Title: New Day and Age

Pairing: Rachel/Santana

Rating: M

Prompt: Use this sentence to begin a story: "Sometimes a girl just needs to run."

Synopsis: Santana shows up drunk after graduation at the nearest house, and that just happens to be Rachel Berry's. An unlikely alliance is formed, and an even more unlikely bond results.

A/N: Lyrics from "Neon Tiger" by The Killers. Thank you to everyone who reviewed my other Pezberry one-shot, Little Encounters. Someone had mentioned that there's not enough Pezberry fanfic out there and while I'm a big Faberry shipper, I agree there could be a lot more Pezberry. I think largely the difficulty comes from bringing two strong personalities together - but anyway, this is at the request of people who wanted more Pezberry. Note: it is NOT a continuation of Little Encounters.

###

Prologue

###

Sometimes a girl just needs to run. Santana wasn't usually the type to give in to her 'flight' instincts, but something about the mixture of alcohol and sorrow had yielded these results. Earlier that evening, she had been drinking at Puck's to celebrate their recent graduation. It was the middle of May, and the humidity was nearly unbearable. The Latina didn't know if she could attribute her nausea to alcohol, humidity, or the fact that Brittany had made it clear that the dream of 'them' would never happen.

So Santana was running as fast as she could. She had amazing balance for a very drunk person - she'd had practice. The Cheerio had come to school intoxicated more than once, but that wasn't a fact she advertised. She didn't advertise much. As a rule, Santana kept every emotion, thought, and feeling under wraps.

That was why she was running. To escape the emotion overtaking her entire being. For so long she'd invested all her emotions into Brittany, into a future with Brittany. A part of her knew that may not be a reality, but she at one time had hope beyond hope. Not now. She should have known that Brittany couldn't love her the same way. While the blonde was often proud of Santana, and often loving, there was always a feeling of disconnect no matter how much Santana doted on her in her own way. While she wasn't overly romantic and it took a lot of prying to get Santana to open up, she'd tried. She'd tried for Brittany.

So that night, seeing Brittany in Artie's lap and the sad, apologetic look she gave Santana had sent her over the edge. They'd been growing apart in their own way and it was time to accept it was over for the dreams she'd had. Santana didn't know if she was in love with Brittany, but she knew that with all her heart she had loved her. The Latina had devoted her whole heart to a losing cause and bitterly, Santana found herself cursing her own stupidity.

She didn't need anyone. She didn't need Brittany or anyone. They had graduated now and everyone would go their seperate ways and that would be it. After all, how many people really stayed friends with the ghosts of their past? Nobody had ever liked Santana - she'd been one of the Unholy Trinity. Of the three of them, she was the least liked. Mostly because she kept everyone at a distance. Even Q had been soft sometimes, during the whole pregnancy thing.

Santana didn't want to be soft.

###

Part I: Run

Run, neon tiger, there's a lot on your mind

They promised just to pet you, but don't you let 'em get you

Away, away, oh, run

Under the heat of the southwest sun

###

Cement didn't feel like one of those things that you wanted to wake up on, but somehow Santana Lopez found herself sprawled on someone's sidewalk. It was uncomfortable, cold, and her head hurt. Although she couldn't see much of anything, she knew that she'd probably cracked her head on the cement; long story short, she probably shouldn't be falling asleep. She tried to stand, but wobbled trying to push herself up.

"Way to get drunk, Lopez," Santana scolded herself miserably, falling flat on her ass in front of someone's house. It was too dark to tell where she was at; obviously she hadn't made it out of Lima but something told her this area was somewhat familiar, if only in vague blotches of memory. Only one light was on in the house, and Santana was sure she didn't want to get caught loitering drunk and underage in someone's front yard. Not that she had any parents who really cared what she was doing. Rather, her own father was probably passed out on the couch at home with an empty bottle of Jack at his side. She just didn't feel like getting arrested again.

As quietly and as simply as possible, she put all her weight on one leg and pushed herself up on her knee. She wobbled, almost fell again, grumbling to herself. As Santana regained her balance, she brushed long black hair away from her face, started to move - but regretfully in the wrong direction.

Showtunes, somebody was singing showtunes as the front door opened. The figure was carrying a large sack, almost as tall as the girl was. And that voice. The moment she hit a pitch-perfect note, Santana knew. Rachel Berry.

"Aw, Christ," Santana tried to move away from the approaching figure before she was noticed but it was too late. The girl had stopped in her tracks and was probably staring like a fucking scared deer. The Latina continued to stumble away anyway.

"Hello? Are you all right? May I ask why you're in my front lawn?" Rachel inquired, that damn earnest tone in her voice. Santana never understood people like Rachel - people who didn't fight, but welcomed others. She thought of all people, Rachel should be angry at others, fight just as much if not more than Santana. Rachel had taken the brunt of so many emotional beatings and insults.

Santana intended on continuing to walk, but a branch hopped out in front of Santana, and she became familiar with the cold feel of cement.

"Oh my god!" The pitter-patter of shoes and what sounded like knees hitting the grass came to Santana's attention. It really couldn't get much worse.

A warm hand moved underneath her arm and Santana groaned, "Yeah, this really can't get much worse," she rasped with a little bit of a slur. She felt like getting sick, but that would only add to her miserable state.

Rachel seemed to register who the voice belonged to, and drew back for a second as if expecting a flying fist or something equally unpleasant. "San..-tana?"

The hesitation made Santana halt for a second, push herself up, and lean on the shorter girl. "In the flesh."

"Are you drunk?"

"And they said you were the smart one," Santana all but growled and pulled her arm away from Rachel's shoulder - just in time for the diva to reach out and catch her.

The funny thing was, even in her state she could recognize there was a difference in the way Rachel responded to her. Where she had even faced down her biggest enemies - Quinn, namely - she still cowered when it came to Santana. She was always hesitant to approach the Cheerio. Maybe it was because Santana had threatened bodily harm more than a few times over their period of knowing one another, in fact that was probably it, but Santana still found it strange and a little thrilling that she still had power over someone. Even if it wasn't herself, or Brittany, or anyone that mattered. Rachel looked like she was quite honestly afraid of touching Santana. Yet the surprisingly firm grip on Lopez's arm told her that Rachel wasn't going to let her fall and get a concussion.

Speaking of that. Santana felt a wave of nausea. "I need - "

"Santana, I think you're ... I think you're bleeding."

"Great."

And suddenly it was all rushing and pushing and Rachel helping Santana inside before the Latina could even reasonably object. The diva was babbling something about not sleeping and seizures and comas and all Santana could think was that her head hurt and she wanted to lay down. Dizziness overtook her senses and she coughed - one of those coughs that makes you think you're going to lose your lunch. Rachel was gone; when had that happened? Santana was just about to lay down, to hell with what the hobbit told her she could and couldn't do, when Rachel was scooping her up and pushing her against the seat-cushions, propping her up.

Santana phased in somewhere around Rachel's next sentence.

" - mustn't fall asleep, because if you do you'll likely lose consciousness semi-permanently and I think that would be very bad," Rachel was worriedly pulling Santana's hair away from the wound. "Oh, good, it's not too deep but it's still worrisome. Likely you have a minor concussion and it's best not to fall asleep for at least two to three hours," the diva seemed to forget her fear of interacting with Santana as she folded one leg beneath herself, and moved so her thighs were aligned with the side of Santana's.

"Why do you even give a damn? God, I'm not Q, you can't just be nice and expect me to let you."

"I don't believe you have a choice," Rachel insisted quite simply, "and you should know I care about anyone - it doesn't matter who."

"Great so that makes me just like everyone else," the bitterness that spilled out of Santana's mouth tasted like betrayal. Brittany. Quite suddenly and almost violently, Santana pushed Rachel away. The diva let out a squeak and Santana ignored her dizziness. "Fuck this, hobbit. I'll be fine. Leave me alone." The Latina fumed. Brittany. The only person she'd ever trusted. And now Berry was sitting here telling her that she was just like everyone else. Just what she didn't want to be.

Rachel had this annoying way of understanding what was going on with people. And just as Santana made for the door (and nearly took a spill as a wave of nausea washed over her) a pair of arms wrapped around her waist and clung.

Santana tried pushing Rachel away, her stomach coiling tighter and tighter, eyes hot with fury and underlying sorrow. Strong olive-skinned hands pushed at Rachel's, but the diva only held on.

"Please, Santana. I know I'm not your friend, or anything to you, but whatever I've said, I didn't mean it to upset you. I won't risk anyone falling into a coma just because they can't put aside their pride long enough - "

That was it. Santana snapped, smacked Rachel's arms away. "Goddamnit, fuck you, don't you talk about my pride! I've turned over my pride for one.. for one person and you know what? I got shit for it! I got nothing! So don't talk to me about letting go of my pride 'cause that's all I've done for two fucking years, Frodo! You have no idea," Santana's bitterness tasted like venom, and the dam broke inside of her. Santana's head spun and she wouldn't relent to her emotions just yet. "I think I'm gonna be sick," her voice cracked, her tone softened, and for the moment Santana just let herself stay where she was. She could run when she wasn't about to pass out or vomit.

Rachel's warm hands - surprisingly gentle - grasped Santana's arms hesitantly and lead her slowly to wherever the Berry household had a bathroom. The quiet brown eyes observing Santana made the Latina feel as if she had nothing to fear, for the moment. Life taught her that she had everything to fear.

"Is there anything I can get you?" Rachel asked, flipping the bathroom switch and wetting a towel for Santana - just in case.

Santana shook her head, "No, just close the door, Frodo." Defenses up, always up, Lopez. You never get anywhere by letting people in. Britt taught you that much, Santana's inner-dialogue steeled her for Rachel's hurt expression. It only flashed for a second, and then the door clicked shut. Santana's stomach twisted just a little too much and that's when the night officially hit rock bottom.

###

"Do you have mints?" Santana had rinsed her mouth out at least twelve times and chewed a couple sticks of gum but she still felt disgusting. Her forehead was coated in a light sheen of sweat, and Rachel was refusing to let her fall asleep. It had been approximately two hours already but the diva was worried about whether or not Santana could fall asleep. In fact, she'd been practically chewing her nails off since Santana had come out of the restroom. She'd been blackout drunk before - this couldn't be much different.

Rachel snapped out of her worried posture and nodded, "Oh, yes, hang on," she rose and disappeared into the kitchen. Santana rolled her eyes at the sound of wrappers and boxes falling, and Rachel cursing in what little way she did. It took a little bit longer for the diva to reappear, hovering over Santana and helping her sit up. Santana was growing accustomed to the feel of Rachel's surprising strength lifting her into a seated position, the way her hands shifted to adjust to the shape of Santana's hips. The smaller brunette sat in the newly opened space beside Santana and handed her the mints, again examining her headwound.

"Don't you have like .. dads or something? You're always talking about them," Santana was suddenly aware of the fact nobody was home but Rachel. When she'd pictured Frodo's family life it was this gay, picturesque scene where they played the Wii together and board versions of Clue.

"They're away on vacation momentarily," Rachel informed her, scooting away slightly and folding her hands in her lap.

Santana merely nodded, and waited for a moment to lapse before speaking again, "So uh.. how's the head wound?"

"You should be fine. You'll have to be especially careful."

Santana sat back against the cushions and closed her eyes. Damn right she'd have to be careful. She was still fighting waves of nausea and vertigo before the questions came.

"Santana, may I ask you something?"

"Pretty sure that's what you're doing, midget," Santana rolled her eyes, glancing aside quietly and examining Rachel's face. For a hobbit, she wasn't that bad looking. Those silent brown eyes held a lot of unspoken questions. Somehow, Santana felt she knew what Rachel was going to ask. What idiot wouldn't guess it, though?

Rachel hesitated, and Santana saw the girl shove her fists into the couch and turn her gaze to the coffee table; again, that same nervousness she only displayed around Santana. The diva could stand up to everyone except Santana.

"Tick, tock," Santana folded her arms over her chest as she lay her head sideways against the cushions, avoiding her wound. She wanted to close her eyes so bad.

"Why were you drinking?"

"Fuck off."

Rachel fell silent, and out of the corner of her eye Santana could see her fidgeting.

"I don't wanna talk about it."

"I understand."

More silence. Unnerving, grating, deep silence. The kind that made Santana feel as if she were sinking. Her gaze shifted to Rachel, and waited there as if it was going to reveal some kind of insight. Santana's eyes must have looked hard because Rachel glanced over and immediately flinched.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have asked. It's not my place," silent. Rachel, always full of words, seemed to always lack them around Santana. This was becoming more apparent. Either that or she had gotten hit in the head harder than she thought. It was as if a part of Rachel cowered at Santana. That surge of control gave Santana a good feeling, even now as she felt a bit of guilt.

"It's fine," Santana bit, although she wanted to be softer. "Can I sleep yet?"

Rachel looked hesitant, and reached over to touch Santana's head. The Latina felt soft fingers running through her thick locks, reaching the wound. She flinched a little and Rachel responded by pulling away. "You should be okay. This may sound strange but I don't know if you should be falling asleep without supervision," Rachel suddenly looked away. She seemed to avoid Santana's gaze at all costs.

"Fine, just let me sleep and don't do anything creepy, troll," Santana grumbled silently and lay down. She felt Rachel shift slightly to allow room for Santana's legs. As the brunette guided a pillow gently under her head, the Latina was reminded of what it felt like when she'd been sick and Brittany had taken care of her. All gone now. She felt a sting, and slammed her eyelids shut, hoping Rachel wouldn't notice her weakness.

###

When Santana awoke it was daylight, and she felt a peculiar pressure against her thigh. It wasn't until she looked around and saw photographs on the wall that she remembered where she was. The Latina moved a little, felt the pressure shift and heard a quiet groan. Rachel had apparently fallen asleep on her - her brown hair was splayed over Santana's thigh and Rachel's hand was cupping the curve of Santana's knee. There was something about how it felt that made her temporarily forget her growing distress from the previous events of the night. And then her phone vibrated in her pocket. The clock across from the couch read 4:43 a.m. Way too fucking early. Rachel didn't wake at the sound of Santana's vibrating phone, but she did shift closer and press her head more insistently against Santana's thigh.

Where r u? R u safe? - B.

I'm fine - S

I still want us to be friends. ur my best friend san - B.

You're going away to school anyway, it doesn't matter - S

It matters - B.

it used to - S

It took a few moments of hesitation for Santana to decide what she was going to do. Knowing Brittany, she'd persist in getting a hold of Santana. What Santana needed to do was disappear in some way. If she was going to be friends with Brittany, she needed time to process everything she was feeling. The girl sighed, scrolled through the security options, and reluctantly selected the 'block' function. Frowning, she turned off her phone and settled back against her pillow. A hand stroked her thigh gently, and for a moment she thought Rachel was just reacting to something in her sleep, but a voice croaked sleepily at her.

Serenely, Rachel blinked at the Latina. Those maple brown eyes searched Santana's expression in the dark, and Santana only scowled. She let Rachel slip carefully behind her - though normally she would have shoved anyone else away. As the diva's arms slipped around her waist and warmth enveloped her, Santana realized this was the first time she'd ever been the little spoon.

The only reason she didn't balk about Rachel's display of comfort or make a show of being tough was because she was too tired.

Partially, Santana thought it was really nice the way someone else was trying to make her feel safe. She heard a quiet humming near her ear, and Santana closed her eyes.

It was easy to forget that her heart was hurting in that moment. Even though it was Rachel Berry comforting her, the big spoon to her little spoon, Santana found herself pressing back into Rachel's arms and burying her head near the curtain of Rachel's hair, splayed across the pillow they now shared.

###

When Santana awoke a second time, she was alone and it looked to be somewhere around one in the afternoon. Groggily, she sat up and the night before was all but erased from her mind. Santana had one special way of dealing with things - ignoring them.

The only thing that lingered in her mind was that she vaguely remembered Rachel Berry snuggling in behind her on the couch and she had allowed the girl to hold her close. The first time she'd ever been the little spoon was with a girl who was slightly shorter than herself.

On that train of thought, Santana glanced around and wondered where the girl had gone off to. Even though she was totally cool with leaving unannounced, she didn't think Rachel would let her get away with it. Not to mention she probably looked like a mess. The Cheerio rose from her place on Berry's couch and wondered where the girl had gone. The Berry house was spacious and Santana had only been there once or twice before that she could recall.

"Did you want some waffles for breakfast? We don't have a lot of non-vegan foods but I did manage to find something. My dad, Leroy, he's not vegan so we have some things." Rachel's hair was tied back in an uncharacteristic pony-tail and she had what looked to be a little powdered sugar on the side of her nose. In her hands she held a plate with three waffles, topped with whipped cream, syrup, and powdered sugar sprinkled around the plate.

"Uh," Santana blinked, "I mean wow, Berry." The shorter brunette looked so hopeful that Santana hated to tell her 'no' and leave without making it known she at least appreciated Rachel's (undeserved) kindness. Standing awkwardly in the doorway between the kitchen and livingroom, Santana shoved her fingers through her messy hair before nodding simply. "Sure, but then I should uh...you know, go."

Rachel bounced a little on her heels and set the plate down at the table, grabbing a smaller plate for herself with two similarly-made waffles, minus the non-vegan whipped cream and Santana suspected the waffles were some wheat-vegan thing. The Latina knew nothing about how vegans ate. She liked steaks. Big steaks.

Santana made short work of her plate. It turned out Rachel made really good breakfast waffles and it was easy to forget that she was in the kitchen of someone that should dislike her as well as kick her out of her house. Letting out a few Spanish expletives, Santana sighed as she sat back and a wide-eyed Rachel Berry waited for her approval (in English).

"Did you enjoy it?" Rachel had apparently already finished her own plate and cleared it away when Santana had been shoveling waffles into her mouth.

Realizing that Rachel didn't understand her Spanish expletives and her compliments, Santana lapsed back into English, "Yeah, it was really good. Thanks." Again, awkward silence fell and Rachel had gone back to avoiding Santana's eyes at all costs. Lopez rose carefully from the table and motioned, "I should get going. Thanks for.. you know, making sure I didn't have too bad of a concussion or whatever."

She wasn't good at this whole thing. Maybe that's why Brittany had never loved her as much as she had loved her best friend. Santana glanced down as she watched Rachel nod simply from her seat.

The Latina was disappointed in herself as she turned around and left without another word; she only left Rachel with a glance at the doorway, where maple brown eyes flickered to the empty table.

Rachel wouldn't have been any different than anyone else. She'd leave just like the rest of them, and Santana would be stuck in Lima Heights alone.

###

Hands shoved in her pockets, Santana really had nowhere to be. From what she'd heard over the past two weeks, Brittany and Artie had left for college. So had everyone else in her social circle. She'd assumed everyone else was gone as well, that's why Lopez hadn't been expecting Rachel Berry to run into her with a coffee in her hand. Who drank coffee when it was 85 degrees out?

It had nearly spilled all over Santana but somehow Rachel managed to keep the coffee glued to her hand, "Oh my gosh! I'm so sor-Santana?"

The Latina blinked, arched an eyebrow. Why was Rachel getting coffee from the Cuban place in Lima Heights? Not only was the diva out of place but she was still in Lima. Halted in her steps and her thoughts, she saw Rachel's eyes darting everywhere but Santana's face. "I mean, this is my barrio. You can't have expected to see me in Q's old neighborhood."

Wearing jeans and a black beater, Rachel also looked incredibly out of character in a sense. Granted, it was probably safer not to dress like a school girl in a neighborhood with way too many older Cuban men with fetishes, but Santana didn't think Rachel even owned a pair of jeans.

Secondly, Rachel looked really good in that beater. She'd always worn those ugly sweater-vest things and Santana had never realized that the diva had a completely flat stomach. Her dark eyes - truth be told nearly black - scanned over Rachel's form before she realized she was basically ogling the shorter diva. "So uh, why are you in Lima Heights? And why aren't you in New York?"

"Oh, I can't afford New York just yet. While I have a five-year goal, I'm spending this first year working at home and saving money. Not to mention I'm taking a few classes that need to be completed before I can start applying to the larger universities," Rachel sipped her coffee, made a pleased expression, and glanced at Santana.

"Oh."

Rachel nodded a bit awkwardly. "I'm sorry for nearly," she gestured to Santana's shirt, "spilling coffee all over."

The Latina took in her own clothing and scoffed. It's not like coffee stains would have wrecked much. She was wearing black workout shorts, running shoes, and a black sweater. Down the street, Santana could hear the familiar sounds of Reggaeton being played outside one of the barbershops, a few patrons smoking cigars outside of the doorway. "It's fine. You really shouldn't be in this neighborhood, though."

Rachel looked vaguely offended. "I get my coffee from Mister Manning almost every week, and I've yet to be accosted if that's what you're concerned about." The brunette turned up her nose slightly but Santana noticed a flicker of her gaze, as if the diva had just recalled that she was talking to Santana, someone who wasn't to be tested.

"I've never seen you in Lima Heights," Santana all but grumbled. Mr. Manning, the owner of the Cuban coffee shop, wasn't fond of people outside the Hispanic community.

"It's not as if this is Chicago," Rachel pointed out. "Lima Heights is three blocks from Lima."

Santana scoffed, smirked, and glanced aside. For some reason she couldn't look Rachel in the eyes. She remembered a ghost of warmth, that one moment of weakness at Rachel's house.

Rachel seemed to be remembering the same, because she was bravely searching Santana's face, "How .. have you been?"

"Alive," Santana's tone was slightly sarcastic, but she had a hard time letting her walls down. She felt bad for anyone who might try to get some kind of humanity out of her now. Brittany had ruined all that. She wouldn't allow herself to be sad; that's what emotional barriers were for.

Rachel only watched. Santana's stomach coiled. It was as if the girl knew Santana was masking everything. That irritated Lopez, and she wanted to react with something rude but was at a loss because at some point, Rachel had thought it was okay to touch Santana.

A warm hand encompassed her elbow for a brief second, stroked the sensitive skin of her inner-elbow, and was gone before Santana could react. Those soft, light brown eyes left almost a tangible trail over Santana's face. The Latina gulped and shrugged her shoulders.

"I realize you probably don't like me. I feel we've reached at least a mutual respect in the last four years of high school," Rachel began, and Santana wondered when the shorter girl had stepped close enough for Santana to feel the warmth emanating from Rachel's body. She was talking softly, nearly a murmur, and something about the tone in the diva's voice made Santana shiver. "You're not alone, Santana. If only you knew how important you are, how important you could be. I think it would surprise you to know who's been paying attention and who knows you for who you are."

Santana's defensive reaction was to say something incredibly bitchy, but she couldn't. Rachel's hand had slipped into Santana's pocket and those soft, maple eyes were staring up at Santana's face. The Latina couldn't breathe for some reason. Rachel had tucked something into Santana's front pocket and stepped away before any words could tumble out of Santana's mouth.

Rachel was halfway down the sidewalk when Santana regained her motor functions, slipped her hand into her pocket, unfolded a piece of paper, and read what Rachel had written.

You may never use this, but I hope you do.

Below, signed alongside her name and a star, was Rachel's number. Had the diva actually been flirting with her?

###

It took quite a long time for Santana to even consider using Rachel's phone number or to contact her in any way. When she did, it was because Brittany had sent her a post-card from her new campus. The Latina was torn between finding a building to burn down or crying. While she didn't feel like going to prison for arson charges, she didn't feel like crying either.

So maybe she could investigate what Rachel was up to. Had someone replaced the Rachel Berry she knew with someone who flirted with girls who she was supposed to hate? While there had always been noticeable tension between Rachel and Q, nothing had ever come of it.

For safety's sake, Santana had been avoiding Mr. Manning's coffee shop just in case Rachel were there. However, with her current mood, Santana really didn't want to be anywhere that vaguely reminded her of Britt. Outside of Manning's, the owner and his grandson were playing chess, and a part of Santana had hoped to spot Rachel coming out of the doorway. No such luck.

Fishing the number out of her pocket, she read over the familiar words and entered the number into her phone. Saving it under "Berry," she hesitated. Did she really want to text the diva? She'd shown more than once that she could get under Santana's skin. Yet something about the interaction they'd had not that long ago. Almost a week, and Santana could still remember the way her chest tightened in realizing Rachel was standing far too close and murmuring far too intimately.

It had been an accident, showing up at Rachel Berry's house when she was drunk and distraught. Almost three weeks ago with very little contact since that night. Did she really want to turn this into a voluntary situation?

Yet she couldn't forget the feel of Rachel's hand unexpectedly slipping into her pocket, the way the tips of her fingers had unintentionally - or maybe intentionally - pressed into the muscle of her thigh as Rachel had pulled her hand out. That was interesting, to say the least. An arched eyebrow announced Santana's decision as she opened a new text message and began to text, but before she could do anything, a dialogue popped up already.

I hope you don't mind, I got your number from Quinn. - R*

Weird timing. u talk to Q? - S

Yes, quite frequently. We've reached a mutual agreement of friendship. - R*

Santana felt a strange welling of jealousy in the pit of her stomach. There had always been tangible evidence supporting some kind of attraction between Rachel and Quinn. Santana was pretty sure if the pair had a chance, they would've fucked right on the piano in the choir room.

I was just going to text u - S

Strange timing indeed. I'd like you to come over today, if you want. - R*

What for? - S

Company? - R*

Y the question? - S

I'd just like you to come over. Do I need a reason? - R*

Usually when u invite a former enemy over - S

I was never your enemy and I never considered you mine. - R*

Why did she have to be so damn uppity all the time? She was better than Lopez, Santana was willing to admit that. It didn't mean that Rachel had to prove it over and over again.

K. B there shortly - S

With that, Santana thought maybe it was a good idea to bring something over as a gesture of friendship - or rather a proving of 'betterness.' The Latina made her way across the street to Manning's, stepped inside. She'd never been in here to order coffee for herself before, much less someone else. Lopez cleared her throat and her dark eyes darted about the menu before she spoke up.

"I have a friend who comes in here every week. I don't know what kind of coffee she gets, but I want to surprise her with some. Any chance you know of any regulars and what they drink?" That was a good start.

The girl behind the counter, Manning's niece, nodded. She spoke Spanish, but understood English. In plain words, she asked what the person looked like, so Santana described Rachel to an extent that surprised even herself. Had she really paid that much attention? Of course, it was hard not to notice someone that small with such a big mouth.

And so Santana walked out of Mannings with a decaf (surprising) coffee, just the flavor Rachel liked. Hazelnut. It was somehow fitting. The hot coffee in her hand reminded her just where she was going, and that was strange. Santana let that thought pass, though, and soon she was knocking on Rachel Berry's door voluntarily for the first time. It didn't take long for the door to swing open, and awkwardly Santana held out the coffee - both to prevent an ambush hug and to show Rachel her gesture of thanks, or friendship, or whatever it was going to be. The Latina hadn't decided yet.

Rachel looked surprised, and in her sweatpants and t-shirt she looked like maybe she needed a coffee. Score. The diva took the coffee, sipped at it cautiously, and then spoke, humming in approval, "You didn't need to do that."

Santana shrugged.

"Come in," Rachel gave a sort of lopsided smile, almost a smirk, and bit that bottom lip of hers. Santana did her best not to ogle and stepped through the door, taking note of the way Rachel didn't really move out of the way, or move at all. She'd just stood there, forcing Santana's entrance to be as close as possible, the taller girl's body brushing past the warmth of Rachel's.

When did Rachel Berry become such a flirt?

Santana cleared her throat awkwardly, tapped her hands on her thighs, and glanced around. "Are your dads home?"

"Nope."

Damn.

"What have you been up to this summer? Do you have any plans for school?"

Santana shook her head, and felt a hand on the small of her back for just a second as Rachel slipped by and moved up the stairs, motioning for Santana to follow. She assumed the bedroom was upstairs. That could get interesting, as most bedrooms just had a bed to sit on, and Rachel was clearly not shy about making contact with Santana. Although that night Santana had been drunk and the morning following the diva had been largely demure and afraid to make eye contact, some new boldness had been seeded in Rachel's behavior. Santana had to wonder why that was, or maybe who had encouraged it. "No plans. Haven't been up to much." Drinking, being miserable, playing Call of Duty with her little brother.

Rachel opened the bedroom door and moved inside, waiting patiently for Santana to enter and carefully shutting the door behind her.

"So before we start this whole friendship thing I'm just gonna say that the way you've been acting is really fucking tripping me out, because to put it bluntly, it really feels like you're flirting with me half the time," Santana let the words come freely. After all, as a Lopez she wasn't one to hold back.

A little bit of the old Rachel showed herself as the diva's eyes darted to the ground - but then there was a little laugh, not mocking, but it was there. And Rachel was smirking. Her light brown eyes held the sparkle of one who'd just heard a good joke, "If I was?"

"It really wouldn't make any sense. I mean you and Q had weird tension but you obsessed over the T-Rex and you're this academically success-driven hobbit that has never acted this cool or laid back in all the time I've known you," Santana felt her heart rattling around between ribs like rain-drops through the slats of a vent. Was she panicking? Was Rachel really making her panic a little?

Rachel raised an eyebrow, nodded, and sat down on her bed. Quietly, the diva sipped her coffee. "Indeed, I am quite driven by my desire for success but you've never spent any amount of time with me that would suggest you have any idea what my non-academic interests are."

"Women? Really?"

"My fathers are gay, and thus have shown me that love is not limited by gender, nor is lust or attraction."

Was she telling her that she was attracted to her? Was it just because Santana happened to be the only one here? Maybe it was an attraction of convenience. Lopez frowned and folded her arms, "Look, Frodo," ignoring the look of hurt on Rachel's face, "I'm not just here for your convenience. Just cause I likes the ladies it doesn't mean I'm going to hop in anyone's bed for a very long time. You have no idea the shit I've been through and quite frankly - "

"Shut up," Rachel stated in a polite tone, watching Santana.

Santana blinked.

"For your information, Santana, you're no convenience. In fact, I've gone out of my way to find you this summer, often with no results. It was a happenstance that you ended up on my lawn that night, but it doesn't mean I hadn't been trying to figure out a way to speak with you since our junior year."

"What exactly are you saying?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"Not really."

Rachel hummed and shook her head, sipping her coffee and setting it on the side-table before standing up and closing the distance between herself and Santana. "I see who you are, and I want to know more about her," her voice was too close, too intimate to ignore. Santana remained rooted to her spot, though Rachel was mere inches from herself, and those two hands were gently touching Santana's wrists.

"Don't you think you should've asked if I was even interested in being friends?"

"You're here, aren't you?"

Damn. Damn. Damn. Why did the short shit have to be right all the time? Santana scowled.

"You're lovely, Santana. No one's ever showed you that, but I'd like to. I've wanted to. I know your past doesn't permit you to allow anyone within a circle of trust but I'm convinced I can eventually show you what it is you've deserved from someone you're involved with," Rachel's voice was quiet, the way it might be if she was trying to seduce Santana or the way it might be during a really good round of sex. Santana flushed red, felt heat well up inside of her. Her already dark eyes must have gotten darker, and when she looked up, Rachel's eyes were slightly dilated as well.

And then the diva stepped back, sat down on the bed, reached for her coffee and sipped at it.

"Are you going to sit down?"

Santana swallowed, nodded numbly, and took a seat on the mattress. Not too near Rachel, because she'd be damned if she'd let the diva take control of the situation. Big spoon once or not, it wasn't going to happen again.

Yet here all the cards were laid face-up, staring Santana down. Rachel Berry not only was into girls, but had apparently been into Santana. When the Cheerio had not really thought of or noticed Rachel in all their years, only a few times had she given a lot of attention to Rachel and usually it had been negative. "How did you know I drank Hazelnut decaf?" Humming in pleasure, the diva's question came out with a gentle curiosity.

"I asked Mariela."

Rachel nodded. "Thank you. That was kind of you."

Santana shrugged and dared a glance over. As she met Rachel's eyes, the diva smirked softly and searched Santana's face.

"I'm glad you agreed to come over here. I always thought we would get along well, even before I realized I had an attraction to you."

How could Rachel be so damned blunt about things like that? How could she be so honest? Santana didn't realize it until she felt her face grow hot, but she was almost embarassed to be the object of such attention. Brittany had always done it in an innocent way. Rachel was surprisingly confrontational about her attraction - confrontational in that there was no denying its existence.

"It's okay," it was as if the girl really did have a sixth sense, "I realize you have a bit of hesitation in admitting feelings, much less feelings you consider taboo, but it's just you and me here. Nobody's judging you."

Santana glanced down at the floor. Swallowed. Her tan cheeks flushed. "You could be lying."

"But I'm not."

Lopez glanced over at Rachel, found a soft gaze lingering on her, and suddenly realized that maybe she could trust Rachel. A little. And so for the first time, she relented to that desire to just let her walls down, even if only for a second.

"This coffee is delicious."

And that's where it began. Santana and Rachel sitting on Rachel's bed, with Santana secretly allowing her walls to come down momentarily, while the diva drank coffee. Santana would bring her coffee every week after that, easing herself into a tentative bond while Rachel waited patiently for Santana to realize she wasn't a threat, humming at her coffee all the while.