Obligatory disclaimer: I do not own Glee, I do not own these characters, and while they are fun to borrow, I don't make anything of monetary value from their use.

"This prom sucks."

It really had sucked, mostly. Karofsky had won Prom King, and there was Santana, a bridesmaid again, and still no Brittany. At Brittany's urging, though, she'd gone back into the gym and sang her heart out with Mercedes because maybe Britt was right - it really was harder for Kurt. It had felt good, to sing for Kurt's brief turn around the floor as Prom Queen. Santana wasn't into doing things just to help other people feel good, but she made an exception for Kurt after the shitty thing their classmates had done to him. It helped ease the ache in her own heart, just a little bit.

The prom started winding down not too long after the Queen's dance, and once Santana saw Brittany dancing with Artie to some disco shit, well, she'd had enough heartache to shoehorn into one night. She'd watched Dave stalk off the dance floor before the dance with Kurt, so she went looking for him. There were after-parties to attend, and she'd planned to go to a couple of them with him, just to keep spinning the fiction. Plus he had the bottle of cheap vodka she'd helped pay for.

She found him in the parking lot, leaning against his car, contemplating the crown he was slowly twirling in his large hands.


He looked up. Hit tie was loosened, the button on his collar undone, and she saw the conflict etched into his face. "Hey."

"Congrats," she said, gesturing to the crown.

He swallowed. "Thanks. Sorry about ditching you in there. I just ... couldn't." His voice nearly broke and Santana saw the anguish creasing his brow before he looked away.

"I know. I get it. I mean, really, I get it." She stepped closer, lowered her voice and confessed. "I'm in love with my best friend, and even though she loves me back, I can't come out at this school. I can't. I won't." The last, spoken only in a broken whisper, mostly to herself. She closed her eyes, ruthlessly shoved away the emotions, again. "There's no way I'm going through anything like what those tools did to Kurt tonight, and I'm not joining the freaking golf team. And when I find out who started the idea of electing him Prom Queen and voted for him as a joke," with a head-bob, "I'm gon'crack a bottle over all they heads." Just voicing the threat made her feel better, like her own self. She squared her shoulders, looked up at Dave, cocked her head to the side a bit. "If I weren't such a freaking hypocrite I would clock you for what you pulled on Kurt. It was pretty shitty." Dave looked down at his shoes and even in the low light of the parking lot, Santana could see the flush creeping up his neck. Making him feel worse wouldn't help Kurt, but at least she was on the record. "So." He looked up at her and tried not to wince. She smiled, softening her features. "Things are dying down in there. It's prom night and apparently neither one of us is getting laid, despite the fact that one of us is prom royalty and one of us is smokin' hot." She smirked, then, rested a hand on one satin-clad hip. "Wanna hit an after-party?"

Dave looked at her and mulled it over. "OK, but just one. Puckerman's? He always finds the best booze and weed." A small smile crossed his lips and he tentatively held out his hand. "You're not so bad, Lopez."

She accepted his hand. It was a little rough and almost twice the size of hers, felt odd. She head the sounds of other prom-goers trailing out of the gym and decided she was ready to go. She rolled her eyes at him, and muttered, "Don't get used to it."

# # #

Puck's party was in full swing by the time they arrived, bathing them in the thump of bass from the music tumbling out into the street. There weren't drunk kids lolling on the front lawn yet, but if past parties were prologue, there would be before daylight broke. Knowing Puck, there would probably be abandoned articles of clothing in the trees and landscaping too, but that was hours away yet, Santana thought as she and Dave walked up the driveway toward the front door. She tugged on his hand as the approached the door, to get him to stop. He looked at her, frowning a little in confusion.

"Game face, Dave." She turned her body to face him, gently placed his hands on her hips, closed her eyes, placed her hands flat on his chest, and leaned up on tiptoe to kiss him. She felt nothing, like kissing the back of her own hand at 12 as practice.

The door opened, and Puck and a jock posse half-fell out the front door onto the porch. "God, Lopez, can't wait to get him home and take care of that?" The other jocks jeered a bit.

Santana turned, glad both for the interruption and the witnesses, and let her bitchy off the chain. "Shut it, Puckerman. Just because Zizes won't give it up to you doesn't mean the rest of us have to suffer in celibacy." More jeers and catcalls, ribbing Puck. "She give you your huevos back yet?"

Puck belched for good measure, reached the pair and held up a fist to bump with Karofsky. "Leave the family jewels alone. You had no problem finding them." Karofsky returned Puck's fist-bump and a grin appeared on his face as he recognized some of his hockey teammates. Puck offered the bottle of PatrĂ³n he was clutching in one hand, which Dave grabbed. He took a long, greedy swallow, leaned down to kiss Santana full on the mouth. "I'm going inside to find some party favors. See you in a few minutes?" Santana nodded, but took the bottle of tequila from him. Karofsky turned toward the house and disappeared inside, jostling with the jocks.

"I see you've got that whipped," said Puck.

"It's what I do." Santana looked at Puck, whose jacket was gone, with his shirt untucked and half-unbuttoned. She took her own long swig of tequila, enjoyed the sensation of the burn all the way down her esophagus and into her belly. Let the numbing begin. "So, Puck, did you at least save me a beer?"

"Since when do you drink beer?"

"Since I can gain a quarter-pound without worrying about it showing in this dress or that stupid Cheerios uniform. Plus I skipped dinner."

"Hey, I LIKED that uniform. Short skirts are da bomb. I could see your ovaries if you bent over, remember?"

Santana punched him in the arm. "Creeper. Totally don't miss freezing my ass off in the winter, but there's no doubt it was a great look for me." She smirked.

"Where's Brittany?"

Santana was sure she stopped the frown that ghosted over her forehead before Puck had a chance to see it, and she was acutely aware of the weight of the silver bracelet around her wrist. "How should I know? The last I saw, she was cutting a rug to some ancient disco revival crap with Wheels. I'm still not sure how a kid in a freaking wheelchair," she held up her fingers to make air quotes, "dances." Again, a surge of equal parts jelousy and anger, and a struggle to master them. She took another pull off the bottle in her hand and then Puck claimed it roughly.

"Damn, Santana, don't be so freaking touchy. You know, there were a bunch of people running for for Prom Queen and you didn't win. So what? Get over it." He started walking back toward the house. She seized on that as the real reason for her pique.

"Screw you! I really wanted to win, and you know, my running mate did actually win! You need to get laid!" The last part she shouted to Puck's back as he, too, disappeared into the house. She was outside alone for a moment, but heard footsteps. Quinn was coming up the walk, with Rachel, and no Finn or Jesse in sight. Santana cocked an eyebrow. This was ... unusual.

"Santana," Quinn said. Rachel, a quiet "Hey."

"Quinn...Berry. There's liquor in the house and probably some J. You in?"

Rachel and Quinn looked at each other, and then at Santana. Quinn sniffed the air delicately. "You have a head start, but after the night I've had, I'm ready for a drink. What a horrible prom."

Rachel huffed out a breath. "You know, smoking can damage your vocal cords and impair lung function. I don't want anything to smoke, but a wine cooler could be refreshing." Santana flashed back to Rachel's tremulous "Let's party!" declaration at - what had Mercedes called it ? The Rachel Berry Train Wreck Extravanganza. She rolled her eyes and stalked toward the house. Surely there was something heavy inside to punch or kick, or at least something to make image of Brittany slow dancing with that nameless, faceless girl disintegrate.

# # #

Less than an hour later, Santana had lost track of how many shots she'd poured down her throat and she kept forgetting where she set her beer down. She had tracked down Karofsky in the basement and pulled him away from the throng of jocks who were passing a joint around and chasing with a fifth of cheap bourbon. Someone had cleared space by moving the sofas and chairs to line the walls, so there was a makeshift dance floor a few steps away. "Dance with me," she commanded, as she grabbed his hand. Karofsky, feeling no pain, willingly half-stumbled behind her. All Santana wanted at that precise moment was to lose herself a little further. The music was pulsing, and she was compelled to move. Karofsky wasn't much of a dancer, but Santana's hips kept perfect time and masked the worst of his rhythmic shortcomings. She felt the buzz surging through her, nicking her nerve endings deliciously, and she welcomed the euphoric oblivion.

The music shifted, then, to something slow with a beat just born for grinding. Karofsky slowly slid a hand to the small of Santana's back and pulled her close to him. She automatically looped her hands around the back of his neck and leaned into him. She frowned a little but stayed where she was. She shuffled around with him, for the most part successfully avoiding his lumbering feet. This was OK in a "dancing with your cousin at your sister's wedding" kind of way, but who was she kidding? Anyone who wasn't Brittany would never be right, would never be what she needed. The other couples around them were making out on the dance floor or feeling each other up, and Santana thought she saw Quinn nestled up to Puck on her left, and most assuredly that was Mercedes macking on Sam over by the wall. She felt Karofsky's hands smooth down to rest lightly on her backside, possessively. The song melded into another slow groove, and she quickly broke away from Karofsky with brief eye contact and a slight smile. He smiled back, and reached out to try to claim her for another dance. She felt the skin on the back of her neck skin prickle, and turned around.

Brittany was sitting on one of the sofas with Rachel, who was talking animatedly about something in a low voice. Santana felt the air pressure in the room shift as she met Brittany's sad eyes, and her stomach lurched. She turned, then, and ran for the bathroom. She only had to elbow one unfortunate sophomore out of the way, but she made it in time. Her stomach gave up much of the alcohol she had consumed, and she flushed the toilet as she stood up and looked in the mirror. It could have been worse: she was pale, trembling, a little sweaty, and her makeup needed some touching up. She turned on the cold water tap and rinsed her mouth. The sadness on Brittany's face was overwhelming, and she felt tears threatening. God, she wanted to lash out at someone, or something, anything to make this mess go away. Why'd the good things about liquor have to come with a side of weepy and hysterical? A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts, thoughts that were tumbling way too fast to keep track of them.

"Santana?" She recognized that annoying voice.

"Beat it, dwarf." She opened to door to see Rachel preparing to knock again.

"We-we just wanted to be sure that you were OK."

"Everything's fucking peachy, Berry." She shouldered past Rachel, probably a little more roughly than necessary, and made for the front door and some fresh air. It had to help.

# # #

Santana gingerly sat down at the end of the driveway, slipped her heels off, and stretched out her legs with a toe flex for good measure. The air outside was a little cooler, a little cleaner, and she leaned her head back to look up into the night sky. God, this town was fucked up and she couldn't wait until she could get out. Lesbian colony, TriBeCa, or the far side of the moon ... it didn't much matter because she couldn't live much longer as an outcast in nowheresville, Ohio. She sighed.

"San?" Only one person dared call her that. She closed her eyes.

"Yeah, Britt?"

Brittany settled down on the pavement about a foot away from Santana, set her purse down beside her. "It's hot in there. And it smells like pot."

Santana snickered. "Can't argue with that." She turned her head to look at Brittany. It hurt and felt good all at the same time, to see the concern on her face. Things had been awkward between them since Brittany had given Santana the "Lebanese" t-shirt, and had remained so even after Brittany had broken up with Artie.

"Are you OK? Rachel thought you were getting sick."

Santana looked away. "It's nothing, B, just had a little too much to drink, too fast." Her breath hitched involuntarily. "I came outside to get some fresh air." She pulled her knees to her chest and clasped her arms around them, and felt so alone. She heard her bracelet make the smallest tinkling sound as the links shifted, settled.

"Oh. I thought maybe you got sick because you're trying to be Karofsky's girlfriend." A pause. "San, I don't think you're fooling anyone."

Santana sighed. She was so not ready to have this conversation, not tonight. Her stomach roiled rebelliously. "I don't give a damn who I'm fooling or not. At least it looks good and people won't treat me like - like the way they treated Kurt tonight!" A single tear slipped down her cheek, which made Santana even angrier. "Shit," she said, and muttered, "not again." Only Brittany wrought this much emotion from her. She took a steadying breath and dashed the tear away angrily. Weakness, tears and hysteria were not part of the game plan, at least not for a losing campaign on all fronts on prom night.

"I think I'm ready to call it a night." She clambered to her feet, a little unsteady, and carefully slipped her shoes back on. When she looked up, Brittany was directly in front of her, for once at eye level because of the ridiculously high heels Santana had paired with the prom dress. "Do you need a ride?" Brittany was standing close enough that Santana could feel her body heat in the evening cool, her calm gaze direct.

Shit, damn. Eye contact at close range was so...intimate. Santana routinely spurned the very concept with most people, but Brittany definitely was not most people. Santana took a half-step back, out of the streetlight glaring directly overhead, telling herself it was so that she could see Brittany better.

"Yeah. Do you mind? Dave's too stoned to drive and I don't want to call my mom or dad." Karofsky had also gotten a little too handsy for her taste during that last dance when he palmed her ass, which her mind grasped as another spot-on call about his being a late bloomer who would have to get drunk before he could have relations with his wife. Having awesome gaydar was a burden as much as a blessing, but she could no more turn off the gay than she could turn off being a judgmental bitch, right?

"Let me text Rachel and Quinn to tell them we're leaving." Brittany was already pulling her phone out of her purse. Santana did too, to text Karofsky that she was leaving and she'd see him Monday. Done.

# # #

Brittany pulled a stick of gum from the pack she kept on the dashboard of her car. She offered a piece to Santana, who gratefully accepted. Brittany started the car and pulled away from the curb. "Thanks, B." Brittany gave her a small smile. "Sure." Santana turned on the radio, and a dance-floor anthem immediately swept through the car. Santana watched Brittany's fingers drum in time to the beat on the steering wheel and she relaxed into the passenger seat for the short ride home.

# # #

Jacob Ben Israel was crouched down near the bushes, working Puck's for The Muckraker. He'd followed Santana outside after watching most of the goings-on in the basement. He was writing furiously in a small notebook every couple of minutes and pausing periodically to speak into a small digital recorder. "Which prom queen candidate was seen slow-dancing with Prom royalty at a certain after-party before puking and leaving without her date? The same one who's rearranging her closet." He also jotted some notes about Quinn's draping herself on Puck, and he wondered what Lauren Zizes would have to say about Caboosey mackin' on her man. There were other after-parties to attend, though, and he had other news stories to sniff out. He put his notebook and recorder into his backpack, and wondered briefly if he could leverage any of his rumor-mill information to net Rachel Berry's cell phone number. He decided to let the thought simmer, and set off for the next party.

# # #

Brittany pulled into the Lopez driveway and shifted into Park. Ten seconds passed. She shut off the radio and turned in her seat to look at Santana. "San?"

Santana unbuckled the seat belt and asked, "Do you want to come in?" She looked across the seat at Brittany after the question was out, her face carefully impassive.

"Sure." Brittany turned off the headlights and switched off the ignition.

The two exited the car and Santana reached out her pinky to link with Brittany's. "Kitchen door, around the back," Santana said quietly, pulling a little to guide Brittany. "Less noise," she explained. "Don't want to wake the 'rents." It seemed like it'd been forever since she last touched Brittany.

When they reached the door, Santana reluctantly dropped Brittany's hand to paw through her small clutch. "Key, key," she muttered Her mom had left the porch light on, which was a sure sign her parents were in bed for the night. God knew old people could sleep through anything so Santana was grateful that she wouldn't have to see them until tomorrow.

Where was the freaking key?

Brittany reached out and took Santana's clutch with a whispered, "Let me help, San." Their fingers brushed in the exchange and it was all Santana could do not to snatch her hand away. God, it felt like getting burned. She should have been used to it by now, but for some reason she was hyper-aware tonight of the physical reality of Brittany's presence on the small concrete pad outside her kitchen door. Brittany triumphantly pulled the key out, on a tiny Hello Kitty key ring.

"Aww, San, you still have this?" She inspected the cheery cartoon face under the porch light and then dropped the key in Santana's open palm. "I gave it to you like ten years ago." Brittany smiled.

"Of course I kept it, Britt," she said, a little more sharply than she intended, and she turned toward the door. The key slid home and she turned it in the lock. It took a little effort, but the lock gave way with some persistence and jiggling. Santana didn't use this door very often.

Santana pushed the door open and ushered Brittany inside first. She locked the door behind her and turned off the porch light. The kitchen was dark, and Santana instinctively reached out for Brittany's hand. She found Brittany's waist instead, and her fingers brushed over the fabric of Brittany's dress. She didn't think next, only reacted, as she splayed her fingers at the base of Brittany's spine and pulled her close. Her body registered that being pressed together, from breast to belly to thigh, even through clothing, was so much better with Brittany than it ever had been with anyone else. She caught the fragrance of Brittany's shampoo, and felt the familiar need beginning to curl, deep in her belly. Her eyes fluttered closed and she allowed the sensations free reign.


Warm, cinnamon-scented breath on her cheek.

"We're still in the kitchen." Brittany's hands moved up to rest on Santana's hips, thumbs lightly massaging through the red satin of her dress, which shot little sparks through Santana's whole nervous system.

Santana, eyes closed in the maelstrom, allowed herself the luxury of resting her forehead against Brittany's, just for the span of a few heartbeats. "I know, B."

"We should go upstairs. We should talk."

God knew the sensations were overwhelming, but something wasn't right. Santana's brain dully recognized the wisdom even as her body ardently clamored for more contact. She exhaled, opened her eyes. She didn't shy away from Brittany's gaze this time, but merely said, "OK." So much for being a badass. She was willing to give up some badassery, though, if she got the girl in the end. Not satisfied but less willing to stay put, Santana ran her left hand down Brittany's right forearm and seamlessly clasped their pinkies together. She took a step back and turned toward the staircase. She led Brittany by heart around the obstacles she knew were there, knowing that Brittany could have led them just as easily since she spent so much time in the house.

# # #

Brittany followed Santana into her bedroom. She wasn't sure yet what she was going to say but she knew in her heart that for once she didn't want just a roll in the hay, even an exceptional one with Santana, followed by a few hours of sleep. She frowned lightly.

Santana hadn't turned on any lights. Brittany felt her take her hand and pull her closer, into an embrace. Brittany resisted, lightly. Santana paused. "Britt?"

"San..." Brittany brought up a hand to rest on Santana's sternum, a barrier. "Can we turn on a light? I want to talk."

Santana dropped her arms and turned away. She kicked off her shoes, immediately soothing an ache in her feet, before she switched on the bedside lamp. She perched on the side of the bed and looked up at Brittany expectantly, and trying to ignore the jitterbugging going on in her chest. "So ... talk."

Brittany rolled Santana's desk chair over and settled into gracefully, artfully arranging the fluffy skirt on her prom dress while she weighed her thoughts. She looked up.

"San, have you thought any more about telling people about us?"

Santana's heart squeezed for an instant. Brittany would never be the most eloquent person, and subtlety was not her strong suit. Santana fought off the urge to deflect the inquiry with a cutting remark, knowing that Brittany deserved an honest answer, needed one.

"B, I ... " Santana looked down, and then back at Brittany. "I love you, Brittany. I can't imagine being without you. I can't stand being apart and it is so hard to see you dating other people."

"San, I told you that I would proudly be yours if Artie and I ever were to break up. We did, and I thought you would be happy. Don't you want to date me?" Brittany's voice got a little smaller, a little softer. "Because I really want to date you."

Santana leaned forward and very nearly reached out. "Britt, I want you more than anything. I'm just ... afraid." She looked down again.

"Afraid of what? Being your entire awesome self or only being a part? I don't get it." Brittany frowned, which emphasized her point.

"I know, B. This is just really hard for me. We talked about this already, that day by the lockers."

"Why? You love me. I know you do. You said so, and I really liked the song you sang to me in the choir room."

"Britt - " Santana stood, and started to pace. Her forehead was scrunched up in thought. "Some seriously bad shit could happen to both of us if we came out and started dating, like publicly."

Santana's groove kept her from seeing Brittany's shoulders slump. "You're ashamed."

Santana heard the sea change in Brittany's tone, stopped, and returned to kneel front of Brittany, forcing her chin up. "Never, B. I'm so happy you've chosen me, even after all of the horrible things I do and say."

Brittany held Santana's gaze. "I didn't think you were afraid of anything. Why are you afraid of what some high school kids will say about you, or say about us?"

Santana sat and thought about Brittany's statement for a time, and didn't even have the knee-jerk reaction to say that Santana Lopez wasn't afraid of anything or anyone. Brittany waited for a moment, which stretched to two, and then she gave up. She pulled her chin away and stood up. "I-I gotta go, San. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow." Brittany started toward the bedroom door, more confused than ever, and hurt.

"Britt, don't go. At least not yet." Santana had righted herself and stood up straight. She reached out a hand toward Brittany, who looked at it and slowly looked up at the hopeful expression on Santana's face.

"San," she intoned, her voice belying some of her exhaustion from the day, and something deeper. "I'm tired and I want to go home. I want to date you and be your girlfriend, but only if we can go public," she said, slinging her newfound journalism jargon. "I don't want to just hook up anymore, or make out at parties for other people to watch us. It hurts when we do that but you still deny to other people that we're together. No matter what you think, you won't convince me that it's better without feelings. I'm in love with you, Santana, and it doesn't matter to me that we're both girls." One tear slipped out of the corner of one of Brittany's eyes, and she let it fall. "I'm in love with you, and I love us both too much to let you go on hiding this, hiding us."

Santana let her hand drop. That was a mouthful for her sweet Brittany to speak at one time, and Santana was a little taken aback. She looked at Brittany, really looked at her. Even in the soft light in the middle of the night, Santana could see her eyes shining with tears, and with conviction of the words she'd just spoken. Santana absolutely agreed that feelings made all the difference in the world, but her fear of losing Brittany rose up, took control and spoke the next words for her. "So that's it? You'll be with me, but only if I come out? That's not fair, Brittany," she snapped.

Brittany shook her head sadly. "San, it IS fair. I want to hold your hand in the hallway at school and sneak kisses between classes at your locker and go to the movies with you and go to the prom with you and tell everyone we know that you're mine and I'm yours. Why is that a bad thing?"

Santana's brain scrambled to keep up with such a long list under the remaining haze of booze. "It's not a bad thing, Britt." She pinched the bridge of her nose and felt a honey of a headache gathering steam. She dropped her hand from her nose and met Brittany's eyes. "But we know that the kids there do not accept people who are different." Santana's conscience twinged as she remembered some of the awful things she had done to other kids at school in the name of burnishing her own social status. Coming out would torpedo everything she'd worked so hard to build. "Britt, it's late. Stay. We'll just sleep, I promise." She took a step forward. "Please?" Her voice broke on the last word and had it been anyone else, she'd have loathed the neediness in her own voice. She held her hand out again.

Brittany considered for a long moment, and Santana thought she'd just turn and run out of the room. Brittany reached for Santana's hand, because her heart told her to. "OK, to sleep. We aren't done talking about this, San. I mean it."

"I know," Santana blew out a sigh of relief that Brittany would stay. Santana took one more step forward and she was in Brittany's arms again. She rested her head on Brittany's chest and listened to her heart beating. She breathed in Brittany's scent, a mix of shampoo, body wash, perfume, and light sweat. She knew at that precise moment that she'd have to find a way to make peace with coming out because there was no way she could give this up and survive. Tomorrow, she thought, nuzzling in a little closer. She'd worry about it tomorrow.

# # #

Brittany tugged the borrowed t-shirt down toward her hips and inspected her reflection in the mirror. She knew she looked tired, but it had been a long day. She was glad she and San had talked tonight instead of going right to bed to have sex. Brittany loved San's kisses and enjoyed their physical relationship, but she didn't want to have just sex in the dark anymore. She smiled at her reflection and turned off the light before leaving the en-suite bathroom. Santana was already in her bed, trying to beat a pillow into the weird shape she liked.

"San, I think you're hurting the pillow."

Santana smirked. "Not possible, Britt, but it's sweet of you to defend the pillow." She sat up and one strap of the nightgown she privately thought of as her "Come and get me" sleepwear slipped down her shoulder. She caught Brittany's wide-eyed look and said, "What? It was the last one clean." It was the truth.

Brittany slipped into bed beside Santana. The cool sheets felt good against the bare skin of her legs and her body reminded her how exhausted she was.

Santana, face scrubbed clean of makeup, looked up at Brittany and felt the electricity when their eyes locked. "I'm really glad you stayed, B," she said softly.

Brittany smiled. "Me too, San." She leaned forward and placed a chaste kiss on Santana's lips.

Santana, mindful of her promise even though the brief kiss made her crave so much more, smiled and settled in to their preferred spoon sleeping position. Brittany snuggled in behind Santana, pulled up the covers, and draped her arm over Santana's hip. Santana laced her fingers through Brittany's.

"Mmmm," Santana purred, and the sound skittered down Brittany's spine, in an all-too-good kind of way. "B, sometimes I wonder how I ever managed to get a good night's sleep without you."

Brittany smiled into Santana's hair and caught herself before she brushed a kiss over the nape of Santana's neck. She settled for a softly uttered, "Good night, San."

"'Night, Britt."