the passenger seat, knees up to her nose.
Quinn slides glances out the window, then slides down in her seat until she can't see out the window anymore.
"Is that a yes?"
"If you don't want to go home yet you can come…" Rachel starts.
"No." Quinn hears herself, sits up straight and starts again. "No. Thanks. I should…"
She starts to slide out of the car, stops when the porch light comes on.
Brittany puts her feet down and turns in her seat. "Maybe he's here to apologize."
Santana can't help herself, she snorts out a laugh, then meets Quinn's eye in the rearview mirror. "Sorry."
"Don't be." Quinn shoulders her backpack. "And it's a nice idea, Brit. But probably not, you know?"
Brittany nods. "I know. But I'm just saying, maybe."
Quinn nods, her eyes a little brighter. "Maybe."
Rachel watches, fascinated . She's never seen them work like this before.
"You can call me."
Rachel's voice is far too loud. But she wants to be a part of this something.
"I mean, Santana and Brittany will probably be… If you want to talk. Later. Quinn, you can call me."
"Thanks, Rachel. I um. I might."
"Oh MY GOD. Ok already, get in your damn house, Fabray."
Rachel is standing in her driveway, rolling suitcase in hand. Her fathers are leaning out the front door, a tray of frosty lemonade glasses in hand, waiting to welcome her home. But they know there's no point in rushing Rachel through a farewell.
"I'd just like to say..."
In the driver's seat, Santana sighs. "And here I thought we were going to get through one whole day without a speech from you..."
Rachel persists. "I'd just like to say that this was one of the best experiences..."
Santana lets Rachel rattle on, but her eyes are on her girlfriend. It was Brittany's idea to take this wacked out trip, Brittany's idea to give them all something special to share.
Santana reaches across the gearshift for Brittany's hand.
"Hey, Rachel, you're right."
Rachel pauses, mid sentence. "Huh?"
"You're right. This was awesome. Totally speech worthy. Thanks to Brit."
Rachel rises up on the balls of her feet, pleased.
Brittany can't stop grinning. "Next year, I'm thinking a Europe trip. There's a miniature animal farm in France that…"
"Oh my god, and Kurt and I NEED to tour the theaters of London…"
Santana doesn't even roll her eyes.
Brittany's voice is soft and sleepy, but Santana doesn't need much convincing. She just glances at the clock on the dashboard. Brittany told her mom she'd be home around 8. It is 8:12 now. They have about a half hour before Brittany is officially late in the Pierce time zone, so she obediently skips the turn off to Brittany's block and drives on through the dark suburban streets.
Santana hasn't mentioned an arrival time to her parents. She's barely spoken to them all week - a call to her dad on Wednesday to say happy birthday, which he answered almost before the first ring was over. He'd been happy to hear from her - asked her if she was having fun, asked her if she was taking care of the car, asked her if she was staying out of trouble and away from boys. Brittany had been lying on the pillow next to her, heard it all and had to stifle her laughter in Santana's armpit.
He hadn't listened much to the answers, but he'd asked.
Her mother had been out.
"Daddy, it's your BIRTHDAY."
Her father had sighed. "We'll...we'll celebrate together when you get home, Santana."
She had said goodbye and I love you and clicked off the call wondering what had happened to the too busy and important father, the big absent presence. Now he always seemed to be at home when no one else was, reaching for a little girl that had changed shape when he wasn't looking, surprised to find her stomach now where her head used to be.
When her mother had called on Thursday she hadn't answered the phone.
On Friday she had answered her mother's text - "Coming back, or can I turn your room into a workout room?" with equal snark.
"Saturday night. Better get your boyfriend out from under my bed."
Her mother hadn't texted back.
After 5 days of sing-alongs and Cosmo quizzes and "would you rather?", driving in silence feels cozy and grown up.
Santana pulls into the parking lot of the elementary school, puts the car in park and cuts the engine. She slides down in her seat, closing her eyes.
"You have fun, Britt-Britt?" Santana used to use the childhood pet-name when she wanted something in particular. Since they've started dating, she has started to use it when she's tired, like now, or when Brittany just looks fucking adorable, like always.
Brittany nods, her eyes always on Santana. "Best time ever."
Santana smiles without opening her eyes. "I'm glad, baby."
Brittany leans over to kiss Santana's lips. Santana's eyes flutter open, eyelashes brushing against Brittany's cheek. She reaches out to pull Brittany closer, but Brittany pulls away and opens the door on her side of the car.
"Come. Brittany says over her shoulder. "Come."
Santana unbuckles her seatbelt and follows Brittany across the parking lot to the swing set.
Brittany moves to sit down on a swing, but Santana catches her wrist and draws her close.
"Thank you." The words are soft and warm against Brittany's mouth.
Brittany brushes hair back from Santana's eyes.
"For everything. You make me..." Santana trails off, embarrassed to find that she is suddenly feeling weepy. Brittany strokes soft hands down over Santana's shoulders, weaves their fingers together and waits.
Santana takes a deep breath and starts with the obvious.
"I love you. I love being with you every day. I love sleeping with you every night."
"I know that part…" Brittany leers a little, leans in and sneaks a kiss.
Santana is distracted by the taste of strawberry LipSmackers for a minute, but she still hasn't finished what she meant to say. She steps back from Brittany, but doesn't let go of her hand.
"No. Not that. I mean, that too but…" Santana tilts her head back to keep a tear from escaping and pretends to watch a plane blink across the night sky.
"Got a wish?" Brittany sits on one of the swings and tugs Santana into her lap.
Santana leans back into Brittany's body, hooks her left foot around Brittany's left ankle.
"Sometimes I wake up and I can't go back to sleep. I think of everything – global warming and gay bashing and what's going to happen to my dad when he gets old. I think about not having enough money to buy nice things and wonder if I'll be a shitty mom and…just…"
Santana's pulse speeds up as she imagines herself alone in the dark.
"But if you're there, I can just listen to you breathe. I press up against your back and I breathe out when you breathe out. I breathe in when you do. Then all of a sudden, I'm dreaming."
Brittany picks up Santana's hand, kisses every one of her fingers. "I love you too."
She nuzzles into the crook of Santana's shoulder and Santana squirms halfway around so she can kiss Brittany's cheek, her chin, her mouth.
Santana's heart is overfull with salty tears and silvery strings of Brittany's saliva, swollen with dreams and desire. The beats are low and loud, like a song sung underwater.
The song in her blood spills out of her mouth.
"You're my wish. For...Forever."
A year ago Santana would have panicked at her own words, pushed and ran. A month ago, she would have covered her blushes with bluster. A week ago, a day ago…she was never ready for now until now, but here she is. Just at the right time, she has become just the right girl.
Brittany meets Santana's mouth, mumbling. "It's nice to be home."