Title: Thursday Night Bites

Author: wildpeace

Pairings: Mike/Tina, Brittany/Santana, San/Tina friendship.

Summary: Sometimes all it takes is time to see a person. For some people, it takes more time than others.
A/N: If Mike/Brittany are my OTF (one true friendship), then I've found San/Tina is the natural byproduct of that. I couldn't help but notice that Tina was the first person Santana told about Brittany's pregnancy scare in Sexy, and then Tina accompanies her during Original Song. I wondered how they'd gone from strangers, to friends, and...this happened.
A massive thank you too all of those who have reviewed my previous stories - your kind words mean so much. I hope this continues to meet your approval.
I would also be remiss if I didn't say thank you to AGoldenCharm who has patiently read my drafts and listened to me ramble (about hotel rooms, Kurt in a bathtub and choir tour to name but a few!) throughout the writing of this. I owe you!
Disclaimer: I clearly don't own Glee. If I did, they would all just be pals and it would be a big love-in.

XxX

Tina has known Mike and Brittany since Kindergarten, and as long as she can remember, they have had a standing Thursday night date. Well, not a date, exactly, but a standing arrangement with the Library and math textbooks and confusion and what Tina thinks must be a colossal amount of patience. But it's an arrangement that's been in place for nearly seven years, and it's been keeping Brittany from failing math (just barely), and so Tina doesn't see any point in fighting it or fussing about it. She just accepts that Thursday nights, from six til eight, is Brittany/Mike time, and she has to find another way to entertain herself.

She's been dating Mike for almost a month and his tutoring session is running long. They have plans to see a movie (which mainly means making out in the back row, and she's applied extra grape chapstick for just such an occasion - his favourite flavour), but it's ten after eight and she's loitering outside of the Library, and the sky above her looks remarkably indigo and unpleasant. She's just ruing for not bringing her umbrella when she feels the first drops of rain begin to scatter on her bare skin. She curses, and is just considering how to stop herself getting soaked through when a familiar car pulls into the parking lot.

Santana's stereo is blaring Amy Winehouse and her hair is down which makes Tina have to do a double take to make sure it's her. She so very rarely sees Santana out of her Cheerios uniform, and even then it's usually for Glee competitions or gym class. Seeing her in regular day clothes is almost unnerving. There's a deep belch of thunder and the rain seems to intensify, and Tina sees Santana give her the once over before leaning out of the open window. " Yo, loser, you trying to get washed down the storm drain or what? Get in the car."

It's an order, not a request, so Tina runs across the lot, her head down, the chains of her skirt clinking together as she moves, and slides in the passenger side. Inside the car the leather seats are heated and the rain makes a tinny pattering noise on the roof. " Thanks," she breathes, pushing her wet hair from her face, the blue strand getting tangled around her fingers. " It's really coming down out there."

" I didn't call you in here to talk about the weather," Santana breezes, flipping the mirror down and rubbing non-existent lipstick from her perfect teeth. " Your boyfriend is keeping my BFF hostage and I wants to get out of here."

Unconsciously, Tina feels in her jacket pocket for her phone. " Mike said they got started late?" she offers, and it's more of a question then a statement because Santana is nothing of not completely intimidating when she's got her 'queen bitch' voice on. Tina fiddles with the lace trim of her skirt, black fingernail polish flaking and chipped. " Is that why you came to get her?"

The question causes Santana's spine to stiffen, and she grips the steering wheel hard. But then she looks over at Tina, and studies her face, and seems to find *something* there, because she just leans back against her seat, her body relaxing. " She had to go to the dentist and be put under, and I didn't trust her to ride her bike home."

Tina nods sagely, even though she's never been to the dentist for more than a clean and polish and has certainly never been purposefully made unconscious. " She's not okay to drive?"

Santana just raises an eyebrow. " It's Brit and anaesthesia. She's either going to pass out on the desk or somehow have some adverse reaction that makes her see rabid monster penguins. It wouldn't be the first time and *believe* me, you don't want to have to talk her down from that."

Another clap of thunder makes them both jump, and their hands instinctively find each other, though they pull away as soon as they realise their skin is touching. Santana clears her throat. " So, congrats on the step up guy wise. Mike's a hottie."

" Uh...thanks?"

" No, seriously. You've gone from a major loser to an almost acceptable member of High School society. I mean, to be honest, I thought Chang was either gay or had some incredibly kinky bizarre *specific* fetish because he and Brit have been friends for pretty much ever and he *hasn't* boned her, but it's cool. He's one of the only guys who's never tried to take advantage of her, you know?"

The pattering on the roof has softened, and shards of sunshine are beginning to peek out from around the purple clouds. From beneath the Library's awning, Mike and Brittany step, their arms full of books and their hands raised to shield eyes from the post-storm glare. Santana honks the horn to get their attention and it isn't lost on Tina that their faces light up with matching smiles.

She can't help but smile back, her heart fluttering in excitement at the sight of her boyfriend, and her hand is on the door handle before she even thinks to turn around. " Thanks, Santana," she says, honestly.

Santana just flicks her hair behind her shoulder before reaching forward to crank the radio back up. " Whatever."

XxX

It's two weeks before she finds Santana waiting again, and this time instead of calling Tina to the car, Santana steps out, her heels unfathomably high and her skirt dangerously short. " Lattes," she announces, locking her car with a press of a button and a swift 'beep', and cocks her head towards the small cafe that sits next to the library. " If I'm gonna wait around I need a pick-me-up."

Tina simply nods, trailing along behind and mentally scolds herself for acting like a whipped puppy. To remedy the situation, she speeds up so she is level with Santana. Her combat boots thump against the pavement. " Your duet was great today. You and Mercedes make a pretty kick-ass team."

The grateful smile that breaks across Santana's face is the most honest and sincere that Tina has ever seen, but is quickly schooled away and replaced by a more familiar smirk. " We were awesome," she states, her chin held high as she pushes the cafe door open. It makes the bell above them chime. " I mean, you guys were okay, but that BreadstiX dinner is mine."

She orders her coffee and side-eyes Tina until she chooses her own drink, and the two of them wait at the end of the bar until the paper cups appear. Tina sips the bitter, hot liquid, her eyes fluttering shut and she barely manages to stifle a moan as she feels the caffeine coarse through her blood. When she opens her eyes, she realises Santana is watching her with an amused, wry grin on her face. " I like my coffee," is all that Tina says, with an unapologetic shrug.

They take a small table in the corner, and sit in silence for a while watching people pass up and down the street. Tina sips at her coffee as Santana flicks a sugar packet back and forth, making a smacking noise against her manicured nails. " So Puck's in Juvie," Tina blurts, and then inwardly curses herself for the abruptness of her words, because sadness seems to flicker across Santana's face.

Still, the other girl simply shrugs. " You were right - only a matter of time."

Tina isn't exactly sure whether Santana and Puck are dating, or fooling around or what (because, well, another girl had his kid less than four months ago and that can't exactly be stellar fuel for a relationship), but she knows they've had *something*. And Santana's seemed kind of down these last couple of days when she's seen her in class and in Glee, ever since the Duets project came up. Tina wonders if Santana was wishing she could sing her song with him. " You miss him?"

Santana's reaction gives nothing away. Slowly she licks froth from her lips before lowering her cup to the table. " Puckerman can take care of himself. I'm more worried about you."

Tina is instantly confused. " Me? Why?"

" You don't know? You're the only girl in Glee who he hasn't made out with, and a month in Juvie is going to make him as horny as hell. So, you know, watch yourself. And maybe think about the lengths of your skirts."

Tina blushes as Santana's eyes skate over her thighs knowingly, and she finds herself tugging at her dress. " So do you know what's going on with Brittany and Artie?" she asks, partly because she's curious and partly to change the subject. She's noticed the two of them talking in the halls and in Glee, and she thought it was kind of strange seeing as how they hadn't really hung out much before. She's not exactly in a position where she can ask Artie - they're still finding their feet with their new friendship - and feels like Santana might be the next best source of information. " Is she interested in him?"

At this, Santana scoffs, and Tina's surprised by the amount of malice and what almost sounds like hurt that laces her tone. " She's playing at being Equal Opportunity Barbie," she explains in a dismissive tone. " She'll get bored in a day or two and realise her being with Wheely McGee is completely ridiculous. Britbrit's a 10. He's barely a 2. And I'm being crazy kind."

Tina feels something well up within her, something that makes her want to stand up for Artie, even though she is definitely aware that he has his flaws. " Artie's a good guy," she shoots back, undaunted, her voice curt, and she can see the surprise that flickers across Santana's face at the tone. " He's smart, he's really talented - "

" Then why don't you date him?" Santana cuts in, and then points at Tina with her empty coffee cup, eyes narrowed. " Oh wait - you did. And you dumped his sorry ass for someone better."

This makes her words die in her throat, because Santana has hit the nail absolutely on the head. Seeing that her work is done, Santana smirks and turns back to her coffee, leaving Tina to stare out the window at the world rushing past outside.

XxX

Tina shifts in her seat at the coffee shop. Somewhere along the way, this seems to have become 'their' table, and she's sitting, flicking through her French notebook when Santana enters through the door - still in her Cheerios uniform - and spots her. Her usual latte is already sitting in front of the empty seat, and she smiles a grateful smile before dropping into the squashy upholstery. " Thanks Loser," she grins, picking up the drink and sipping deeply.

Santana pulls out her homework as well - as has become a kind of expectation for these evenings - and shifts in her chair awkwardly as she flicks through her English notes. She rolls her shoulders back, cocking her head from side to side.

" You okay?" Tina asks, unable to stop herself, because Santana's face is twisted in a way that just radiates discomfort.

Realising that Tina is watching her, Santana reaches one arm forward, stretching it across the other. " Cheerios practice. I don't know what Coach is pissed about, but it's turning her into a killer bitch. Ever since Halloween we've been basket tossing so much that I almost tossed my cookies."

Tina's watched Cheerios' rehearsals before, while waiting for Mike to get finished with football, and she can't imagine how the girls manage to keep up with something so physically grueling and demanding while all the while listening to Coach Sylvester berate them over the megaphone. She's fairly certain she would have shoved the bullhorn down the Coach's throat by now if she had to go through that four times a week. And considering Santana's proclivity for violent action, she's suddenly impressed by her restraint. " I don't know how you do it," she comments honestly, and the fact that she's honestly impressed must show in her voice because Santana raises an eyebrow. " Just - I'm busy enough with school work and Glee and Mike...and you do Cheerios as well and I just don't know how you find the time."

Santana shrugs, " Just do I guess," she murmurs, pushing an escaping tendril of dark hair behind her ear. " Besides, my grades are nowhere near as good as yours, Miss Honor Roll. And I don't have a boyfriend. Speaking of which - " Santana puts her notes down on the table, a wicked glint flashing in her eyes, and Tina feels suddenly uneasy. " I heard about the two of you in the Science classroom. Pretty kinky," she comments, waggling her eyebrows, and Tina's skin flushes pink. " Getting it on on school property. Didn't know you had it in you."

Tina knows she must be bright red because her ears are burning. She struggles with her words, stammering for real. " I - I, uh. I mean, we - " She pauses, flummoxed, and presses the palm of her hand against her hot cheek. " You've been with a lot of guys right?" She realises the words have come out wrong when Santana looks affronted, and finds herself rambling an explanation. " I don't mean like in a bad way - I just...you know a lot about sex."

Santana pushes her ponytail behind her shoulder with a half shrug, avoiding Tina's gaze. " I've got some game." Then, as though with a sudden realisation, her eyes snap up and she looks Tina square in the face. " Don't tell me you've finally left the virginal ranks of the clinically loser?" she asks, and the look on Tina's face must read confirmation, because Santana actually *squeaks*. " Details. Details, now," she orders, and Tina knows their homework is forgotten, so she slowly stows her notebook back in her bag, actually feeling a little relieved.

Even though Tina has known Santana and Brittany since Kindergarten, somewhere between middle school, faking a stutter and growing curves they had drifted apart. For a long time Tina considered Mercedes and Rachel her best girl friends, but even they have been kind of distant since she got together with Mike. And she definitely can't talk to them about *this*. " I don't know what to say," Tina replies honestly, because she's never had this kind of conversation with anybody. She used to think 'girl talk' was kind of stupid - no matter what Kurt said - but she's beginning to understand its merits.

Santana picks up her drink, her pink tongue darting from between painted lips to lick the drops from the rim of the mug. " How was it?" she asks simply, her head cocked and her expression curious.

Thinking about that night - and the ones that have followed - makes Tina's heart thump hard in her chest and she's sure her cheeks are colouring again. She's naturally a private person, and she knows Mike is too, but she *needs* this, this moment of solidarity and understanding. " First it was...awkward, and kind of uncomfortable. And then it wasn't, it was good."

" Just good?"

" Lovely. Wonderful. Amazing." Tina realises she's gushing, but doesn't care. Instead, she just asks, " Is that what it's normally like?"

Santana nods her head sagely, and Tina is so overwhelmingly grateful to have her be the one sitting across from her, because if there's anything Santana knows about, it's sex. Also being a bitch, but right now the former seems to take over the latter and she just smiles a small, almost pleased, smile. " Yeah, pretty much. You're lucky it didn't just end with awkward. Virgin sex is normally like a couple of drunk octopuses trying to shake hands," she says, prompting a laugh from Tina that's loud and sudden in the quiet coffee shop. Santana grins in response, and then adds, " It gets better the more you do it. When you figure out what you like, and what he likes."

" Biting," Tina says with a happy sigh, and then blushes furiously as she realises how completely she's crossed the line of over-share. She buries her face in her hands, but can still hear Santana's raucous laughter. Other patrons are studying them with concern and a noted lack of amusement.

The hand that lands on her shoulder, however, squeezes gently, and when Tina finally peers out from between her fingers the smile on Santana's face is amused, but understanding. " Brittany likes having her armpits kissed," she confides her best friend's secret with a small shrug. " Everybody's got a kink."

The relief that floods through Tina makes her blood pump faster, and as she thinks of Mike she squirms in her chair. " Now I just want him *all* the time," she admits, and is surprised by the impressed look that flicks across Santana's face. Tina wonders if she expected her to be less enthusiastic about the whole business, in the way that the other girls in Glee seem to be. " Seriously," she asks, " do you think you can you become a sex addict in a week?"

Santana's smile is refreshingly genuine. Reaching across the table, she pats Tina's plaid-clad knee. " I know people try and keep it a big secret, but sex is fun. It's *supposed* to be fun. And why I find the idea of you and the Changster getting it on at every available opportunity completely wanky, I don't think it makes you a sex addict. I think it makes you seventeen."

The tapping on the glass gets their attention, and they turn to see Mike and Brittany waving from the other side, arms full of books and a pencil holding up Brittany's long hair. Gathering up their things, they shoulder their bags and Santana is almost at the door when Tina reaches out and grabs her elbow. At her questioning look, Tina can't help but shrug. " I just - thanks, okay?"

Santana's shrug is flip, but her smile is real. " Just keepin' it real."

XxX

Tina's legs are curled up underneath her, a copy of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in her lap, and is so engrossed in the story that she doesn't even notice Santana coming in the door of the coffee shop. She *does* notice, however, when the girl slams her notebook down on the table, making Tina's Americano slosh over the edge of her mug. Tina looks up, one eyebrow raised, pushing a piece of blue-streaked hair behind her ear. " Hi Santana."

Santana's arms are folded across the chest of her Cheerio's uniform, and while her scowl would have petrified Tina a few months ago, all these Thursdays sharing coffee and, well, time have meant that she has become slightly desensitized to Santana's dramatic wrath. So when the other girl simply grabs her pen and begins passive-aggressively scrawling notes in the margin of her Spanish textbook, Tina can't help but ask, " Something wrong?"

Tina's been waiting for this moment ever since Santana had stumbled across Rachel's impromptu girl-gathering in the choir room earlier that day. Rachel had been curt and dismissive, and Tina had seen Santana prickle almost immediately. While she had almost expected immediate wrath, something in the darkness of Santana's eyes had worried her - as though she was brewing some deep, intrinsic kind of payback that would be way worse than a sudden smack around the face.

For a moment it appears as though Santana isn't going to answer, but then she throws her pen down on the table. " Look, I know Puck and me might just be a physical thing, and he can't be a bad-ass while he's on probation, and I know I act like I hate you guys most of the time, but if anyone's gonna' mess with Kurt it's gonna be me. And I don't need no man to fight my battles, I can go all Lima Heights on Karofsky's ass myself 'kay? Anyone messes with Glee, and I will cut. Them. Down."

The voracity of her words stun Tina, who sits in silence for a moment. She's fairly certain her mouth is hanging open.

Kurt has been on Tina's mind for the past few weeks, and she had shared her worry with Mercedes and with Mike, and even after all these evenings spent in Santana's company she's surprised that she's so similarly effected by Kurt's situation. Then guilt instantly washes over her, because they're in Glee club *together* - the good and the bad, they all do it *together*. Tina wonders if maybe that message should have sunk in by now and inwardly scolds herself.

The words trip off her lips before she even remembers thinking them. " I'm sorry San."

The shrug is one shouldered, but some of the anger seems to dissipate from Santana's body and she leans back in her seat. Her sigh is deep and seems, to Tina, wearier then she's heard before. " I just... Keeps me in the loop, 'kay?"

XxX

It's not even a Thursday when Tina hears the banging on the bathroom door. She thought she had slipped out of the choir room largely unnoticed, but that was before hearing - " Loser! Open up!" Tina presses a paper towel to her face and sniffs deeply. She knows mascara is streaking down her cheeks, and she almost wants to ignore the noise but - " Come on, Mike's going batshit crazy looking for you so open the door RIGHT NOW or I am going to break in there and kick your ass!" - prompts her to move.

She pulls the door open, and Santana's face is at once eye-rolling and understanding. She slides into the room, putting her bag down on the sink and ignoring the way water drips from the tap onto the black leather. She spins on her booted heel, looking at Tina with her hands on her hips. " You look like crap."

There's something about the almost gentle way Santana says those words - as though she's not surprised to find Tina hiding in the bathroom, falling apart - that makes tears once again begin to push against Tina's eyelids and scratch at the back of her throat. " I can't believe he's really going." A sob catches her off-guard and she sees a slightly panicked expression flit across Santana's face, but the words are already tumbling out of her mouth in a frenzy. " I can't believe anyone cares who he wants to make out with. I don't care if he wanted to make out with a tangerine as long as it made him happy. And Karofsky threatened to *kill* him...I just can't..."

Santana's eyes are fixed on the floor and her voice, when she speaks, is unusually soft. " I know."

" He's just... he's been so afraid." Tina feels anger well in her now, vying with the hurt and the sadness, and she wants to fling her fists at someone. She wants to hit and punch and tear at skin until all there is left is piles of flesh and blood. She clutches her fists are her sides, ignoring the tears that still trickle down her nose. " And it's just...for being who he is. Like I'm Asian or you're Latina." Stopping and taking a deep breath, she leans against the cool metal of the toilet stall. " That's who we are. And Kurt's gay. He didn't choose it, he *is* it. I'll never understand how people can hate him for that. How people could hate *anybody* for that."

There's a long silence, and Tina presses her fingers against her eyes, making sparkles and red blurs shoot across her field of vision. She hears footsteps, and feels a hand on her arm. Santana is right next to her, and she smells of liquorice and sadness and a faint trace of Brittany's cherry chapstick. Reaching up, she brushes a tear away from Tina's face with a non-nonsense swipe of her thumb. " That's because you're a good person."

Tina sniffs, surprised. " Really?"

Santana steps away and is pulling her makeup kit out of her bag before Tina has even had the time to register the almost fond expression on her face. " Tell anyone I said it and I'll deny it. But yeah, you're... you're not so bad, as losers go."

She points to the counter and Tina hops up, and Santana straight away begins scrubbing at her face with a faintly scented wipe, the material coming back with long, black streaks courtesy of Tina's ruined makeup. Tina just lets her get on with it for a moment, but then reaches up, stilling her wrist with a gentle grasp. Their eyes meet, " Thanks Santana. You're not bad either, for a queen bitch."

Tina's not sure if she's just imagining it, but the scrubbing seems to take on a more vigorous note.

" That's THE queen bitch thank you very much."

XxX

It's been three days since they kicked ass at Sectionals and every time she thinks about it, Tina can't help the little moment of giddiness that shoots through her. That, and the sickening wave of shame at her behaviour the few days leading up the competition. She cringes at the memory of herself in the gothic cheerleader outfit, and at the way she yelled at Mike in the bathroom of the concert hall, letting all her insecurities pour out of her. Groaning at the memory, she takes a deep sip of her coffee and tries to push that part of the event to the back of her mind, concentrating instead on the amazing feeling of winning. She just about manages it too, until Santana saunters into the coffee shop, stops at the counter to order a muffin and then, turning towards their table, shoots her a wicked grin.

" You still let him come huh? Surprised you aren't in there making sure they aren't macking over geometry books."

If there's anything that Tina is more ashamed of than doubting Mike, it's letting everyone else realise that she doubted him, and a stab of embarrassment shoots through her. " Shut it Santana," she bites, and she knows she's blushing because her cheeks feel red hot, but Santana only laughs.

" Ooh, kitten's got claws."

Tina's not in the mood for being teased, so she just clutches her mug tighter, her knuckles turning white. " San - "

" Tina," Santana's voice is sharp, and she's carefully adding sugar to her coffee, flicking the packs against her fingers before opening them, the trail of falling granules lazy and steady. Her face is the very picture of skepticism. " You *seriously* thought he was cheating on you? He ADORES you. It's disgusting. I mean, it's so sickeningly sweet it actually makes me want to vomit. That guy is ALL ABOUT you."

Maybe it's hearing Santana - straight talking, no bullshit, keepin' it real Santana - talk about her relationship, about her insecurities, that makes Tina be able to voice her fears clearly to someone who isn't her boyfriend. Maybe she's just looking for reassurance from someone with nothing to gain. " I just...Brittany's so beautiful. I see them dance together and they just look so perfect. And her body..."

The piece of muffin that hits her in the face is unexpected, and makes Tina start. When she looks over at Santana, confused, the other girl just pops a bite in between her perfectly painted lips. " You're not exactly a fuggo yourself," she assures with a toss of her head, and then gestures with a finger full of crumbs. " I saw you in that Single Ladies video. You cut a pretty good figure under all those funeral gowns so I'm pretty sure the Changster isn't complaining."

At the notion, Tina blushes, hard. " He's not."

Santana's nod is officiant, " Exactly. So forget about Brit. She thinks of him like a brother anyways, trust me." Brushing her hands over her skintight jeans, she expands, " I asked her about him once, and she looked like I'd told her to multiply six hundred and fifty nine with a duck. It just does not compute."

" Yeah?"

" Yes. And I'm only going to say it one more time." She throws another piece of muffin at Tina, who bats it away with a laugh. " Mike Chang is head over heels, crazy fucking stupid about you. Okay?"

Finally, Tina feels like it is.

XxX

Long hair and slushy facials really don't mix, and though Tina thought she had gotten most of the green sticky substance out of her hair in the bathroom at school, when she feels Santana's hands creep up her back and tug at one of the stiff strands as they stand in line to see Santa, her mind quickly changes. " You missed a bit," Santana's voice whispers in her ear, and Tina's hand is straight away behind her, feeling the bottom of her hair. It's sticky and tacky and makes her wince.

After the slushies had hit them, Tina hadn't really concentrated on her own hair repair. Mike's absolute astonishment at the feel of crushed ice hitting him square in the face for the first time had been plain to see, and Tina had spent the class period following cleaning him off and making him feel better with murmured words and trails of kisses. She hadn't given much thought to herself.

" Dammit."

After visiting with Santa - all in clear view of Brittany, as a way of helping Artie maintain the facade - Santana grabs her hand and drags her out of the shop, calling after the rest of the group that they'll meet up with them in the food court. Mike and Brittany wave after them, her grinning happily before being distracted by Artie, him bemused as the two girls disappear behind the swinging doors.

Tina wonders if Santana's sudden need to play hairdresser isn't partly linked to the lack of attention she's currently getting from her regular BFF. Every time Artie had reached for Brittany's hand, Tina's pretty sure she had seen Santana flinch. She doesn't mention it, but instead lets the other girl lead her through the clothes racks and perfume stations before they reach their destination.

The mirrors at the make-up counter are large and the seats first mostly empty, and then completely empty as Santana chases away a couple of pre-teens with a hard scowl and a flick of her wrist. The girls run away with a squeak. " Santana," Tina admonishes, rolling her eyes at the behaviour, but Santana ignores her.

" Sit," she orders, pointing to the plushy round pouffe that sits in front of the vanity, and Tina rolls her eyes again, but does as she's told.

Santana sidles behind her, the skirt of her Cheerios uniform swishing and the tiny bells on her festive knee socks jingling, causing a couple men to leer in their direction. Instead of increasing her sashay - as Tina half expects - Santana just snorts and ignores their catcalls, pulling a wide toothed comb from her purse. " I'll try and be gentle but it's pretty sticky."

" Yeah, that's what he said," Tina bites back reflexively, and then at Santana's stunned expression, dissolves into laughter.

The first tug of the comb in her hair is hard - and Tina's pretty sure - completely on purpose. " Just one surprise after another," Santana notes with an amused grin. Tina simply smiles, ducking her head down, smothering the last of her giggles and trying to keep still.

They sit for perhaps fifteen minutes, Santana humming along with the Christmas songs on the store radio as she combs Tina's hair, and Tina trying not to wince when she hits a knot, before Tina's phone buzzes in her pocket. Pulling it out, she reads Mike's name on the display. " Mike and Brit want to know if we want FroYo," she explains, before typing back her reply. " Should I tell them to get you a chocolate chip?"

" Nah, we're done here, let's go find them," Santana says, picking up her bag and smoothing Tina's dark hair down her back. " Good as new," she smiles at her work.

Feeling behind her, Tina is surprised to find that her hair is in fact stickiness free. It usually takes at least two shampooings to get all the corn starch out. " Thanks," she grins, shouldering her own bag, and is almost shocked when Santana slides her arm into the crook of Tina's elbow, their hips bumping as they walk. Then she notices the small wrapped box in Santana's fingers. " What's that?"

It's thrust into her grip with a burst of laughter. " People who think you'd never gotten a Christmas present before. Don't tell me you're usually a very naughty girl," Santana leers.

Tina's still surprised, and for a moment she can't answer, and then all that trips from her lips is, " I didn't get you anything."

The shrug that comes back is completely at ease, and Santana's smile never fades. " Open it."

She does. They are right in the middle of the mall, right outside of the food court where hundreds of people are milling and walking and busy holiday shopping when Tina pulls off the packaging to reveal a box of condoms. Multi-coloured, glittery condoms.

Tina's horrifically embarrassed and painfully amused at the same time, and she's not sure which reaction will win out until she looks up at Santana, who is grinning a knowing, happy grin. " I wants bling, I gives bling," she explains, which is enough to tip Tina over the edge. The two of them stand for a good five minutes, holding each other up as they laugh. They've just recovered enough to get their breath back when Santana grips Tina's hand, squeezing for her attention. " Look, I know you and the Changster are going at it like horny rabbits," she explains knowingly. " But we don't want a repeat of last year 'kay? No one wants a knocked up Wednesday Addams."

Tina's actually touched by the thought, and before she even realises she's doing it, her arms wrap around Santana and she's pulling the girl into a tight hug. " Merry Christmas Santana."

The true surprise comes when Santana hugs back. " Merry Christmas Tina."

XxX

It's been two days since their epic football match, and Tina is still nursing dark purple bruises on her ribs and knees. Across from her, Santana wears jeans and a blouse and a look of concentration.

" How does it feel to not be a Cheerio anymore?"

Looking up from her notebook, she quirks an eyebrow. " Probably about the same as it feels to get tackled by a 200lb linebacker."

" Painful?"

Sadness washes over Santana's face, and her voice, when she speaks, is barely a whisper. " In ways you never knew it could be."

XxX

After a whole day getting riled up by Miss Holliday and Glee sex-talk, she's not surprised when Mike decides to kill time with a sneak-attack make-out session, pressing her up against the wall of the public library. Brittany's running late and Tina doesn't even try to stop her hands skating up the back of his shirt, and then he's biting down on her neck - teeth scraping her skin - and she's groaning. She's about to suggest they skip tutoring - please, just this once - when the familiar sound of a motorbike makes them pull apart.

Brittany parks her bike and pulls off her helmet, shaking her hair loose, and despite the distracting cascade of gold, Tina straight away notices the shadows ringing her eyes. She knows Mike can see them too, and squeezes his hand in a silent question. His gentle squeeze back tells her he's clueless too. " Hey Brit," Tina greets with a wiggle of her fingers, hoping her lipstick isn't too obviously smeared. " Where's Santana?"

Because it's been six months since they started these Thursday night study sessions, six months and Santana's *never* missed one without telling her first.

The tall blonde looks at Mike and Tina, standing so their bodies are pressed up against each other, and her shoulders seem to slump. She hugs her binder against her chest. " She's not coming. Sorry Tina."

The three of them break apart, Mike leading Brittany inside with an arm wrapped around her shoulders, his voice soft and supportive, and their heads close together. As she watches them leave, Tina's almost sure she can see tears in the tall blonde's eyes. Grabbing up her own bag, she enters the coffee shop, ignoring the jingle of the bell above her as she slides the phone out of her pocket. Scrolling down her contacts, she presses the picture of Santana - wide sunglasses, broad grin, flipping off the camera - and holds it to her ear as the phone dials.

When the call connects the first thing she hears is a familiar strain of music. Alanis Morisette'shard, angry 'You Oughta Know' floods through the speakers and something bitter and churning settles in Tina's stomach. " What?"

Tina can hear the gravel in her voice, but hitches her own tone to levity in the hope that she can break Santana out of whatever funk she's in. " I hope you're not just trying to get out of paying for my muffin," Tina teases. " I won the bet fair and square. Three days, three different vests. And you still have my black sweater."

There's not a chuckle, not a snort, not even a trace of a giggle. Instead, Tina hears a sniffle and the music being turned down a notch. When Santana speaks, her voice is scratchy, but but definite. " I'm not coming any more. I'm not spending any more of my time waiting for her."

The churning in Tina's stomach ups a notch, and makes her jiggle her leg as she sits at their usual table. The empty chair across from her seems to scream. " What are you talking about 'Tana? It's two hours a week."

" I just can't do it anymore."

Tina's not an idiot. She's known Santana and Brittany since they were five, she knows they've always been inseparable. From side-by-side cubbies in Kindergarten to matching backpacks and sneakers in 6th grade, to joining the Cheerios together in High School, they have taken every step forward of their life together. So watching them sit in the front of Glee Club and sing those words 'I've been afraid of changing, 'cause I've built my life around you', had been like a punch in the sternum. Tina had barely been able to breathe as she had seen the tears prick in Brittany's eyes and spill down Santana's cheeks, and she'd watched them hug - that desperate, clinging-to-the-edge-of-a-precipice hug. It had made her heart stagger in sympathy.

So when Santana starts to cry, really cry down the phone, Tina doesn't miss a beat. " Do you want me to come over?"

" No," Santana's voice is muffled, like against the pillows, and Tina almost wants to ignore the words because she can just picture Santana's face, broken and tear streaked, and all she wants to do is hug her, even if she ended up getting a slap for the effort. " I just...I just want to be on my own. But thanks."

Tina pulls her legs up to her chest, propping her cheek on her knees. " Is there anything I can do?"

There's sniffling, and then silence, and then, " Could you use your crazy Asian ninja powers to change time, maybe, if I asked you too?"

Tina's stomach clenches, but a small smile edges across her lips. " Yeah San, I can give it a try."

XxX

They've been in the coffee shop for over an hour, and Tina's pretty sure Santana's just drawing pictures in her notebook. From the way she keeps giggling to her herself, Tina's fairly certain that they are not all safe for public consumption - she's seen the Cheerios scribbles in the first floor girls' bathrooms after all.

" How's that Spanish homework coming San?" she asks, pulling her hair back from her face and securing it at the back of her head with a spare pencil, cursing her high-necked dress in the lazy humidity.

Santana looks up, breifly, and grins, " Buena," before turning back to her work.

Tina doesn't really think it's fair that Santana gets to take Spanish as a credited class when everyone knows she already *speaks* fluent Spanish, but thinks it must have been one of the perks of having Sue Sylvester organise your Junior Year schedule. Like having Friday afternoons being only Gym and Art.

Frowning, Tina's just considering which electives she thinks she can convince her parents to let her take next year - and which classes she and Mike might have together - when she's kicked in the knee by the pointy toe of Santana's high-heeled boot. She looks up, " What?"

Santana's face is smiling and she slowly takes a sip from the neon green straw that is perched in her iced coffee. " So I have this idea for an Original Song."

It had been Rachel's crazy idea for Regionals, for them all to write their own original songs, and Tina's been scribbling in her notebook ever since, pouring out her feelings and her fears and her love. But every time she sings her songs back she gets flushed and flustered and has to hide the book back in her dresser. She figures there are some things that are just too private to share with the whole Glee club (though she does wonder if maybe Rachel Berry was born without that specific filter), and so she's slightly skeptical when she replies, " Okay..."

" And I want your help."

" My help? Why?"

Santana shrugs her shoulders, licking whipped cream off of her straw in a way that makes Tina wonder for a second if she shouldn't ask for some pointers. " I've seen you tinkling those ivories - and I'm not talking about the Changster's six pack," Santana grins lewdly, crossing her legs over the arm of the chair and pointing with a manicured finger. " You've got some musical game."

Tina's been taking piano lessons since she was five, so she knows it's true, and she can't help the curiosity that rises up inside her. " Okay... so what's your idea?"

" So far I've only got the name..."

Tina's just lifted her drink to her lips when Santana tells her, and turns her notebook around. The whole page is scrawled across with an ocean of fish surrounding two large, capitalised words: TROUTY MOUTH. Tina's shout of laughter sprays her coffee *everywhere*, and Santana throws her head back and joins her, and everyone in the cafe is looking at them like they're crazy. Neither of them care for even a moment.

XxX

Lady Gaga is in both of their heads on a loop. When one of them stops humming it, the other picks it up in an ongoing circle that's both irritating and entertaining.

They've been sitting, eating carrot cake and studying silently for an hour when Tina finally looks up from her book, a frown on her face.

Santana pauses, a bite halfway to her mouth. " What?"

Tina's gaze is fixed firmly on her breasts, and when Santana looks down she realises that her jacket has come unzipped.

" I thought you were Puerto Rican?"

XxX

They've been back from New York for a week, and it's nearly the end of Junior Year, and Santana and Tina find themselves sprawled around the same small, homely circular table that at the beginning of the year had been just an awkward circle of wood. Instead of text books and studying, Santana's flicking through the latest copy of Vogue while Tina paints her fingernails, the blood-red polish smooth and slick. Tina's just stretched her hands out in front of her to check for smears when Santana looks up from her magazine and her eyes widen.

" How did I miss that?" Santana asks, at once abandoning her magazine, reaching out and grasping Tina around the wrist. Her eyes are on the ring perched on Tina's middle finger, and Tina knows exactly why - it's not her usual oversized cocktail ring or skull-emblazoned mood ring, but instead, a simple, sparkling rock on a thin gold band. Santana whistles, a long, slow whistle. " Wow, that's *some* bling."

Tina feels a blush spreading across her cheeks, half pride, half embarrassment. " Mike got it for me in New York."

Santana's eyebrow arches so high it almost disappears into her hairline. " Tell me you two aren't going all teen bride on us?"

Pulling her hands back, Tina twists the ring around her finger, an absent-minded habit she has gained in the last few days. " Are you kidding? I'm seventeen, my parents would kill me. It's just pretty and sparkly and...sometimes that's enough."

Even though it's *not* an engagement ring, she still feels something warm pool in her stomach as she recalls the expression on Mike's face when he had given it to her. He and the guys had disappeared for the night - something about Rachel, Finn, an accordion and the bro code - and when they had returned the girls had already been in bed for over an hour, and he had woken her with a quick, simple text: meet me by the vending machines, right now.

She had yawned, pulled a sweater over her spaghetti strap pyjama top, and tried not to wake Brittany and Santana as they law sprawled on the next bed, legs entangled. Opening the door she winced as it squeaked, but there wasn't even a snuffle or a stir from inside the room. She had exited into the hall, and had barely made it the three steps towards the snack-machine vestibule when she had felt a pair of strong arms slide around her waist.

He had been grinning, his skin cool from the wind and his hair tousled. With his top button undone and his tie loose, Mike had appeared energised, rakish and wanton. A long, hot kiss precluded the gift - and despite Mike's proclivity for romance, he had simply taken her hand, sliding it onto her finger. " I saw you looking at it," he told her, his mouth ghosting her ear, words making a shiver run all the way up her spine. " And I decided you had to have it."

The wall of the vestibule was smooth, and sturdy, and she'd had to bite down on the back of her wrist to keep from calling out. After parting - one more deep kiss, fingers trailing, lips following - they had separated , and she had spent the rest of the night lying in bed and watching moonlight reflect off her finger and dance on the ceiling.

In the coffee shop, Tina presses a hand against her cheek, feeling it redden as she tells Santana the story. The other girl looks amused and impressed and shakes her head. " You two actually can't stop yourselves can you?" she asks with a tease, leaning back against her chair. Looking at Tina from under dark eyelashes, Santana quirks a smile. " You know he's going to give you a real one one of these days though, right?"

A smile bursts across Tina's face like sunshine, making her whole face light up. " Like I know you and Brit are going to be my first kids' godmothers," she agrees, making Santana smile in return, pleased and giddy and something almost like shy. Tina cocks her head, blowing on her fingers to stop the crimson from getting tacky. " I'm assuming you've made up?"

Santana rolls her eyes. " What gave it away?"

" I have eyes, Santana."

The fingers that wags in Tina's direction is well manicured and looks sharp. " Don't think I won't cut you," Santana warns, but the smile on her face takes away any of the malice from her tone. " Have you forgotten how we roll in Lima Heights?"

It's not classy, but Tina half-laughs, half-snorts in response. " Have *you* forgotten that Mike lives two blocks from you? You have a pool. And a sun nook. Santana, you have a gardener for crying out loud."

" You think that means I can't kick your ass?"

Tina pauses, picking up her coffee and taking a long drink, and can't help herself when she smiles over the top of the cup.

" And to think I thought I was going to miss this over the summer."

XxX