A/N: I'm sorry if you guys don't care anymore lol at least I didn't take a year...I guess. Sorry this is short. There should only be two more. One and then an epilogue. I'm really really trying to get it done before break is over, but I'm so through with making promises about this. Thanks if you're still reading. This was never supposed to be this long haha
Also, how come you guys don't trust me with Brittany's story? I can't be as bad as actual glee...
Santana examined the halls of McKinley on her last Thursday of high school. She observed the underclassmen, the Cheerio's she'd helped whip into shape, and the teachers who taught her the best they could. School was always important to her, and she knew that even if Coach Sylvester was the only authority figure that taught her anything worth remembering, it never had been a waste of time. She'd gotten into a great school with a promising future in a field of study that she had never considered before walking the waxy floors on her first day of freshman year.
And the fact that school hadn't ever been as kind to Brittany pissed her off immensely. If she were being honest, Santana knew that Brittany didn't make it easy on herself from the get go, skipping class and ignoring her homework, but in recent months she'd worked her ass off to simply pass the twelfth grade. A feat that she accomplished with hours and hours of studying and putting forth an effort she didn't know she even had. But that Brittany couldn't get into the school of her dreams based on one, stupid test broke Santana to her core. She didn't know what was going to happen after that afternoon where a grief-stricken Brittany crashed into her arms, soaking her uniform with large tears.
Her feet took her past the doors of her homeroom and Puck rushed from the room to her side. She could have ignored him if she tried hard enough but he looked infinitely apologetic enough that she gave him a nod of acknowledgement.
"She's not here today," he asked. His eyes traced her crossed arms and then moved to the expanse of hallway ahead of them.
Santana shook her head. "She didn't let me come over last night and only sent me a text to pick up her cap and gown."
She waved the receipt slip Anna dropped off at her house that morning in the air and Puck snatched it from her.
"What are you doing," she growled, stopping in the middle of the hallway.
He dragged her aside to a row of lockers and looked over the paper instead of at her burning eyes.
"I'll pick it up. Did you get yours?"
She had. Before school ended the day before, after Brittany had fled the choir room and didn't give Santana a chance to follow her, she went with Quinn and Rachel to get their graduation stuff. They were quick to sympathize and she didn't feel like being alone anyway.
He nodded and brought a hand to her shoulder, squeezing the muscle tenderly. "Now get out of this hell hole and go see her."
Santana rolled her eyes and grabbed the paper back. "She doesn't want to see me, moron."
"Fuck, S," he bit back, swiping the paper again. "Stop being a pussy. She's just embarrassed by yesterday. If you don't go and see her it's like telling her you think she sucks too. Go make her feel better, bring her ice cream or shit. That stuff always works for chicks."
She glared at him, unwilling to budge from the block of tile she centered herself on. He had a point. Not going meant saying to Brittany that there was something to avoid talking about, to avoid dealing with. If she stayed away, like all of her impulses compelled her to do, she was relaying her disappointment.
Puck turned her around and shoved her forward without another word. She knew he had their best interest at heart and she was grateful that throughout their lives the two of them had earned friends that cared so much about t them. So instead of punching Puck in the face for interfering—another impulse from her core that she ignored—she let him push her down the hallway and her feet kept her going.
Santana glanced over her shoulder and put her hands on her hips when she got a few feet forward. She didn't feel like herself if she couldn't have some sort of last word.
"If she slams the door in my face, I'll slam the door on your balls."
"Great," he said smirking. "Looking forward to it."
She immediately went to her locker and grabbed her backpack, slinging it over her shoulders and darting towards the side hallway that took her out to the football field and parking lot. Out of instinct from previous ditching experience, Santana checked the crowded fields for teachers. A few rogue gym classes were going on but none headed by Coach Sylvester and she took that as a good sign to go.
On the way to the parking lot she had to pass underneath the bleachers. In the dusty shade sat a few worn out couches that had been there since the beginning of the school year when she had the experience of catching an again-blonde Quinn plotting how to kidnap her baby. For an instance she noted that she could write a novel about all the fucked up things that happened between her and her friends in high school.
Snapping out of that thought, she saw tangled bodies moving against the cushion of the dirtiest, green sofa only ten feet away. Santana paused, knowing instantly who it was and contemplated the best way to embarrass the two of them.
Thoroughly enjoying their own activities, Santana got close enough to sit down on the arm chair near Quinn and Rachel's feet and crossed her arms.
"You know," she pronounced in an authoritative voice making Rachel roll of Quinn and fall to the ground, "even Brittany and I had standards against using these scummy couches. I'm shocked to find the two of you here." Santana grinned at the two of them, faces red and panting.
Rachel was already on her feet brushing her skirt off when Quinn snapped up and ran fingers through the tangled hair where Rachel's hand had just been messing it up.
"Shocked," Santana reiterated mockingly.
"Who knew you were such a voyeur," Quinn snapped. She pushed herself further upright on the couch.
"Who knew you—" Santana started but Rachel cut her off.
"Santana! I was just thinking about you!" she proclaimed.
Santana and Quinn exchanged confused expressions and Rachel rolled her eyes at them, frustrated. She walked around the couch and reached down into what Santana guessed was her book bag.
"Not right this minute I was thinking about you, Santana. I was very much enjoying Quinn for the last couple—"
The girl popped back up from behind the couch with a pack of papers in hand and rounded the couch, giving them to Santana. She made out the word "syllabus" before Rachel was turning the pages in her hand, searching for something in particular.
"What, is this like an itinerary for the summer or something?" Santana scowled as she thought about that. "You're not going to force me to hang out with you or anything are you?"
Quinn punched her in the thigh and she almost dropped the papers.
"Knock it off," Quinn demanded.
Santana started to mumble angrily under her breath when Rachel shouted, "Aha!"
"Read this." She pointed to the page with a tiny finger and Santana picked up the sentence where it landed.
"'...not a suitable or expected grade, the student may ask for a retest. Under school policy, if the student has shown adequate work, I will allow one exception.' So what? Did you not do very well on an exam or something?"
"It's Ms. Hagburg's syllabus she uses in every class. I found it on the school website last night and tried to see if there were any loopholes that could let Brittany take another chance at the test. I thought she might have already used it but Quinn said to her knowledge, she hadn't."
Santana couldn't believe it.
"She hasn't," Quinn said definitively. "She hasn't had to and I doubt she tried beforehand."
"So it's a chance," Rachel said, speaking to her in a way that said she knew Santana was far away processing the information. "Right?"
"Did you tell her," Santana mumbled. They both shook their heads. "Why not?"
"She wouldn't answer my calls," Rachel explained. "And when Quinn found out I was calling she begged me to let it alone."
"You shouldn't have left it alone, Berry," Santana said. She could feel tears brimming in her lashes and pulled Rachel into a hug. Her chin barely hit Rachel's shoulder and for once she realized that she couldn't be any more than an inch taller. "I knew being an obsessive little midget was gonna pay off for you one day."
"I'm not sure if that's an insult because you're hugging me," Rachel protested, leaving her arms at her sides. "But thanks…I guess."
Santana let go and stepped back, tugging on her backpack with one hand. "Are you going to tell her?"
"Why don't you tell her," Rachel asked, smiling.
"Quinn you have to help her study," Santana demanded. But not before she had enough time to prep Brittany and pull her out of the bed she would surely be in. "Give me an hour and then call me."
Rachel grabbed Quinn's hand and nodded for the both of them. "Of course. Just go."
Santana smiled at the two of them and took off. Before she got too far, she was sure she heard Rachel yelling at her.
"And make sure you tell her I hold any and all responsibility for finding this information!"
Brittany rolled into the pillow she'd propped up against the wall and buried her face. Her tears ducts gave up trying to produce fresh tears early in the morning but just feeling the damp pillowcase was enough to dispel her exhaustion. She hated how she couldn't fall asleep. That's all she wanted out of the day.
Through her locked door, Brittany heard the commotion of the front door opening and shutting. With everyone in the house gone, she jumped out of bed and grabbed a hairbrush from her desk in the hopes that she could disarm an intruder. Since her door was locked, that's the first room they would try to get into. She paid attention during lockdown drills at school.
Quicker than Brittany thought, the intruder hit the top of the steps and trampled towards her bedroom. It was like they knew she was the only one home. Her heart started pounding in the base of her throat and she braced herself against the adrenaline pumping through her spine. She admired her attire, the green sweatpants she'd gotten into the moment she got home the day before, her blank tanktop hanging off one shoulder. There wasn't anything to protect her and she ran to the bed, dropping the brush on top of the comforter and pulling a hoodie over her torso.
Just as she picked the brush back up, the wood resonated with a knock and her heart jumped.
Slowly, Brittany walked to the door on her tip-toes and held the brush back in an armed position. The wracking of knuckles against the wood again confused her even more than the first and she patiently waited for the other person to strike.
A loud thunderous boom echoed, "Brittany!"
She was light on her feet.
"Brittany…" a different voice whispered from above her.
She felt the door pulsate and jumped back, the cushion of her bed catching her as she woke up from the nightmare. Fingers pressing gently against her cheek and on the edge of the bed, sat Santana, smiling at her.
Brittany darted forward and caught Santana around the waist, pressing into her chest and clinging desperately. Her whole night was filled with nightmares; they ranged from someone burning her diploma, cutting off her legs, and the freshest one, someone breaking into her house and kidnapping her. She couldn't have explained if she tried how thankful she was that Santana broke her out of that one; it was the scariest of them all.
"You don't even know," she replied. Santana's hands were running on her back through her Cheerio's tanktop and she breathed a sigh of relief.
"Was it about…you know…yesterday," Santana asked. She ran her fingers through Brittany's hair.
"No. I think it's 'cause I'm miserable." She fell back onto her pillows and ignored the frown it brought to Santana's face. She was allowed to be upset since everything that she'd worked for blew up in her face.
"Well I don't want to kill your mood or anything, but I have good news," Santana joked.
"Is it a time machine so I can go back and tell past Brittany to give up before she tries," Brittany shot back, a little irritated by Santana's sarcasm.
"When I tell you what it is you won't be so rude about it."
Santana rolled her eyes and turned back to the book bag she had apparently dropped to the floor before waking her up. Papers rustled against the canvas until with a grunt Santana tore the papers free. Brittany couldn't see what was on them, but at the same time felt like she didn't ever want to see another packet of papers again. If she decided to forego college of any kind she hoped it was a possibility.
Before she could debate the pros and cons of working at Burger King, Santana deposited the papers into her hands and sat back. Brittany looked down at them and realized it was syllabus for Ms. Hagburg's class and immediately felt worse that Santana would even think she could find anything good or funny about looking at it.
"Turn the page, Britt."
Without glancing upwards, Brittany turned the page and found a pink-highlighted passage of words surrounded with stars in thick, yellow ink. She read along the underlines and felt a rising in the pit of her stomach that felt a lot like hope. Her mind raced trying to remember if Quinn ever advised a retest in the months they'd been working but couldn't com e up with anything and she let out a little breath of anxiety. She had a chance.
Santana scooted closer on the bed and let their legs brush together through the blanket, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Are you up for another test?"
"I can't believe we didn't know about this. Quinn is so stupid."
Santana let out a breathy laugh. "Tell me about it. If it weren't for her better half we wouldn't know."
Brittany looked up at her through misty eyes and smiled. "I could tell."
She pointed to the page. "You hate yellow."
"True." Santana leaned into her. "So…what do you think?"
Brittany broke the last few inches of space between them and rested her forehead against Santana's with the gentlest pressure she could manage.
"I think," she said, pausing. "That I would feel dumber not taking another test than doing the opposite. But I would have to do it tomorrow. And I need to study."
"Well it's lucky Quinn will be over in an hour than isn't it?"
Brittany let her whole body heave a sigh into Santana as she tucked herself neatly in her lap, wrapping both arms around her waist and hanging onto her like the life raft that she often seemed to be.
The atmosphere of the McKinley gymnasium practically hummed with the fresh anxiety and excitement of the practice commencement rehearsal. There were kids running around with their friends desperate to find the seats they would be sitting in and how far away from their friends they would have to shout and gesture to communicate during the actual ceremony. Amongst those were the ones who couldn't imagine being up at seven o' clock on a day they didn't have actual class meandering between chairs and blindly knocking them out of place—Puck and Finn were among that few, deciding to drop somewhere on the floor without bothering to find their seats after a meager five minutes of searching. Then there was Rachel, who had Quinn in a foot radius, arguing with a teacher about the insignificance of assigned seating and her objection to the idea that she couldn't gather with her friends on the day of her graduation. And even further among them, stoic and contemplative, was Santana, whose focus only consisted of the one seat nine spaces to the left of hers that was left unoccupied.
It made her feel useless to be less than two hundred feet away from Brittany and not being able to help her through the final attempt at trying to build their future in the way that they both wanted. She helped by passing on the message Rachel gave her, she helped give neck rubs and snacks during Quinn's crash-course study night, but she never felt like what she did made a difference. Passing a test was the one thing that she couldn't help Brittany do in any capacity and it made her feel completely worthless in a way that she hadn't felt before.
All she could realistically do was put her faith into her girlfriend and she did so unhindered, hoping that would get her through the hours that led up until she saw her again.
Quinn appeared out of nowhere and dropped heavily into the empty fold-out chair next to her. She glanced over and gave Santana a reassuring smile that held all the empathy she could imagine before offering, "You could try praying. That might make you feel better."
"Even I'm not stupid enough to think that someone up there cares about one test for one person in the entire world," she retorted, seeing the anticipatory grimace Quinn already spouted. "No offense."
"I don't take any. I just thought maybe you might be that stupid." Quinn nudged her shoulder and she couldn't help but smile and roll her eyes.
"I would hit you if I didn't need my arms to hold me back from tearing apart this gym in anticipation."
Quinn heaved a sigh and draped her arm around Santana's shoulder, pulling her slightly to the left.
"It'll be okay. No matter what happens."
"Says the girl that got into Yale on a whim," Santana quipped with no real malice.
"Argued by the girl who had the most popular song in a thousand applicants," Quinn bit back.
Rachel voiced in from behind them, "Overheard by the girl who landed a coveted spot in an exclusive dramatic arts program."
Quinn chuckled while Santana whipped around with a confused smirk. "Did you get in, Rachel?"
Rachel nodded sharply with a restrained smile. "Found out yesterday. Why do you think I was all over Quinn in the middle of a school day?"
"Thanks a lot, Rachel."
"Shush, sweetheart. I'm just stating the catalyst for our—"
"Congratulations," Santana interrupted with a beaming grin. "I'm really happy for you."
"Thank you very much, Santana."
When the teachers started to call everyone to their seats and the fake procession began, Santana couldn't help but imagine herself watching Brittany cross the stage wearing a white gown and a dark scowl. Even with a diploma in hand she would be deflated, toiled in the waste of her second effort. It was in Santana's nature to expect the worst and she did just that with her own steps across the stage.
A half hour later Santana was out the door of the gym rushing to her car with the desperate attempt at keeping it together. Brittany said she'd text and let her know what was happening afterwards but when she checked there was nothing. That only fueled the fire of anxiety in her stomach and she figured rushing to Brittany's house was the next best bet to searching Ms. Hagburg's classroom, which she'd already done.
A smattering of cars littered the parking lot on their last "technical" day of high school and Santana slowed to a walk as she suffered the image of her girlfriend deftly plopped on the hood of her car with both hands in her lap overtop a piece of paper. From how far away she was, she couldn't make out any distinct facial expressions and let the indecision to rush back into the doors she'd come from steer her in the right direction towards a patiently waiting Brittany. The nearer and nearer she got the thicker the blood pumped through her veins, her whole body slowing her trying to repel what fate could be within ten or fifteen more steps.
Five steps in front of her car, Santana stopped trudging and tried to gauge the look on Brittany's face. She wasn't crying or holding all of the tension in a furrowed brow and that reassured her a little. But she knew it wouldn't matter until she would open her beautiful mouth and say something that she would be completely at ease.
"So in California, is it illegal to have dolphins as pets? Because I mean you could just keep them in the ocean right?"
Santana's throat constricted as she interpreted the coy question as an extinguisher of her fears. Brittany passed. She passed. It ran through her mind like a blinding marquee and she rushed forward, crawling onto her car and grabbing her around the middle, pulling her into a bone-crushing hug. Brittany giggled and kissed the side of her head, mumbling "I did it" in one relieving sigh.
"I love you so much," Santana babbled through unwanted tears that forced their way out and onto Brittany's shoulder.
Brittany squeezed her hard and kissed her head again. "I know. I love you too."
That night Breadstix was packed to the walls with kids out with their parents celebrating the night before graduation. Occasionally Breadstix's popularity bothered Brittany to the point that she would rather hang out at the McDonald's down the street with all the middle school kids, but her and Santana's parents never wanted to settle for simple fast food and in Lima there wasn't much else to choose from.
They arrived with Anna and Tony since they ended up curled in Brittany's bed after school for a couple hours to relieve the stress both of them had felt through the duration of her test. She was really proud of herself for passing the retest with an eighty and the unwavering smile on Ms. Hagburg's face as she scribbled the score and circled it with a bright green marker meant that she'd even impressed her teacher. Santana, as always, didn't care much for the actual score with the knowledge that she had raised her grade, and proceeded to burst into her third round of tears at the sight of the test. Her mom even had a fresh batch of cookies waiting for them when they got home and she figured Santana must have sent her a text before they got home—the engulfing hug from her father tipped her off just a bit too.
Anna suggested Breadstix with the Lopez's and that's how she ended up being pushed into a chair against the wall by Santana who she guessed wanted to sit on the end where her mom and dad would be. Victor and Maria were coming from work, or so she'd been told, and they texted Santana to go ahead and order without them in case they got held up for any reason. The disappointed scowl on Santana's face when she read that text out loud in the car made Brittany a little wary of the dependency she had learned to place in Santana's parents since their relationship had apparently strengthened. She didn't want to have to watch Santana frown into a plate of spaghetti for the entire night because they didn't show up.
"So graduation," Tony said, his smile gleaming across the length of the table.
"Yep, graduation," Santana retorted, giving Brittany a placating smile.
"That means a huge 'rager' soon, right? That's a little more exciting than a piece of paper," he joked. Anna gave him a sidelong glare.
"Unless the piece of paper is an invitation," Brittany amended.
Santana laughed and took a sip of her water, shaking her head the whole time.
Tony turned to his wife and gave her a pitiful stare. "She doesn't even have her diploma and she's already smarter than me. What are we going to do at Christmas? She'll be a genius."
A hand slipped into hers under the table and Brittany gazed over at Santana.
"She is a genius."
A high pitched voice joined the table and Brittany glanced over to see her sister tugging a chair next to Tony and Anna while Maria picked the chair next to Santana.
"Yuck, are they always gross at dinner," Chrissy asked.
"Only when Santana gets something stuck in her teeth," Tony taunted, earning himself another glare.
"Sorry, I had to some trouble getting this monster from her gymnastics class" Maria said as she ran her hand through Chrissy's hair. "She looks so much like Brittany when she was that age, it's crazy."
"Ew," Chrissy pushed her hand away. "Don't say that."
"What's wrong with how I look," Brittany asked, seriously concerned. Maybe Santana needed her eyes checked.
"Absolutely nothing," Santana bit back. "At least you don't look like a cabbage patch kid."
"I do not!"
"Seriously, you would think the two of them are sisters," Anna complained, placing a hand over Chrissy's mouth. "Shh, you don't look like cabbage patch doll—not entirely."
Brittany laughed watching her mom try to restrain Chrissy from bursting out of her seat in agitation and barely caught the image of a silent conversation going on between Santana and Maria. She didn't have to guess that it had to do with Victor's absence at the table but that didn't mean she wanted to get involved. Parents were still a touchy subject for Santana even after how supportive they had been with the two of them being outed; nothing made up for their nonexistence in a large chunk of her memory, or that's at least how she had explained it to Brittany.
Watching her mom kiss the side of Chrissy's head and remembering the family mall trips and vacations her family had taken together started to make her feel bad. All of Santana's vacations were for business trips with her mom or dad and most of the time they left her to spend time and money by herself how she pleased. The only exposure she had ever had to true, family time came from spending it with her own family, being included on the rare Pierce game night or at dinners that she knew Anna had pushed on Maria. Brittany started to piece together what made Santana the way she was in that moment, recognizing that when there weren't people around to make her feel good and safe—people who weren't home when she got back at three in the morning or showed up to dinner—she would expect that out of everyone.
Brittany didn't want her to feel like that, ever. She wanted to end the silent staring match between the present Lopez's to explain that she wouldn't ever leave Santana waiting at a dinner table or awake at night listening for the front door to open. She wanted Victor to show up and walk down the crowded aisle of Breadstix explaining that he left his wallet at home and that's why he was so late, not because he couldn't break away from a drink after work as she had overheard her mom say to her dad one night on the way home. He'd been so good about showing up, about being there; Brittany didn't want him to revert and take back all of the progress he'd made with his daughter who appreciated every second of his presence. Especially not on the eve of their graduation, which she knew made all the difference to Santana.
But halfway through dinner, and after her dad had proposed a toast to the combined success and prosperous futures she and Santana had forged for themselves, when he still never showed up, Brittany wanted to do more than keep her hand in Santana's lap for comfort. She wanted to kiss her cheek and neck and shoulder to show her that she understood that it meant a lot for him to be there but it was okay that he hadn't.
All she did instead was lean over and whisper into Santana's ear, "Stay with me tonight, okay?"
Santana turned to her and nodded wistfully, with a lingering smile from when Tony had blown bubbles into his soda enough for it to erupt over onto Anna's plate. "Of course."
Santana always believed body heat worked more wonders than central heating so when Brittany suggested just cuddling, she did her best to take off her clothes in a non-seductive way. When that didn't work, they tried their best to be quiet in the still, sleeping house and worked their way down into spooning. There was something different in the way Brittany held her hand on top of her stomach and how she was almost trying to compress their bodies into one form from behind with a tight grip. Instead of questioning it, she sunk back against Brittany and let the warmth overpower her and lull her into a haze.
One kiss landed against her shoulder after a moment and she relaxed the muscle it grazed instantly, loving the tender contact.
"I love you so much I can't stand it," Brittany mumbled into her skin.
She smirked at the implication and pressed her hips back into Brittany's abdomen.
"Can't stand what?"
"I won't leave you at dinner, S. I won't. Ever."
The statement caught her off guard and instead of responding, or turning into a conversation she still felt a little raw about having, she didn't say anything and tried to push her acceptance out of her own body into Brittany's mind. She knew that Brittany understood how she felt; it wasn't fun complaining about it over and over again.
"You can trust me, Santana. Always."
Santana sighed. "I do, Brittany."
"It's not the same though, right? You wanted him there tonight."
It wasn't a question that she needed to answer.
"He might have had a super hard surgery."
Santana sighed again.
"You don't have to make excuses for him, Britt. I just really wanted to see that he cared about me accomplishing something. If he doesn't show up tomorrow…I…"
"He'll show up. I promise."
"Don't make promises for my family, B."
There was another kiss after a moment's pause and then Brittany had her nose buried into her neck, breathing in.
"I'm your family, right?"
"I'm going to show you how family is supposed to be, Santana, I swear. And if we ever have kids, they'll know too. I want you to feel loved and special and important. I don't want you to ever feel alone ever again."
It was too much to hear all of her doubts reaffirmed in Brittany's concern. She didn't want that to be a burden she ever felt like she had to bear. That time, she twisted in Brittany's arms, tugging loose and cupping Brittany's face in one swift motion.
"Brittany, I love you. You make me feel all of those things just by walking into the room. You are my family. Okay? I'm not missing anything because you'll always be my best friend and the girl I love. You don't have anything to make up for anyone, okay?"
"I love you."
Santana pulled Brittany's face closer and pressed their noses together. "I know, and that's the best feeling in the world. It makes the rest of the bad ones go away."
"Santana…" Brittany stared into her, hard. "We're going to start a life together soon."
She smiled at the determination in Brittany's words. "Yeah?"
"Are you ready for that?"
Santana laughed and pecked Brittany's cheek and forehead a few times, her fingers tickling bare hips creating a struggle in the small bed.
"Why? Are you backing out on me already?"
After a large lunge away, Brittany huffed. "After all I've been through trying to get into AMDA? Yeah right. I don't even care if you're going anymore," she joked.
"Rude!" Santana shoved her away until she almost fell off the bed and then fought to keep her close after seeing the panic-ridden face she'd incited.
"Abuse," Brittany growled, forcing Santana back. She pounced on top of her and pushed the arms fighting her away enough to drop down and settle on top of Santana comfortably. "I'm really ready, Santana. You don't even know."
"We still have to walk across the stage tomorrow."
"Do we really, though?"
Santana rolled her eyes and wrapped Brittany up, gliding her fingers through the long hair falling across her bare skin. "No, but we should."
"Let's worry about that in the morning."
"Whatever you say, babe."
Brittany reached down and grabbed a blanket from the bottom of the bed, pulling it up and over the both of them. Santana could have cared less with her living, breathing blanket keeping her warm enough to drift off to sleep again.
From the crowded gymnasium filled with the senior class and parents on bleachers, Brittany tried to force the tears from her eyes. She knew if she missed the moment Santana crossed the stage she would hate herself forever. Principal Figgins stepped back to the microphone and read Santana's name from the list as the girl herself waited patiently at the bottom of the steps. Brittany took her in fully, grinning without abandon, and silently prayed that years of cheerleading sneakers wouldn't take away her ability to function on heels—even if Santana wore heels at every chance she had. Figgins handed Santana the diploma book and she smiled out at the gymnasium, finding Brittany's eyes as she waited in line for her turn. Her turn to prove her accomplishments, her achievement.
She smiled back, watching the flash of a camera go off from one row of the bleachers and turning to see her parents, Maria, Chrissy, and Victor dropping the camera from in front of his face to see his daughter take the final steps across the stage. Brittany found Santana again and nodded her head towards the bleachers.
When she saw Santana take in the image of her father, Brittany's heart could have exploded with joy—and she hadn't even received her diploma yet. Nothing felt better than seeing that joy in her girlfriend's eyes, not even a piece of paper.