Brittany will be eighteen years old in two months, but Santana still comes to her window like they're just naughty kids in middle school.
"Hey," Santana says as Brittany pulls the window open, the yellow light from her bedroom spilling out into the indigo night.
Santana could come in the front door if she wanted—Brittany's parents never mind it when Santana stays over, even on school nights; they say that Santana's their "good daughter" and joke about how she's more help around the house than Brittany is, which is kind of true, mostly because Brittany lets it be—but Santana seems to like the window, for some reason.
(Brittany thinks it's for the kisses.)
Brittany can almost feel Santana smiling before she sees it. Sure enough, there's the grin, revealed when Santana emerges from beneath the shady boughs of the buckeye tree, scooting cautiously along the branch to the window. Santana sets her elbows on the sill and waits the way she wouldn't in the old days, allowing Brittany to lean in first, which Brittany does.
"Hey, you," Brittany says. Their foreheads touch together, Santana still outside and Brittany in. Santana feels summer-warm and radiant, even with the evening air around her so cool. It's like she keeps the afternoon heat in her skin, like she's August all over. She grins at Brittany and Brittany grins back; they're such dopes sometimes. After a minute, Brittany asks, "San, why don't you come in through the door? Why the window every night?"
Santana shrugs. She doesn't pull away, like she would have done last year. She mulls. When she answers, she's shy, and Brittany thinks it's adorable: "I dunno. I kinda think it's romantic. Don't you?"
And this is the part where they kiss.
Santana's kisses used to be nothing but secrets.
They used to feel a little desperate, like having a lot of important words to say but not much time to say them in. They were always, always sweet, sometimes hot, and sometimes they tasted like something Brittany couldn't quite name; for a while, she thought it was the menthol in Santana's cigarettes, then the vanilla in her lip balm, but it wasn't that, not either of those things. It took a long time before Brittany figured out what it was.
Santana tasted lonely.
The flavor was strongest on nights when Santana came to Brittany after she'd already been with Puck or one of the other guys—or worse, when Brittany came to Santana after she had already been with Artie. Brittany tried her best to kiss it away, but somehow it always came back.
Sometimes Santana kissed angry, not at Brittany, but at something just over Brittany's shoulder that Santana could see but Brittany couldn't; Brittany checked for it once when they kissed in front of a mirror, but all she saw was their reflection: two girls with their mouths and noses pressed together, falling into each other, perfect fit.
Now their kisses are not-so-secret secrets and Santana doesn't kiss angry anymore.
Santana tells Brittany everything, and Brittany listens, smiling as they press their lips together.
Tonight, Santana's kiss tastes like vanilla lip balm and something just a little bit silly; Brittany can already tell they're going to laugh a lot before they go to bed. There's no fear, only thrill in this one. It makes Brittany feel lightheaded, like when she drinks really fizzy soda through a straw.
Santana must feel dizzy, too, because when she pulls away, she looks kind of punch drunk. She smiles and says, "Mhm. Kisses like that could make a girl fall out her tree, Britt."
"Don't fall, San. I'm pretty sure you don't come with a warranty."
Santana laughs, charmed. "Are you gonna invite me in?"
Brittany smirks. "I dunno. I think you might have to convince me."
Tentative, Santana inches a little bit further down the branch, which bows beneath her weight, more supple at the end than it is at the middle. She readjusts her elbows on the windowsill, her forehead still pressed against Brittany's, and leans in for another kiss, this one nowhere near fizzy, but fireworks instead. If Brittany were the one in the tree, this kiss would definitely make her fall out of it.
Santana pulls away, smug.
"What do you say, Miss Pierce? Does that warrant an invitation?"
Brittany just grabs Santana, one hand under her arm, the other at the back of her neck, and yanks Santana over the threshold, up into the room. "Woh!" Santana says as Brittany drags her hips across the window molding, struggling to get her knees out from under her as Brittany hustles her into the house. They land on the carpet, tangled and laughing, but still upright, already too close and kissing again, sloppily, nothing graceful but everything fun about it. Brittany keeps her hands on the back of Santana's neck, Santana's warmth seeping into her fingers, rising.
After a few messy kisses, Brittany laughs into Santana's mouth and pulls away. "Hi, Santana," she says sweetly.
Santana grins, looking dizzier than ever. She must forget herself for a second, because she says, "When we have a house, all our windows have to really open. None of this 'screens in them' shit, huh, Britt?" and it's like she doesn't even realize it—like she doesn't know that she's just told Brittany more than she ever has before.
Suddenly, Brittany's the one who feels warm all over. She feels like she's been dancing all day, running grand jetés across the length of the studio until everything in her soars and swoops and she can feel the motion in her pulse. A year ago—or even a few months ago—Santana never would have said something so open and hopeful, and especially not sealed with a kiss, not without catching herself.
Brittany wants to ask Santana a thousand questions, but she knows she can't make a big deal about this now. She just nods and smiles. "Yeah, always open, San. Just like for Peter Pan."
It feels like a promise.
And Santana must be okay with that, because she laughs and nods in kind, giving Brittany a little squeeze around the waist. After that, they start getting ready for bed, changing into their summer pajamas—gym shorts and baby tees, not much else—and discussing the new cell phone Santana wants to buy before school starts and how Brittany's lyrical jazz instructor just asked Brittany to help choreograph one of the numbers for the senior showcase scheduled for October.
Brittany's prediction comes true: they do laugh a lot tonight, and especially when Santana accidentally puts her t-shirt on backwards first because she's too busy pulling goofy faces at Brittany to pay attention to what she's doing. It's just sort of perfect them, and pretty soon they're lying on the bed, rubbing circles in each other's palms, the television set on low, mumbling from the dresser, all the lamps dim except for the one on Brittany's nightstand. Dull, yellow-gray light permeates the room.
Santana smoothes a lock of hair away from Brittany's face. "You look so good with your bangs grown out, Britt," she says, considering Brittany's face with reverent admiration. "Like, really grown up."
Right then, Brittany makes a goal to get in five more kisses before they fall asleep.
Just a flush, lower lip to upper, more a nudge than anything.
Something catches Brittany's eye. "And you have a leaf in your hair," Brittany says, teasing the offending buckeye star away from Santana's scalp by its stem. "These things look like pot," she says, flicking it away.
"Britt, don't throw that on the floor."
"Too late." A pause. "Maybe we could try to sell some to Puck someday. He wouldn't know the difference."
They both laugh before Santana's face changes, scrunching. "Ugh," she groans, even though her tone is still light. "Do we really have to go to cheer camp already next week? Remind me why we're doing this again, please."
Brittany shrugs. "It'll be fun." Santana gives her a look. Brittany caves, "Well, okay, it won't be fun exactly—but we're kinda gourmets for punishment, you know?"
Santana sits up enough to give Brittany a peck on the lips. "God, be cuter, Britt, okay?"
Silence sits between them, different than the weird, heavy silence from last year, when Brittany was with Artie, different than the too-much-too-little silence from the year before that, when Santana kept so many secrets that she was almost sick with them. Better, different. Santana's eyes close and for a second Brittany worries that they won't make it anywhere near five before Santana falls asleep, but then Santana speaks again, her voice only barely louder than a whisper. "I'm not ready for school. I'm not ready for it to not be summer anymore."
Brittany knows Santana's talking about something bigger than new notebooks and the return of homework and the shift to colder weather. She gives Santana another kiss, this one deeper than the last few.
"You don't have to do it right away, San," Brittany reminds her. "It's okay." Santana starts to say something, but Brittany cuts her off. "When you're ready, we'll do it together."
Santana sighs, deep, from the bottom of her lungs. She scrunches her eyes closed tighter for a moment. She swallows, then looks up at Brittany. "Britt?"
"Te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras, secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma."
The Spanish seems to jolt Santana. Her eyelashes flutter like butterfly wings. "What?" she says, heat rising from her skin, even more than when Brittany first opened the window to her tonight. Brittany's body soaks in Santana's warmth the same way Lord Tubbington's blankets do when he curls up in them fresh off a sunbeam nap.
Brittany shrugs. "It reminds me of you."
"Where did you—?"
"I read it in somebody's Facebook quotes."
Santana looks a little flustered, almost windswept, even though they're inside. She sits up on her elbows to get a better look at Brittany, her lips parted, heat radiating from her skin in waves. "And you memorized it?"
Brittany smiles. "How did I do? Did I say it right?"
"You said it perfect."
Brittany nods. "Good. I like Spanish because it doesn't have silent letters. Everything just says its name." Santana still seems a little star-struck. Brittany knows she had better explain. "There was an English translation under it," she admits, laughing.
They kiss a lot after that, but Brittany only counts it as one, because all the kisses mean the same thing: te adoro, which is what Santana whispers along with Brittany's name when she pauses for breath.
It's only barely a pause, though.
Finally Brittany says, "We've got to stop. I told Tina I'd go running with her tomorrow. I need to sleep."
Santana doesn't stop, though. She presses more kisses into the corners of Brittany's mouth, nibbling at her bottom lip. "I'll kiss you to sleep," she mumbles against Brittany's skin.
"San," Brittany says. "You can't."
"Because... my heart beats so fast when you kiss me, I won't be able to sleep a wink."
Santana slides down and rests her head on Brittany's chest just below her collarbone. She listens carefully for a few seconds before her hands begin to trace down Brittany's sides, stopping at the hem of her shirt, which Santana tugs up to expose Brittany's navel.
Santana sits up and grins wickedly. "Well, what if I do this?" she says, mischief in her voice as she begins to draw a slow circle around Brittany's bellybutton with one finger. "Does your heart beat too fast when I do this, too?"
It does, but Brittany doesn't say so. Instead, she pretends not to even feel it. She's good at this game, better than Santana. "Nope," she says, smiling. "Not at all. Let's go to sleep, San."
Santana thumbs at Brittany's hipbones. She makes an "Are you kidding me?" face. Brittany keeps totally still, even though Santana's touch tickles a lot. She waits for Brittany to say something, but Brittany doesn't.
After a minute, Santana laughs. "God! And people say I'm the bully, Brittany Susan Pierce! You—are—such—a—tease!" she punctuates every word with a kiss to Brittany's stomach through her shirt. Brittany closes her eyes and concentrates on keeping her breathing even.
It still doesn't count as five yet.
"Are you really serious?... Brittany, are you really serious? Are you asleep?"
Santana leans over Brittany's face, her hair brushing over Brittany's cheeks, tickling her. She presses in really close to Brittany, so close that Brittany can smell the real scent of Santana's skin under her perfume, bright and warm and somehow earthy.
When she speaks next, she whispers. "It's okay, Britt. I'll still be here when you wake up."
"I'm not asleep yet," Brittany says finally, opening her eyes. She finds Santana staring back at her; the closeness makes Brittany giggle. "But I wanna sleep, so how about we see what happens in the morning?"
Santana seems to catch her meaning.
Something flares behind her eyes. "Okay."
"Okay," Brittany returns, ushering Santana off of her and onto the mattress. They both stand and scamper into the bathroom, Brittany after Santana, flipping on the fluorescent lights around the vanity. As they brush their teeth, Brittany knocks their hips together, shaking her ass and giggling. Santana looks over at her, grinning at Brittany around a mouth full of foam; Brittany has never felt so adored in her life.
"Goofball," Santana says, only the word sounds all squished around her toothbrush.
Brittany laughs and spits into the sink. She could really, really get used to this.
Back in the room, Brittany untucks her blanket from the corners of the bed. As she does so, Santana opens the covers, peeling them back before wriggling herself in. She holds the blanket open for Brittany, propped on her side, waiting. Brittany feels something then—something about how they've done this all before, but they'll do it all again, they'll keep doing it forever.
It's her turn to smile wickedly now. Santana catches her eye just before Brittany takes a running leap onto the bed, landing next to Santana, the mattress bouncing in protest of her weight. She burrows under the blanket, her long legs wrapping around Santana's. Santana reaches over and clicks off the lamp, settling the room into darkness.
"Goofball," she says.
"Sweet dreams, Britt."
Santana wraps an arm around Brittany's waist from behind. At the last second, Brittany rolls over, turning into her, the contours of their bodies fitting into each other. They both sigh and adjust to the mattress.
"If Coach Sylvester is too terrible, we can always quit again," Brittany says after a minute. She's so close to Santana that her breath reverberates off Santana's face.
"Mhm," Santana mewls, sleepy.
Brittany laughs. "I thought you wanted to stay up, San."
"Mhm," Santana mewls again.
Brittany kisses Santana's cheek, because she's too damn cute.
"Scholarships, though," Santana says finally.
"I have academic decathlon for that," Brittany shrugs, stroking the Santana's forearms with her thumbs.
"I know you do, smarty-pants," Santana says. Brittany flushes, low, sweet warmth spreading over her cheeks. She loves it when Santana calls her that.
Santana goes silent then, and Brittany knows what she's thinking about, even though Santana doesn't say anything aloud. They discussed the possibility that Santana might have to pay for her own college over orange popsicles on the back stoop a few weeks ago. Santana just kept saying, "It's their money and once they know...," and Brittany felt so much concern and pride and love for Santana that she thought she might start sobbing from it, but she didn't; neither one of them did. They just discussed it all like adults, not feeling like naughty middle school kids for once.
Santana doesn't bring up what they said now because they already have their plans in place, but Brittany knows she still worries about everything because that's just Santana. Brittany can feel Santana's heartbeat fluttering in her chest. Brittany shrugs a little and says, "Well, if we have to quit Cheerios, I'll just take the academic decathlon scholarship for me, then I'll pay your way myself."
"I have a college fund. And I could get a job."
"Maybe I could work as a cat whisperer or something. I'm really good at that," Brittany smiles into Santana's cheek.
"You're awesome at that, Britt."
Santana shuffles against Brittany, pulling her into a tight embrace. Her hair brushes over Brittany's shoulders. Even though Brittany can't see Santana through the dark, she can tell that she's smiling. "You're my favorite everything, Brittany," Santana says quietly.
"I love you, San."
"I love you, too."
Brittany forgets to count the fifth kiss and the sixth and the seventh and eighth.
Even though their hearts beat fast, they kiss each other to sleep.