A/N: There will be a special place reserved in Heaven for my betas; they are angels. Thanks to jeune fille en fleur, themostrandomfandom, and especially to grownupspashley, who helped me find Brittany's voice.

Chapter 4:

"I haven't seen you since Easter. And before that it was Christmas. That's too long, Santana, too long to go between visits to your dear old dad."

Santana barely remembers leaving the airport. Susie's arm may have been around her shoulders and her feet may have carried her out the door and across the parking lot, but the one thing she is sure of is that her eyes were too blurred with hot tears to see any of it. And she hardly remembers finding herself, finally cried out, pulling up in front of her father's downtown loft in the refurbished warehouse district, the concrete and glass building only a few stories high but stark and imposing.

She thinks she remembers Susie telling her, "take your time, Santana. Ashley and I are going to the mall and Roger needs to pick up parts from the Harley distributor. He gossips worse than a teen-aged girl when he's with his buddies, so no need to rush. Enjoy your visit with your father."

Santana's pretty sure she remembers to fix her face before she presses the buzzer. She knows it's a mess: the lingering horror over kissing Brittany in the airport is still reflected in her red, swollen eyes; the ecstasy of kissing Brittany in the airport is still etched into her swollen, pink cheeks and permanent, wide-lipped grin. A quick swipe of mascara, eyeliner and lipstick doesn't make a dent in the turbulent feelings that swirl under her façade, but it will have to do. She needs to look her best for this meeting.

Wrung dry and woozy from emotional overload when her father greets her, sweeping her right off of her feet in a huge hug and squeezing her in his strong arms, she melts. The anger and animosity that she keeps just under the surface when he's around slips away.

Now, seated across the table from her father, Santana is one part weary, one part wary, and one part giddy. She'd arranged this visit with her father back when the idea didn't seem so fucking awkward, but now she wishes she'd never agreed to do it. Still, here they sit, nursing their cappuccinos and egg white omelets and making small talk. It's the only kind of talk Santana has with her dad any more, but today it's actually kinda nice.

The high of the airport sill hasn't left her completely and as her father smiles at her—really smiles at her for the first time in a long time—she contemplates telling him about herself: coming out to him.

"I'm really happy to see you too, Daddy. It has been too long, and there's… something I need to tell you." She steels herself, looking first at her plate and then up at her father's dark, stern face. She inhales, preparing the words, but he interrupts her before she can start.

"Santana, I know. And it's something we need to talk about. It's been weighing on my mind a lot lately."

Santana almost chokes on air (air!) she's so surprised. How could he know?

"Santana, I love you very much, but I haven't been a good father. Sure, I've given you clothes, braces, a car, plastic surgery. But I haven't given you the most important thing a father can give his child: independence. And that's going to start now."

Santana stares at her father, perplexed. Would he no longer support her because she's gay?

"You see, even though I haven't been in your life much lately, I still know some things about you, my dear."

Oh god, here it comes. Santana braces herself, arms tightening to her sides, legs clamping together. Would she need to flee? Where would she go? Would Brittany's parents be able to come to her rescue?

"Santana, I know that you are a…"

Santana holds her breath.

"…troublemaker, for lack of a more appropriate term." Santana deflates with relief.

"I know you've caused a lot of trouble at school lately, as well as at home. I even know you quit the Cheerios and that your grades have gone down this last semester. And I think I know why."

Again, Santana prepares to hear the worst, but she tells herself she'll wait for the words before she runs from the loft.

"Your mother tells me you've been 'bitchy' a lot lately. She says you have a bad attitude and way more anger than any girl your age should have. You're acting out and have even lost some of your friends."

Santana crosses her arms and looks away, finding the art on the wall fascinating. So what if he's a little bit right. She's got Brittany and that's all she needs. Well, she'll have Brittany at the end of the summer at least.

"Santana." He reaches across the table to touch her arm, but she pushes back in her chair, out of his reach, and turns her head to stare out the window, deliberately avoiding his gaze. He sighs. "I need you to tell me what's going on with you. Because this Santana who's sitting in front of me, not meeting my eyes, is not the Santana that I know."

Santana feels that animosity boiling up inside her again, that anger that she thought she'd lost when her father hugged her. She wants to leap to her feet and scream at him. To yell at him that how would he know anything about her when he's never around? He hasn't been around for years.

But she doesn't yell. She doesn't storm out in a Berry-inspired huff; she doesn't even give him one of her patented glares. She merely locks her jaw and turns her scrutiny onto her cuticles. Yep, those really need work.

She definitely does not come out to him.

"Santana, tell me the truth. Is it a boy?"

Santana can't help the snort that escapes her. She shakes her head 'no', too afraid that speaking will result in inappropriate snickering.

"You're not pregnant, are you?"

Oh god, the giggles are bubbling up inside her and all she can do is shake her head harder as she tries to keep it together.

"Okay then, is it drugs?" He looks at her with such parental concern that she's not sure if she should let the laughter explode out of her or start sobbing instead.

"God, Dad, NO! It's not drugs or a boy, and I'm definitely not pregnant, okay? Geez! I'm just a bitch. Always have been, always will be. People just can't handle that I guess." She shrugs and finally meets his eyes,

Her father eyes her back, not sure if she's telling the truth or not, but in the end he has no choice but to believe her.

"Well, there is definitely something going on. I know for a fact that you haven't always been a bitch. You may have inherited your mother's temper, but you were never a mean child, or a sullen one. So tell me, what's going on with you?"

Santana stalls by taking a sip of her cappuccino. She could tell him that she's gay, he's begging her to. She could tell him about loving Brittany and kissing her in the airport. She could tell him how amazing it is that they are a couple now after all they've been through. She could tell him about the Pierces accepting her, but how she's still so scared every single day what other people will think. She could confide in him and feel this huge weight that she's been carrying around plummet from her chest. The problem is that the relief she feels knowing that her father doesn't know about her is equally overwhelming. For one of the first times of her life, Santana Lopez honestly doesn't know what to say.

She inhales. "Daddy, I'm… I'm…

It's so hard to breathe with her every muscle locked in place, yet her heart and lungs are pounding as though she's just finished a Sue Sylvester workout.

"…fine," she exhales. "I'm okay. There's nothing going on." She's not sure if she hates herself in that moment, but the churning in her gut that seems to have nothing to do with the breakfast that she's not eating is settling so she listens to that instead of her head, which is still echoing the words, I'm gay, I'm gay, I'm gay.

"Santana." He's dubious and not afraid to let her know he can see right through her.

"Dad, you just don't understand what it's like to be seventeen and a girl. Popularity is everything, and it's harder now that I'm not a cheerleader. I didn't win Prom Queen and Glee didn't even place at Nationals. It's like no one even likes me any more." She's sure she knows why, but no way is she telling him now.

"My street cred's just kinda in the gutter right now and it's made me more… tense, I guess. It's no big deal. I'm sure I'll be right back on top once senior year starts." She's so sure she won't be. There will be a whole slew of new problems to deal with if she's going to be Brittany's out and proud girlfriend. Still, that's months away, so she tries not to think about that right now.

"So all this bad behavior, this mouthing off and quitting things, your bad grades? It's all just about popularity. Why don't I think you're telling me the truth?"

Santana tries a different tack. If age or gender won't cut it, she knows how to reach him. "You know how it is. I'm the only Hispanic in a mostly white school, and being from the 'hood? It's important to represent, ya know? I gots me an image to protect." She crosses her arms and cocks her head at him, less afraid to show her dad her Lima Heights attitude than to wave a rainbow flag in his face.

"Santana, don't talk that way. That's not how I raised you. Even if I only see you on special occasions, you're a Lopez and the Lopezes don't speak that way. We don't allow such petty things as popularity or what neighborhood we come from to control our lives. We are Cuban. We struggle and we rise above adversity, it's who we are. I thought I'd taught you that."

"What would you know?" Santana mumbles under her breath.

"Santana, my father came to this country when he was twelve years old in a rubber raft with nothing but the clothes on his back and his little sister in his arms; his hand clamped over her mouth so she wouldn't cry as they snuck away from the shore."

Santana rolls her eyes as she mentally braces herself to hear the story for the thousandth time. Still, she makes sure her father doesn't see her. There would be hell to pay, if he caught her disrespecting her grandfather.

"When he got here he had nothing. He didn't speak English. He took the only job that brown, Spanish-speaking boys could get: he picked fruit. And he went to school and he learned English and he saved up every penny he could so he could eventually own the store that sells the fruit. He made a name for himself and he made a home for himself and his wife and children. And do you know what he made me do when I was twelve years old? He made me get a job picking fruit."

"That sucks," Santana says.

"Language, Santana. Do you know why my father made me pick fruit? Because that is what brown, Spanish-speaking sons of immigrants do. It was not because we needed the money, but because he said I needed to learn what it meant to work, to earn a decent wage for a decent day's work. I saved my money and I went to school and became a doctor and now I heal the fruit pickers. I am a credit to our heritage. I struggled and I rose above. Now it's your turn to do the same."

Santana Lopez, picking fruit—is he insane? She pales. What about her summer plans? What about her reputation? What about her manicure?

"Now I'm not going to make you pick fruit" (Santana surreptitiously releases a thankful sigh) "but I've come to the conclusion that I have spoiled you rotten. You are almost eighteen, this is your last year in school, and it's time you started behaving like an adult. I've arranged a job for you this summer."

Although she's ecstatic that is doesn't involve fruit, Santana can't help worrying about the direction this conversation is taking. Maybe she should have come out to him after all. They could have screamed at each other and then she could have run out in tears, without the threat of a summer job. Like all their other visits.

"Two jobs, actually. You get to choose, which is something I never got to do. You can either move to Columbus, stay with me for the summer and work for Dawn—the boutique is starting to take off and she could use another hand—or, you can stay in Lima with you mother and work at a colleague of mine's office."

Santana clamps her lip with her teeth as her eyes skirt her father's face. Surely, he's not serious. Her? Working? Ugh, it's like all her worst nightmares for this summer are coming back to haunt her; first Brittany leaving, now this.

Santana grimaces at her prospects. She abhors her stepmother, Dawn, and the thought of spending even an hour alone with her makes Santana's eyeballs shiver. Only ten years her senior, Dawn is every bit the plastic, gold-digging whore Santana's mother always said she was. Her father is baiting her; the boutique would be her dream job otherwise, but it comes at such a cost. And she knows that living with her father for the summer doesn't mean she'll see any more of him. He's just so busy.

"What would I be doing at your colleague's office?" she asks, her eyes paying too much attention to her plate. She doesn't like how her voice sounds. Small, and like she still cares way too much about what her father thinks.

"Some filing and answering the phones, mostly. Occasionally dealing with her clients. Her practice caters to a very specific clientele. You'd need to be on your best behavior."

"And what if I don't like either of those options?" Santana asks, playing with her spoon and refusing to meet her father's dark eyes. She knows before she even opens her mouth that it isn't really an option, but she wouldn't be Santana Lopez if she didn't at least question his authority.

His answer is smug, which is not at all what Santana expects. "You are welcome to get a job at McDonalds or the Lima Quick-E Mart, but I daresay neither will pay as well, nor be as interesting as the options I've selected for you. But hear me now, Santana; you will be working this summer. I've spoken to your mother and she is on board. I'll be discontinuing your allowance until school starts and putting that money into your college fund instead. I think earning a decent wage for a good day's work will also have an outstanding effect on your bad attitude."

Santana sighs. It figures that her father would have the ruination of her summer all mapped out and that her mother would go along with it. Fifteen years they were married and they couldn't agree on a thing, but now they are conspiring to create the worst summer of her life.

"Guess I don't have much of a choice, do I?" Santana finally mumbles.

"Life is full of choices. You've been given options and you are still free to go out and look for others. I certainly didn't get options at your age. Life is not out to get you, Santana. Life is yours for the taking. The time has come for you to start seizing what you want for your life.

Santana finds her eyes starting to fill, and her nose beginning to run. She's been pushing herself to seize what she wants in life—with Brittany—and the thought of having to do it in another arena so soon is a little overwhelming. Nevertheless, she doesn't want her father to see her like this.

Her father takes her hand and holds it in both of his on the table. "This is not a punishment, my darling. This is a gift. Lots of people would love to have either one of these jobs."

Santana knows he doesn't get why she is crying, and she kinda doesn't even know herself, but as she looks at her small hand in his, she suddenly feels like a little girl again. She remembers thinking that her daddy was the greatest daddy in the world. He's a doctor so he could always fix her cuts and bruises and he would always be strong enough to protect her. The realization that that isn't the case still reverberates in her soul. Sure, she learned it at twelve when he walked out of her home, and essentially her life, but she feels like she's still learning it now. It hurts just as much now as it did then.

"It's good money and it will be a good experience for you, Querida. I promise that my friend will take good care of you. She's a little bit like you—smart as a whip, with a bit of a mouth. You will enjoy your time there. And if you don't, at least you will enjoy the money you make. Wipe your eyes now," he says, handing her a napkin. "There's no crying in baseball."

She tries to laugh at his old joke. And he smiles at her attempt. And she feels like a little girl again, happy to be having breakfast with her daddy on a summer's day. She wants so badly to savor the moment, but she knows that she's not a little girl any more. She's neither young nor innocent, and she's still harboring a secret that she's pretty sure her dad will disown her for when it's revealed. She wants to scream at him: Look at me. Love me! She wants to scream at him: I hate you for leaving me! She wants to scream at him—no, she wants to whisper: I'm gay.

She wants to hate him, but she can't.

More than anything, Santana wants her daddy to hold her in his strong arms like when she was a little girl. But he doesn't, so she keeps that little girl locked up safe just inside herself. She realizes with a pang that that little girl won't ever really be able to come out again, because the little girl inside her can't afford to ever lose her daddy.

The tears keep spilling, but she wipes them as she chuckles at her father. He takes a drink of his cappuccino and purposely leaves a huge foam mustache on his upper lip, knowing that it's something that's been making her giggle since she was a toddler.

She nods at him as she wipes her eyes and murmurs "okay." Then she repeats herself, this time with conviction, knowing it means more to her that it does to her father, "okay."

She inhales, tears stopping. She can do this. She did it for Brittany; she can do it for her dad. She can lock that little girl away. She can be a grown up.

"By the way, you've got something on your lip." She says, dabbing at the corner of her mouth with the tip of her napkin.

Her father mimics her, dabbing at the corner of his mouth not even touching the foam. They've played this game so many times that it's rote to her.

"Did I get it?"

She dabs at the other corner, continuing the game and he follows suit, wiping all around his mouth and never touching the foam. Finally, she puts a spoon in front of his face so that he can see his reflection.

"But that is just my mustache. I am Cuban, we all must have mustaches."

She takes an extra large sip of her cappuccino, purposely covering her own lip in foam and says, "I'm Cuban too, Daddy. Just like you."

He smiles as her, and his smile is warm and it pierces her heart a little more than it should and once again, Santana blames Brittany for taking her chest protector with her on tour. She wonders if this adversity is something she can ever rise above.

As many times as the Pierces have driven Santana to her house in Lima Heights Adjacent, she still gets a nervous twitch behind her eye as the camper van turns into her neighborhood. She's alert even in the daytime, knowing which corners to watch, and which corners to avoid looking at at all costs. As they turn onto her street, she notices that the porch light on her house is unlit. This means that her mother did not come home last night, which means…

The camper van pulls up in front of Santana's house and parks and sure enough… the fence has been tagged. Again.

Santana groans and tries to get out of the van quickly, hoping that the Pierces will be on their way before they notice the fence. But no such luck. Roger meets her on the sidewalk as she exits the back of the van and jerks his head toward the graffiti.

"That new?" He asks, as he gives Santana an awkward hug.

She nods, eyes downcast.

"Need me to bring some paint by later on?"

Santana's hugging Susie goodbye and she shakes her head, eyes still looking anywhere but at the way-too-nice Pierces.

"Nah, we keep a gallon of white paint in the garage just for this. I'll work on it later. Or maybe I can get my cousin Javier to do it. He owes me one and it was probably his boys that tagged it in the first place." In truth, she hasn't seen Javier in six months and thinks he might be back in Juvie, but she knows that Roger will feel better if he thinks Santana has help. If she doesn't say something, she knows he'll show up later (in those stupid, white, painting pants) to do it himself, and she sure as hell doesn't want that. She's gotten pretty good at re-painting the fence anyway.

"Your mom gonna be home tonight?" Roger asks casually, as he works his eyes around the neighborhood. "You could stay at our house again, if you need to. I don't like the idea of you home alone at night."

"Oh yeah, she'll be home for sure. She probably can't wait to grill me about my visit with my dad. I'll text her as soon as I get inside."

"Well, okay then. But you call us if you need anything, okay? Anything." He catches her shoulder and looks her hard right in the eye and she realizes, with sudden clarity, that this man is her girlfriend's father, which is kinda like being her father-in-law, which is kinda like him being her father too. And it's both comforting and frightening to think of Britt's parents in the same vein as her parents. They are nothing alike. Santana looks away, his blue eyes too familiar and his stare too intense to maintain in the face of this sudden knowledge. She can only nod at his offer.

"So, thanks for the ride and stuff. I'm really glad I got to see Britt off at the airport and it was, um… good… to see my dad too." Santana shuffles her feet like she's Finn on a date, and can't figure out what it is about today that's left her without the ability to speak in coherent sentences.

"And you know, thanks for everything else, too."

Susie gives Santana an extra squeeze and whispers, "I was so proud of you today" in her ear, and Roger ruffles her hair like she's seven and she knows it basically means the same thing. Even Ashley gives her a 'thumbs up' from inside the van, she, too, cheering Santana on. Santana gives the spray-painted fence one last glare and turns to walk toward her front door. The sooner she can get into the house, the sooner the Pierces will leave and the sooner she can take care of its repair.

Susie calls to Santana before she's halfway up the walk, "Don't forget dinner, San; Monday night, 6:30 sharp. I know it's your first day of work so we'll have lots to talk about." Santana grimaces at the reminder of her new job, but nods and turns to make her way toward the house.

"And tell Brittany to call us too, when you talk to her tonight." Santana nods yet again, blushing that Susie knows them so well, and reaches to unlock the door before turning to watch Brittany's wonderful, loving, slightly daffy family pile into their VW camper van, sing and then pull away.

Santana's mother's "grilling" turns into half a dozen texts supporting Santana's father's decision for her to get a job, indicating that she won't be home that night, and reminding Santana to leave the security light on over the porch so the fence doesn't get tagged. She does not ask about the airport.

Painting over the graffiti only takes an hour. As she paints, she thinks about what her father said about having options and seizing what she wants out of life. Sure, a rundown old house in the bad part of town is not where she thought she'd end up, but there's no reason that she can't make the best of it. And there's no reason that she has to stay here forever. She can make the choice to better herself and then get out of Lima. And she can make the choice to take Brittany with her.

She vows then and there to do just that: make the best of her situation, make better choices, get herself and Brittany out of Lima, and into someplace where they can be together; safe, happy and in love.

With an uncharacteristic smile on her face, she pulls a few weeds from between the slabs of concrete in the driveway, and then decides to tackle the weeds in the flowerbeds too. Santana can't remember the last time they held flowers. Maybe when her grandmother lived there? But her grandmother's been gone for four years, almost as long as her father, and since her neglectful mother took over the house and the neighborhood's continued its decline, well, let's just say the house has seen better days.

After her afternoon of yard work (her mother will be shocked, if she notices), Santana showers, microwaves a personal pizza for dinner, and settles in front of the television with the Real Housewives, a shoplifted Corona, and her phone at her side to wait for Brittany's call.

She's nodding off on the couch when her phone rings at the exact second that the digital clock clicks over to ten pm and Santana jerks to answer it exactly one second after that.

The second after Santana hits the accept button on her phone, Brittany's smiling face appears and all of the day's tension just melts away. Brittany's face cuts in and out of frame as she moves around, so excited to use her new video app that she can't keep still and focus. The background moves so fast that Santana can't tell what it is except for shades of beige and grey.

"B, how was your flight? How's Florida?"

"It's sooo hot here, Santana. It's like that time I got stuck in the sauna and my mom didn't find me for an hour."

"I told you you wouldn't need half of those clothes that you packed, silly." Santana smiles lovingly at Brittany's pouting face. She already misses her and she hasn't even been gone a day.

"The airport was fine though. As soon as I got off the plane there was someone waiting for me with a sign with my name on it. I thought maybe there was another Brittany Pierce, but it was for me! They knew where to find my bag too which was good, because I was so tired I was starting to see blurry."

"Well, it serves you right for making us stay up so late last night," Santana snickers.

"Whatever. You know you liked it." Brittany sticks her tongue out at Santana and the fire that sparks in her core kinda melts her heart too.

"I did B. It was a really um... awesome night. I'm gonna miss sleeping with you this summer." Santana bashfully looks away, and wonders if maybe video-chatting is such a good idea after all. She's not used to Brittany seeing her blush when they talk dirty over the phone.

"San you should totally come visit me here. There's a really big bed in my motel room."

"I would love to, B, but there's no way my parents would let me... unless I convince them I wanna visit my grandparents in Miami. I haven't seen them in a really long time and my dad was just talking about them today. He'd probably pay for me to fly down there. How close are you to Miami?"

Brittany looks away from the phone and Santana grins when she sees Brittany's tongue catch between her teeth and her eyebrows furrow. It's her concentration face. "It's like... four inches on the map." She flashes Santana a quick peak at a standard, motel-issued courtesy map of the state and points with her finger. "Hey look, there's a town called Fort Pierce halfway between Miami and Daytona Beach. I should totally go there on my bike. Wait. Um... it looks like it's like four hours away." She points the phone back at her face and frowns at Santana.

"I'll try and make that work, B." Santana says, as she paces the room, running her hands through her hair and wondering how quickly she can convince her father that she needs a plane ticket to Miami to visit her grandparents. She loses her fervor, however, when she realizes he'll probably make her pay for it with her own money, now that she has a job. Then she remembers her afternoon resolution and sits back down on the couch, resigned to make better choices.

"But aren't you supposed to be super busy training and stuff? I'm afraid you'd get in trouble and I don't want you fucking up this opportunity. It's a lot of money and a chance for you to really make a name for yourself, babe. As much as I'd love to meet you in Florida and sleep with you in your huge motel bed, we can only do it if you don't get in trouble."

"But San, there's a hot tub we can go in any time we want and in my room there's this tiny refrigerator that has drinks and some candy that we can eat too. I'd share with you."

"B, those little candies cost a lot of money, be careful they don't make you pay for those. Just cuz it's in your room doesn't mean it's free. Remember when we were in New York and Mr. Schue told us not to eat the candy in our room? It's like that."

Brittany sighs and gives Santana one of her little pouts. "Yeah, that's what my teammates told me, too."

Santana smiles and sees her opportunity to erase Brittany's frown. "Tell me about them. What are they like? Are they nice?"

Brittany perks right back up again and says, "Well, there are three other girls, and six guys, but I only room with girls."

"Wait, you didn't tell me there were gonna be guys on the tour too. I don't think I like this, Britt." Santana returns Brittany's pout, which makes her giggle.

"It's not like I'm interested. I'm taken, remember?"

"Yeah," Santana smiles, "but they'll all be hitting on you and stuff and trying to get you drunk. I don't want you to get drunk and take your clothes off in front of a bunch of pervy, intoxicated motocross guys, Britt."

"Sanny, calm down. There's only one person who's allowed to hit on me and get me drunk and take my clothes off and you know who you are. These boys stink, anyways. Actually, everyone stinks here. It's really hot." Brittany wrinkles her nose for effect.

Santana snorts at Brittany's everlasting cuteness, but can't let go of the fact that a lot of other people are going to see how fucking cute she is too. "You promise me B, you promise me that you're not gonna... you know, get interested in drunk, smelly motocross guys? Or girls?"

"You really need me to promise, San? Even after the airport?"

Santana chews her lips and glances sheepishly to her right. "Um… I guess not." She shakes her head hoping to release her fears, and in the moment she realizes that she needs to tell Brittany how she feels, that this is the hard part of being in a grown up relationship. She gulps. "Sorry I'm being so lame, B, I just... I just get scared with you being away for so long, you know. I won't be able to touch you, or hug you, or do... stuff… with you."

"Aw, Sanny. You know I'm gonna miss you too. I really wish I could do all those things too, but here, this'll do for now." Brittany's face closes in on the camera until all Santana can see is an extreme close-up of her nostrils and her upper lip. She hears the smacking of the kiss over her speaker and her heart soars again. God, she is just so fucking cute! Santana can't resist bringing her own phone to her lips to kiss Brittany back, but by the time she does, Brittany's lips have moved away and Santana feels embarrassed that she tried to capture the feel of those lips through an electronic device. Idiot.

"Sooo... tell me more about Florida. The tour. Your teammates."

"Well, the girls' team captain is really nice. I hope they room me with her most of the time. Her name's Vanessa."

"You don't get your own room? I thought you did. Guess I won't bother trying to sneak down to Florida for a visit then," Santana smirks.

"We get our own rooms while we're in training, but not when we're touring. And, I'd make sure we got our own room if you came to visit," Brittany smirks right back.

"So is this Vanessa as hot as me?"

"Um... well she kinda looks like you except she's taller and she's old, like twenty-four. And besides, no one's as hot as you, San," Brittany giggles.

"She looks like me? Like, how much like me? Cuz I can't have my Britt-Britt getting all hot for an older model!"

Brittany laughs openly. "She is pretty hot, but doesn't like girls anyway, so you have nothing to be worried about. I think she's engaged or something. She keeps going on and on about someone named Tim."

"Well, I still think I need to meet this girl and give her a little dose of Cosas Malas Lopez, if you know what I mean. Let her know that she can't mess with my girl."

Brittany blushes over the phone and starts giggling like a child and Santana can't help but join in. It's partly because the sound of Brittany's laughter makes her so happy—it lodges in her body and bounces around her soul light a prism of light—and partly because, although Brittany thinks she's kidding, she's deadly serious, and that's hilarious. She will kick the ass of anyone who messes with her girl.

Santana changes the topic. "Are you nervous for your first day tomorrow, B?"

Brittany stops laughing and takes her lip between her teeth and Santana immediately feels guilty. She knows what that look means.

"Yeah. I've got a lot to prove, ya know? I'm the youngest by, like, a lot." Brittany begins twirling her hair around her finger, the first sign she is worried about something.

"You'll be so awesome Britt! Everyone will be so jealous of how good you are."

"I dunno, San... everyone here is really good. It's not just Lima motocross. These people are here to get deals with Nike and stuff and I just want to make it through the summer and come home in one piece."

"Okay, well promise me that you'll be careful then. Don't try anything dangerous. And just do your best."

"I will, but I just don't know if my best is good enough." Santana can see the background flashing by and knows that Brittany is pacing her room. She never can sit still when she is nervous.

Santana knows she needs to calm Brittany down. It's not like her to have a crisis in confidence. "It will be. They chose you, right? And you're the youngest, so you must be really good!

"But I have the most to prove. They were already making jokes about how they can't order HBO when I'm in the room cuz I'm too young to watch it."

"B, I believe in you. Every time you get on that bike I want you to remember our bike ride and how I held you so tight, and I want you to feel my arms and legs wrapped around you and I want you to think of me protecting you, okay? And if those motocross bitches make fun of you, Imma come down there and go all Lima Heights on their asses. And you can tell 'em I said so!"

Brittany is giggling again, and the makes Santana happy. She can't stand seeing an unconfident Brittany. "If I think about our bike ride, San, I'll get turned on and then I might drive off the course and across the state and come see you so you can help me out." She guffaws. "And that might be dangerous."

"Well, just remember the first part of the ride then," Santana smirks before she decides it's time to change the subject again. "So, um... I saw my dad today."

"Oh yeah, how'd that go?" Brittany reclines onto her bed and Santana can see a generic wooden headboard behind her, Brittany's blonde hair haloed against it by the light from the bedside lamp.

"He said I have to get an effing job! I have to work at his colleague's office in Lima. And it is sooo gonna suck."

"Well, maybe it'll be fun. Maybe you'll learn something." Trust Brittany to always look for the silver lining. It's just one more of the many things that Santana loves about her.

"Puh-lease. Me, learn something from some old quack? You know the doctor is gonna be all know-it-all or whatever, or bossy like my dad. And I'll probably just be around a bunch of old, sick people all summer. Like, I'll probably catch the Ebola virus or obesity or something."

"San, even I know you can't catch obesity. It's like generic, you get it from your parents, and your parents are thin." Brittany gives Santana her best eye roll.

"So, did you talk to your dad about… stuff?"

"You mean the 'horror of me having to get a job this summer' stuff? Cuz yeah, we covered that."

"No... other stuff."

"Um... nooo. What kind of other stuff do you mean?

"I dunno." Brittany shrugs.

"Britt?" Santana asks, starting to get concerned. It's not like the new Brittany to beat around the bush. She's pretty good about saying what's on her mind these days.

"Like... 'about you and me' stuff."

"Oh... well… I don't think he's really ready to hear about that stuff. I mean, all he did today was lecture me on how I need to step up and start making the family proud of me. I don't think me telling him that I'm dating my best friend is exactly what he was talking about."

"You don't think he'd be proud of you if he knew?"

Santana deflates, slumping back against the couch, her face compressing with worry. She scrubs her forehead with her palm willing the gesture to remove the memory of today's visit. "I'm sorry B. But he's just not like your parents. I mean they seem kinda okay with the idea of us. But my family, they're Catholic. They're Cuban. They're not gonna be okay with me being a... you know."

"What? In a long distance relationship?"

"Gay," she mumbles, dejected.

"Is it that big of a deal?"

Santana cocks her head and scowls. Surely, even Brittany has to know that this is a big deal. Her instinct is to yell and scream and pull her hair, to maybe throw something. Of course it's a fucking big deal. But, Santana is turning over a new leaf these days. She's trying to be a real girlfriend and make better choices, so she checks her temper and explains the situation to Brittany. "B, you know I love you, and I think we got really lucky with your parents—like crazy lucky—but I don't think I'm gonna be able to tell mine. At least not while I'm still living in Lima. I know that's not what you want. But you know how my mom is, all she cares about is getting a man to support her, and well, my dad is... pretty strict and stuff."

"I just want us to be happy, sweetie," Brittany whispers. She ducks her eyes to the side, and tucks her chin into her chest but Santana can still see her lip beginning to tremble. God, this is so not how she wanted their first night apart to go.

"Well… how about if I think about it? Okay? While you're gone this summer, I'll think about how to talk to them, okay? I'll think about how to tell them about us." She pauses. Brittany is still frowning, unable to look Santana in the eyes. "Please don't be sad, sweetie."

"It makes me sad for you that you can't tell them. I mean, yeah I don't like hiding, but if you think they'll be upset... I guess it's okay." Brittany finally glances at Santana and she sees tears glinting in her eyes.

"Fuck, B, now you're making me sad. You know I hate seeing you like this." Both girls frown and look away from each other. There is a painful pause while each thinks of a way to change the mood.

Brittany finally breaks the silence with a gulp and a forced smile. "Tell me three good things, Sanny."

Santana perks up, forcing a smile of her own. "Um... okay. One—I love you."

Brittany truly smiles.

"Two—you're beautiful."

Brittany smiles bigger.

"Three—you're gonna be the best motocross-riding girl on the whole east coast this summer."

"San, stop it." Brittany is blushing to the tips of her ears, which Santana finds most endearing.

"Four—I'm sooo proud of you. You've really grown up a lot this year, B."

"No, I'm proud of you. What you said this morning? You didn't just say it; you yelled it in front of everyone at the airport. That was even more exciting to me than the plane taking off, and you know I love takeoffs."

Brittany is gushing, and for the first time all day, Santana is proud of her behavior in the airport. She blushes. "Well, I meant it, you know. And um… someday I'll get to the point where I don't care who knows it. Not my parents, not people at school, not strangers in the airport. Just maybe not quite yet... but I'm trying B, okay? I'm trying."

"I think telling the whole airport is a lot for one day." Brittany's grin is so endearing that, in that instant, Santana realizes she'd do it all again in heartbeat.

"Yeah, me too. I was kinda in a daze afterward. I can't believe I did it, you know? But I don't regret it, B. Please know that, okay?"

"I know, San." Brittany is still borderline teary, but she doesn't let herself cry, instead she chirps, "Hey I've got an idea! We should make a list of all the things we want to do when I get home."

"Good idea. I'm gonna start right now. Number one, Brittany showing me just how flexible she is," Santana smirks.

"Number two, Santana taking me on a real date," Brittany says sincerely and Santana's heart breaks a little at the reminder of just how much she has to make up to Brittany.

"I will take you on a real date. Where would you like to go?"

Brittany begins bouncing on her bed with excitement; she's hardly able to contain herself. "You can choose. As long as we get dessert." She all but shouts it and Santana winces as she adjusts the volume on her phone.

"Breadstix and a movie?" She laughs at the cheesy suggestion. "Or we could stay home and watch some Sweet Valley High... wink wink." Santana says, using one of their 'secret codes' and adding a very exaggerated wink.

"Mmm that sounds good... and that means we could cross two things off the list at once."

"It does." Santana purrs. But the sight of Brittany, giddy on the other end of her phone, so excited at the prospect of going out on a stupid date that she can't sit still, changes her attitude. "But, you know what? I'm gonna take you on a real date; a going-out-in-public date. Cuz I wanna show you off and then bring you home and cross things off our list."

"Really?" Brittany asks with such a hopeful face, it's heartbreaking.

"I promise, Britt." Santana says, and she really means it. It's months away, so she figures she's safe making this promise. After all, a lot can change in a summer.

"So, um… speaking of crossing thing off our list, I was thinking about those movies we watch sometimes, and I was wondering if you want to... if we could um... watch those movies together or something. Like, over the phone?" Brittany is still excited, but now has a coy little grin.

Santana knows that grin and responds in kind. "Oh yeah? Is that what you were thinking? I guess we could do that, if you want." She draws it out, as if she really has to think about it. Like watching porn and masturbating wasn't going to be the only sex she got all summer.

"And would you touch yourself while we did?" Wait, Brittany's serious? She really wants to have videophone sex? She gulps.

"Would you... want me to touch myself?" Santana asks, her throat going dry.

"I love it when you touch yourself, San. And I love when you touch me. I would imagine it was you touching me when I touched myself, and you could watch me on your phone and then we'd take turns and I could watch you." Brittany is unabashed in her want and Santana gets a glimpse of what the summer has in store for her: Brittany, on the phone looking at her with smoky eyes and pouty lips, Brittany, pinching her own nipples, moaning and touching herself on her phone screen.

Santana licks her lips in anticipation. She doesn't care how nervous she suddenly feels at the prospect of being naked onscreen, she needs this. Besides, she's a badass, and it's just sex—they've had that a thousand times (maybe, the calculations are still in the works). Why should the thought of watching Brittany over her phone be any different than watching her in person? She can do this. She grins bashfully. "And I love it when you touch yourself too, but I won't love it if you're doing that in front of your roommates!"

"Oh, no I wouldn't do that," Brittany giggles. "That's a girlfriend-only privilege. I'll figure something out so we have some privacy. I'm sure Vanessa will want 'private time' with Tim, so we can make some sort of deal. We'll figure it out."

"Yeah, we got all summer to work something out. We can talk about it later. Besides, I had such a good time last night, I think I'm good to go for at least a couple of weeks now." Santana grins.

"Wow, I must be really good if you're good for weeks!" Brittany crows.

Santana purrs, "you are good, Baby. Sooo good." She runs her hand down her throat and past her breasts in a clichéd move hoping to illicit a throaty giggle from Brittany.

It works. Brittany's voice is throaty, but she's not laughing.

"You're good too, but I still want you again. Right. Now."

Santana is equally frustrated by the sizzle in Brittany's voice as well as her words. "Damn, B. You can't talk like that and have me want you and not be able to do anything about it. That's so not fair. This is going to be one long ass summer if you keep talking like that. You are wicked."

"I thought I was nice, like Glinda," Brittany replies, giving her a saucy look.

"Well, wicked is nice sometimes too." Santana returns the look. She's starting to enjoy this little teasing game Brittany's made up. She could get used to this on her phone every night.

"Tell me Santana, do you like the way I taste? Cuz I like the way you taste and I swear I can still taste you on my fingers." Brittany brings her right hand to her face and sniffs it deeply before running her tongue up and down her first two fingers. She then pulls them both into her mouth, sucking them down to the last knuckle, her perfect lips wrapped taut around them. She closes her eyes and moans as she slowly draws her fingers in and out of her mouth.

Santana moans along with her. The game just got serious. In an instant she is wet, she is flustered and she almost drops her phone.

"So, you, uh, like the way I taste?"

"Yes I do, you silly girl," Brittany murmurs, still working her fingers in and out of her mouth.

Santana brings her own hand to her nose and swears she can still smell Brittany on her hands and it drives her crazy. Forgetting she's on video, she closes her eyes and sucks her own fingers into her mouth, searching for that taste, that essence of Brittany that will take her back to last night; to skin on skin, to lips pressed tight, to soft caresses and a firm rhythm, but it's elusive. She remembers she is not making love to Brittany, but rather alone in her living room with a phone and drops her hand from her mouth.

"You taste good too, B. I'm really gonna miss that."

Brittany sighs, "me too." Both girls pause, staring hard, unsure. Finally, Brittany breaks the silence.

"So every night I'm gonna call you at ten o'clock, unless there's something happening, and I'm gonna tell you three good things and you tell me three good things about each of our days? And "I love you" and "you're beautiful" don't count because those are good things every day," Brittany says with a grin.

"I doubt I'll have three good things in my day after I start this stupid job," Santana grumbles.

"Maybe your job won't be stupid."

"Not holding my breath, but whatever."

"Then I'll send you a funny picture during the day to make you smile, and if I can't take a funny picture, I'll send you a video of some cats riding a Roomba or something."

Santa laughs, of course Brittany would have all manner of cat videos at her disposal. "At least your job doesn't suck. You get to ride your bike around and make a bucket of money."

"I think my job will suck sometimes," Brittany ponders. "Like tomorrow when it's 95 degrees at eight am and we have eleven hours of training and my uniform is so hot..." Brittany's voice tapers off as the reality of the situation sinks into her thoughts. Her entire body droops, and she looks exhausted.

"So, I guess I should let you go so you can get a good night's sleep for your first day of training, huh, B?"

"I guess, but I don't wanna hang up. But I also don't wanna play the 'you hang up first' game because I always worry that I lost and then you get sad I hung up on you.

"I don't want to play that game either. But you always win, because I never want to be the one that hangs up on you either, Brittany."

"Will you dream about me?"

"I'll dream about you every night that you're away."

"What will we be doing in your dream?" Brittany asks as she yawns.

"Holding each other in your bed. I will sing to you until you fall asleep in my arms, and I will run my fingers thru your hair until your eyes close and you settle into me soft and warm and asleep."

"Will you sing me to sleep now, Santana?"

"Of course, B. Get into bed now and I'll sing Songbird to you."

"But that might make me cry and I need to brush my teeth."

"K. I'll brush mine too."

Santana walks to her bathroom as she watches Brittany walk into her bathroom, the blur of a generic motel room passing behind her, and set the phone down. All she can see is a white ceiling and Brittany's elbow as it occasionally comes in and out of the frame as Brittany brushes her teeth. Twice she leans over her phone and bares a foamy grin at Santana and then pulls back quickly before she can drool toothpaste on her new phone. Santana is so enraptured watching Brittany, she barely takes a swipe at her own teeth, rinsing, spitting, and wiping her mouth hurriedly so she doesn't miss a moment of saying goodnight to Brittany.

They both clamber onto their beds and Santana notices that Britt's changed into an old t-shirt of hers for sleeping. She doesn't remember leaving it at Brittany's house, but she's glad Brittany has something of hers on the tour. Santana pulls her own shirt off and reaches for Britt's 'I'm With Stoopid' t-shirt that she'd stowed in her bag the night before. As she pulls it over her head, she can smell Brittany on it and a wave of last night rushes over her. It's so strong that she reels backward, hitting her head against the headboard. She's dizzy and she's not sure if it's from the knock on her head or being immersed in everything Brittany once again.

"I heard that. Did you just conk your head?" Brittany asks.

"Yeah, but I'm okay." Santana recovers, bringing the phone back up to her face. "Now get into bed, B." She watches as Brittany crawls into her bed, the phone catching both Brittany's body and the sheets as she pulls them up around her chest.

Settling into her own bed, Santana says, "If I were there I'd be tucking in with you, so imagine me crawling in next to you and pulling the sheet over us. Now imagine my arms around you and imagine laying your head on my chest."

On her phone Santana watches Brittany turn out the light, the phone adjusting to the darkness just in time to see Brittany curl into her motel bed. She tucks the sheet under her chin, and lays her head down on her pillow, holding the phone sideways on the pillow next to her so she can still see Santana through half-closed eyelids. Her image is skewed, but Santana remembers seeing that exact face lying on her own pillow many times. It's muscle memory that causes her to reach out to caress it, before she realizes that Brittany's not lying on the pillow next to her.

Her voice is raspy and a little off key as she begins to quietly sing from her pillow. "For you, there'll be no more crying. For you, the sun will be shining…"

As she sings, Santana watches Brittany's face soften into sleep. Her smile relaxes and her eyelids droop. The phone tilts away until Santana can only see a nose, one closed eye and a mass of blonde hair that looks silver in the light of the phone. As she finishes the song with a hum, she's not sure Brittany's still awake so she whispers, "g'night Britt. I love you."

"I love you too, San." Brittany mumbles, pretty much talking in her asleep.

Santana gazes at Brittany sleeping for a few moments before she pushes 'end' on her phone and Brittany is gone.