(Author's note: If you've never read the Donutverse, don't worry about it. This story can stand on its own as a friendship story between Blaine and Santana. But for those of you immersed in the Donutverse, this is backstory for Santana and Blaine that will inform future events. You can look forward to a chapter for each year of their childhood. Thanks to knittycat99 for cowriting, and supergreak for Brittania inspiration. Enjoy! -amy)
Chapter 1: Kindergarten
The house was really, really big, and Santana wasn't quite sure if it was okay for her to walk through the front hall with her shoes on, but the woman who'd answered the door didn't seem to mind. She followed her mother across the shiny squares of the floor and wondered what they were made of. Stones, maybe, or something fancier than that.
The little boy who peered at her through the banister, high above from the vaulted ceiling of the front hall, looked like he was about her age - six, oldest in her kindergarten class. His eyes were big, but he didn't make any noise, just watched them as she trailed her mother toward the dining room, wearing her nicest dress and nylons for her job interview.
Santana knew, even at six, that her mother needed this job, that it would mean roast beef in her sandwiches instead of bologna, and real ice cream instead of cheap popsicles, and clothes from the mall instead of hand-me-downs from her cousins. Since her Papi had met That Younger Woman and moved to a new house, she and her mother had needed to start thinking about a job and how to pay something called a mortgage. Santana hated That Younger Woman for making her dad move away from them, but her mother didn't seem to miss him all that much.
Santana was hovering outside the kitchen while her mother spoke with the woman who'd answered the door when she realized he'd come downstairs. He was quiet; sneaky, even. She liked sneaky.
"Hi," the boy whispered, swiping at the curls of hair, as black as hers, frizzing out all over his head.
"Is this your house?" she asked in a loud whisper. "It's really pretty."
"Santana," her mother called, sounding reproving, and she sighed, looking at the boy in appeal. He held out his hands uncertainly.
"It's just a boy, Mama," she said. "Can we go play?"
The woman who'd answered the door clicked over in her heels and regarded the two of them for a moment, then nodded toward the sunny porch off the kitchen. "Show Santana the backyard, Blaine," she said, and they smiled at each other.
"C'mon," Blaine said, taking her hand and letting the door slam behind him. "I have a secret spot." He led her down bricked paths, around planters and gardens that would be green in spring, and into a grove of trees and shrubs. There were pine needles covering the grass, and inside it was quiet.
"What do you do here?" Santana wasn't sure what the point was in having a secret spot and nothing to do there.
Blaine leaned closer to her. "I hide. Sometimes I color or read a book. If my mom would let me have a pony, I'd play with it out here."
"I don't think a pony would fit in here." Santana shook her head at him. "That's pretty silly."
"Not a real one. A My Little Pony. Erica in my class at school has all of them, with the parlor and and everything!" He sounded absolutely miserable about this.
Santana nibbled on her fingernail. "I have some. Not the parlor, but a couple of the ponies. And one purple one. I could bring them with me next time when I come over, if my mom gets this job. But I get to be the purple one."
Blaine's eyes went wide. "You'd share your ponies with me? Erica won't share her ponies with anyone."
"Well, duh," she said, rolling her eyes. "How much fun is it to play by myself? Not much."
Blaine looked down at his lap. "I have to play by myself a lot. You're right, it's not much fun." He sounded sad, and Santana wondered if he had any friends at school. She had lots of friends, but Brittany and Kurt and Noah were her best friends.
"What do you play, then?" She thought about her board games and her ponies and her Barbies and baby dolls, and the tea set that Kurt liked best of everything.
"I like to read books." He smiled at her. "Have you read Charlotte's Web?"
Santana couldn't read yet, but she didn't want to tell Blaine that. "Books are kind of stupid," she said, poking at the pine needle carpet with her foot, but when his face fell, she added, "but my Mama reads to me at night."
"I could read to you, if you wanted." He sounded nice about it, not like he would tease her at all.
"That might be fun," she allowed. "What's that book about, the one about Charlotte?"
"A pig named Wilbur and a spider named Charlotte. And there are all the animals in the barn, and Templeton the rat, and a little girl named Fern. It's really good." Blaine nodded, and smiled.
"Fern?" Santana laughed. "What kind of a name is Fern? Isn't that a plant?"
"She rescues Wilbur, because her father was going to hurt him with an axe! She loves Wilbur, and feeds him from a bottle and everything until he's big enough to go to the farm." Blaine giggled behind his hand. "She even dresses him up and wheels him around in her baby carriage!"
Santana giggled back, despite herself, because the way Blaine was describing the story, she could actually see it in her head, like a movie. "She dresses up a pig?"
"Yes!" Blaine shrugged his shoulders and blinked his eyes, and Santana watched his long lashes flutter. "I guess Wilbur must have loved Fern a lot, because he let her do it."
"I'd never let anybody dress me up like a doll," Santana declared. "I'd run away. I bet Wilbur the pig hated it."
Blaine lowered his eyes and peered at Santana, and when she looked at him she saw that his cheeks were pink. "I think it would be kind of nice."
"Hmmm," she said, considering this. "I guess I like dressing up, as long as I get to decide what to wear. I have a dress with three skirts, like a princess. And a ballerina outfit." She didn't mention that the outfits were from her cousins, not new at all, and that the dress with three skirts needed pins to be held together in the back. When she wore it, she felt rich and powerful. That was better than feeling angry at That Younger Woman for taking her Papi away.
"I don't have any dress up things. My dad says that dress up isn't something that boys do. But I still play it sometimes at school." Blaine nodded his head again. "And baby dolls, and house. I like those."
"My Papi says the same thing," Santana said, "but he doesn't live with us anymore, so I don't think he gets to tell me what I can do. I bet I could bring my dress-ups with me, too, if you wanted." She felt kind of protective of this little boy with the curly hair.
"Sometimes I wish my dad didn't live with us anymore," he whispered to her. "I don't think he likes me very much."
"Really? How do you know?"
"He always looks angry when I talk too much, or sing too loud. One day, my mommy let me try on her shoes. Her high heels! And I got to play with her perfume and lipstick. We did make-somethings. It was my best Mommy day, until Daddy got home and then he was mad."
Santana nodded soberly. She knew how it was when her Papi got mad, how big his voice would seem, and how much she hated the feeling of helplessness when he told her she was a bad girl. "Did he give you a time-out?"
"No. Not that time." Santana heard Blaine's voice tremble.
"There were more times?" She knew what happened to bad kids when they did something wrong more than once, too. She put a hand over her mouth. "Did he - did he get mad at you?"
"Yeah," Blaine said, and Santana thought maybe he was going to cry. "He came to pick me up from Extended Day one day, and I was playing in the loft with Maddie and Heather. The blue dress with the sequins is my favorite, and we were cooking dinner, and Daddy's face got all angry. When we got home he told me that I shouldn't play dress-up anymore. And then- then- then- he sp- sp- spanked me."
As terrifying as this sounded, Santana coveted the idea of a blue dress with sequins. She thought it might be worth a spanking to get to wear one. "I hate it when my Papi does that," she said, slipping a comforting arm around his shoulder.
Blaine's eyes were huge. "You get spankings, too?"
"Only when I'm really bad," Santana said. She giggled. "I'm bad a lot, though. Would you get in trouble if I brought my My Little Ponies over? I wouldn't want your dad to get mad at you." She puffed up her chest and stood as tall as she could. "He wouldn't spank me, would he? 'Cause I could protect you."
"I - I don't know," Blaine said, still wide-eyed. "But I think he wouldn't do that to a guest."
Santana's voice dropped to a whisper. "I could sneak in the dress-ups in my backpack, with my lunch and school papers. And the ponies could ride in there too. It would be a secret."
"I'd like that," Blaine said, looking up at her through his eyelashes. "It can be our secret."
Blaine's mother caught him reading half an hour after his light was supposed to be off again, but she didn't look mad. She just took his book and folded the corner of the page and set it firmly to the side. "That's enough," she said softly.
"The librarian says we shouldn't do that to pages in books," he said, and she chuckled, brushing the curls off his face.
"When it's your own book, it's okay. And that poor old copy of Charlotte's Web is so old and dog-eared already, there's no way another fold could hurt it. It was my copy, you know."
"Wow." Blaine was startled. "It's that old?"
His mother looked like she was trying not to smile. "Much older, even."
He hesitated. "Did you decide which lady to hire for the housekeeper position?"
"'Cause I think you should hire Santana's mommy, really, because it would be so nice to have a friend to play with." His words tumbled out over each other, in his hurry to get them all out before his mother told him to turn the light off again. "She's really nice, Mommy, really she is - she has -" He paused, hanging onto the secret about the dress-ups and the ponies, because if his father heard about them, she'd never be allowed to bring them. "She has secrets too. I showed her my hiding place."
Blaine's mother didn't speak for a long moment. When she did, Blaine thought she might be having trouble, because the words came as slowly as Blaine's had come quickly. "You know... I wish... I'm sorry you don't have any brothers or sisters."
"It's okay, Mommy," he said. She nodded, and helped him lay back down on his pillow.
"You liked the little girl?"
He nodded. "Very much."
"All right, then." She stood and walked to the door, her silhouette in the light of the hall comforting and familiar. "I'll call her mother tomorrow."
"Thank you," he said, relieved, his eyes already closing.