Ever since the day they decided that, yes, this thing—this awesome just-the-two-of-them, same but different, private, happy thing—that they're doing equals "dating," Santana has decided that she wants to make a list of all the best parts. In this moment, "wearing my girlfriend's comfy sweatshirt" and "Brittany just getting everything" rank at the top of her list, right up there with "kissing just 'cause" and "being together forever and ever (because we're gonna get married someday)."
"I'm so proud of you," Brittany says, leaning over and pressing her lips against Santana's forehead. They sit, kneecaps touching, on Brittany's rug, cross-legged in front of each other, Santana's hands in Brittany's lap, Brittany's hands thumbing at Santana's elbows through Santana's baggy (borrowed) sweatshirt.
It's only quarter to five in the evening, but the sky outside Brittany's window has already melted into that sweet vanilla gloam that means the sun will set soon. Santana breathes deep and closes her eyes into Brittany's kiss; Brittany allows her lips to linger against Santana's skin, just below her hairline. Her kiss feels warm and sure, like a promise, and especially in these last white rays of afternoon brightness. Santana reaches forward and sets her hands on Brittany's hips, feeling her steadiness, the security of her.
After a long moment, Brittany mumbles "Okay?," mouth still touching Santana's skin, and Santana checks herself.
Is she okay?
Only three hours have passed since it happened.
Last year, she would have still been in tears, at this point. Last year, she would have still been swearing vengeance and bloody murder up and down. She would have been sobbing, hysterical, a fucking mess. But right now? She just feels kind of jittery—like her heart beats on bird's wings. Her breath rattles slightly, but her body remains steady, anchored to Brittany.
"Yeah," she says, and she's not lying.
It's not the way she would have chosen it, but she isn't going to fight it now.
(She hopes—wishes—that maybe she might actually own it instead. Fingers crossed.)
Of course, Santana feels ashamed about how it all happened, so much so that she tries not to remember the details of it, only the painterly plush and the end result. Knowing that Brittany's proud of her for the way she handled everything helps a lot, but it doesn't change the fact that Santana was just so speechless. If she could redo anything, it would be that. Or maybe the part going in.
(She knows she said too much before and too little afterwards.)
Brittany pets at Santana's cheek and looks at her—really looks at her, like she's trying to see something at the bottom of a streambed through the fleet, sleek water—and seems to like what she finds. She probably knows that Santana still feels scared about tomorrow and how everything will be, but she also knows that Santana will try her best to deal with whatever happens.
She knows that Santana is trying her best.
So "the look that Brittany gives me that makes me feel like I'm the best thing just about ever"? That's definitely at the top of the list. Right then, with Brittany smiling at her, Santana decides that she's not going to let what happened at school with him ruin the rest of the evening for them; she's not going to let it ruin anything anymore. She won't even think of it again until she has to.
"Pillow fort?" Brittany ventures, nodding towards her bed, which they've already mostly denuded. A heap of pillows and blankets towers over the mattress, momentarily abandoned when Santana suddenly blurted out her story and Brittany said "Oh, honey" and wrapped Santana up in a hug before Santana could even decide if she wanted to cry about it or not.
(She did, but the tears didn't last for too long.)
("Brittany's hugs" are always a top pick and they have been since before Santana even came up with the idea to make a list.)
"Yeah," Santana says, really smiling now. The fluttery fear feeling retreats, replaced instead by the quick Brittany, Brittany, Brittany thrill that Santana's always felt whenever they're in the same room together, but only just started to enjoy last year. She's pretty sure that feeling is at least in her top twenty. No ten. Three? Maybe higher.
They stand, Brittany pulling Santana to her feet with a strong tug, and Brittany gathers up most of her bedding into one big ball before Santana can even offer to help. Brittany looks silly—no, adorable—no, perfect with so many quilts and pillows puffed out in front of her, hiding her face.
"Let me take something," Santana laughs, reaching out to grab the nearest quilt.
"No, I got it," Brittany says, voice muffled behind all the batting as she jerks away. A single throw pillow drops from the top of the pile to the floor with a thunk. A pause. "You can carry that."
Santana's pretty sure that "Brittany being the most fucking adorable thing on the face of the planet when she acts all stubborn like this" jumps to the top of the list just then.
"Okay, goofball," Santana says, rolling her eyes as she stoops to retrieve the pillow from the floor. "Will you at least let me get the door for you?"
"Sure thing, jellybean," Brittany sings and Santana can hear the smile in her voice, even though she can't see Brittany's face. Santana smiles herself. She probably looks like an idiot, but she doesn't care; this "forever falling and never just fallen in love with Brittany S. Pierce" feeling might be her exact favorite thing, if she thinks about it. Brittany walks past Santana, shuffling so as not to drop the bedding in her arms, and gives Santana a light kick on the butt with the back of her foot.
"Hey, you," Santana says, not minding at all.
Just "this" might be Santana's favorite-favorite, honestly.
Santana follows Brittany down the hallway, beaming, swinging the throw pillow at her side. The light coming through the window at the end of the hall bleeds into a champagne pink; Santana imagines it spreading over the yard, splaying long shadows behind the swing set, meandering over the fallen buckeye leaves on the drying grass as the sun sinks down somewhere over west Lima. The Pierces smile from the photo portraits lining the wall, trapped in fashions from the nineties and early two-thousands. Santana's hand finds the banister leading down the staircase and she trails Brittany to the first floor, taking two steps at a time.
When she reaches the landing, Brittany stops suddenly. Without turning around, she lifts the bedding in her arms. Santana halts behind her, waiting on the second to last step.
"Piggyback ride," Brittany says, that grin still in her voice.
Now Santana knows that she's smiling like an idiot. Santana approaches Brittany from behind and sweeps Brittany's ponytail over her shoulder, careful not to tug it, before clambering onto Brittany's back, fitting her legs over Brittany's hips.
So "the smell of Brittany's hair" definitely makes the list—and it's high in the rankings, too—always that same, warm sweet pea. And "feeling Brittany's heartbeat against my heartbeat"? That's, like, primo stuff.
Santana can't really link her arms over Brittany's collarbones like she normally would, so instead she just hangs onto Brittany's shoulders by her fingertips. It isn't really a sure grip, which is something Santana only realizes after Brittany cinches up the bedding in her arms, getting a better hold on it, and says "Ready?" in a voice that tells Santana that she's going to run.
"Britt—," Santana says warningly against the shell of Brittany's ear.
It's only like ten steps to the living room anyway, but between Santana's loose grip and the fact that Brittany can't see, they barely make it to the carpet before they peel apart, Santana sliding down Brittany's waist until her feet touch the carpet as Brittany falls forward onto the couch, bedding first, all in slow motion. "Laughing so hard we can't breathe and then kissing while we laugh" might just make it onto Santana's list of all-time greatest hits at this rate; they're getting less and less careful about kissing around Brittany's house nowadays, practically daring somebody to walk in on them.
(Nobody has yet.)
"Mwah!" Brittany says, pulling away from the awkward over-the-shoulder smooch, smacking her lips. She leans into the bedding piled in front of her on the couch, wearing that giddy "I'm so happy" smile that makes Santana feel hot and sweet and bright all over.
Santana paws at the hood on Brittany's sweatshirt. "You fucking dropped me!" she says, grin giving everything away.
"Well, yeah, San, my anti-gravity thrusters totally aren't working today, so."
As they push the couches up against the walls and move the coffee table to the corner, the light coming through the windows changes from a pale grapefruit hue to a bruised purple, painting the glass doors on Brittany's mother's curio cabinet a dusky, passive gray. By the time they manage to prop up all the pillows and blankets into the semblance of a fort, it's dark outside and a quarter past five.
"I think we should have a feast to, like, christen this place," Brittany says, examining their handiwork as they stand, hip to hip, Brittany's elbow on Santana's shoulder, leaning into each other, pink-cheeked and breathless.
"I'm thinking we could maybe christen it a different way," Santana says slyly, hoping Brittany catches her drift.
"After my family goes to Parent-Teacher Night, maybe," Brittany agrees. "But, like, right now, I'm thinking popcorn."
Santana hadn't realized that she wanted popcorn until just this minute. "Brittany being the perfect girlfriend—wait, my perfect girlfriend" shoots to the top of the list. "Oh! Perfect! You are such a fucking rocket scientist, Britty," Santana says and she feels Brittany flush with heat beside her, pleased. They stand there for another second, catching their breath, until they hear footsteps on the stairs.
"What are you guys doing?" says Brittany's little sister, coming up behind them.
"What are you guys doing?" Brittany parrots back in a high voice, poking Santana's ribs.
Santana jumps away, ticklish. "Pillow fort," Santana says, even though it's obvious.
Brittany's little sister slides in-between the two older girls, scrutinizing their work. She always wants to join in with them, whatever they're doing, but she's too proud to let on about it. She scrunches up her nose. "It's kind of small."
"We don't mind," Brittany singsongs. Santana thinks Jesus and wonders how far Brittany will take the joke.
"What are you gonna do in there?" Brittany's sister asks, skeptical.
Brittany giggles and wags her eyebrows at Santana over her sister's head. Santana tries not to flush. "Watch a movie," Santana shrugs. If she makes it sound boring enough, maybe Brittany's sister will lose interest.
"You can't watch; it's PG-13."
"No, it's R."
About that time, Brittany's mother comes up from the basement, a basket of fresh laundry in her arms. "You ready to go see your teacher, honey?" she asks her younger daughter. "It's almost five-thirty, so we've gotta go as soon as Dad gets home."
"What about dinner?" Brittany's sister whines.
"We'll get something on the way. Girls," she nods towards Brittany and Santana, "will you be okay here? There are noodles in the fridge. Or potatoes."
"Yeah, Mom," Brittany says, shrugging.
Brittany and Santana don't actually choose an R-rated movie; instead, they settle on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving because—hello—it's November, and watch it propped up on their elbows with their heads pressed together above the screen, the blanket ceiling over them just an inch above their hair.
When Snoopy starts serving up everyone's plates Frisbee-style, Brittany rolls over and finds a loose pen in the pocket of her sweatshirt. She reaches for Santana's arm and peels back Santana's sleeve until she finds Santana's wrist.
Lately, Brittany and Santana have taken to writing on each other, just secret things that no one else will notice. Their "little love notes"? Pretty much Santana's favorite thing. Brittany starts drawing something just over Santana's pressure point and Santana doesn't check what it is until Brittany pulls the pen away and gives Santana a quick kiss on the cheek.
(About this time, Santana starts to remember that the whole purpose of lists is to put things in some sort of ranked order. Well.)
"A star, Britt?" Santana says, wiggling her fingers, watching as the tendons in her arm move under the drawing like the strings at the back of a baby grand piano. "God, now I feel like Rachel Berry fucking autographed me."
"Gross," says Brittany, scrunching up her nose. She grabs Santana's wrist again and makes a quick revision to her work, changing the star into a flower, rounding the points into petals. "Better, babe?"
"Way better," Santana says stupidly. The part where they can call each other "babe" and "baby" and "sweetheart" now is absolutely at the top of the list tonight. Santana gives Brittany a quick peck on the lips and rebounds, feeling a little dizzy. That's a "best part" for sure, too.
Brittany leans down, close to Santana's arm—so close that Santana can feel her breath, warm and wet, over her skin—and starts writing something close to the flower, her pen strokes so fine that they tickle. Santana flinches. "Don't mess me up!" Brittany says seriously.
"Oh god!" Santana laughs.
They've finished one bowl of popcorn already. It's dark outside the window and dim in the living room, all the inside lights on low. Jaunty piano music plays from the iPad, which spangles color against the blankets and pillows all around them, changing their hideout from green to red to blue, and putting a shine into their eyes. The air inside their little fort is warm and almost stuffy, but somehow Santana finds she can breathe better in here with Brittany than she can anywhere else in the world. Brittany finishes her writing and blows a stream of air onto the ink, drying it, from between flower pink lips. Santana raises her wrist close enough to her face that she can read it and finds the words Love Love Love written all around the outline of the flower in the tiniest version of Brittany's scrawly script that Santana has ever seen.
"You're my favorite," Santana blurts out. "Like, my favorite-favorite everything."
"Yeah?" Brittany says, perking up. She looks over at Santana, her pretty cat eyes curious, illuminated by the bright light from the movie screen. She smiles as if she hasn't heard this before and reaches up, brushing Santana's cheekbone again. "You're mine, too," she says, and it's not just a repetition—Brittany means every word and Santana can hear it in her sweet, clear, honest voice.
They don't watch much of the rest of the movie. The iPad eventually goes into energy-save mode and the room grows darker, shrouding their fort in deep, indigo shadow. Brittany foists their empty popcorn bowl outside the fort, abandoning it to Lord Tubbington and Charity, who come around to sniff the kernel contents, then turn up their noses, disgusted. Brittany and Santana kiss and kiss and kiss, and for a girl who wouldn't allow herself to like anything last year, Santana suddenly finds that she has a whole lot of favorite things and best parts.
Only nineteen hours until it happens.
Last year, Santana would have expected it around every corner because, last year, Santana kind of thought that life was out to kick her ass and that everything would just indefinitely suck until she died, alone. Last year, she would have thought that what happens was just her luck. Last year, she would have probably shuddered in bed, having nightmares about just this kind of shit during the fifteenth and fourteenth and thirteenth and twelfth hours before it happens.
But right now? She just thinks that this is perfect, that they're perfect, that this—just Santana loving Brittany and Brittany loving her—is the whole fucking list, all of it.
Her heart beats like a secret song and she grins and grins against Brittany's lips, clueless and steady, happy.