Santana Lopez never in her life thought about proposing to someone. Sure, in the last few years she'd thought about being married to Brittany, but the proposal was never something she'd put much thought into. She thought about Brittany being her wife, not her fiancée.
So when she decided to propose, and shared this revelation with a few of the people closest to her, she realised there were several things she'd never considered.
(She made the drunken mistake of telling Rachel and holy hell did she regret that. Her big motor mouth didn't shut up about proposal songs and rings and weddings for a solid two hours.)
She'd never considered how much anxiety and pressure there could be around the ring. Do you propose with a ring or do you let her pick a ring she wants? Or are you expected to just know which ring she'll want? Or do you do something cute with a ring substitute and then get one she'll want? This potential agony was something Santana had only glimpsed when Puck had nearly lost his mind about Quinn going away on yet another soul-searching adventure (this time with the smallest chance that the move could be permanent), and Santana had to talk him out of proposing to the blonde.
(Not that Puck and Quinn were even acknowledging they were a couple at that time.)
Thankfully Santana didn't have to be concerned about a ring for Brittany, since Mrs Pierce has told her she only needs to ask for Nanna Montgomery's ring and it's hers to propose with.
Although asking for the ring brings its own set of anxiety. She'd have to keep it from Brittany and either get the ring when they were back in Ohio or…what? Surely FedExing a priceless family heirloom wasn't a good idea. And would Mrs Pierce even agree that they were ready? What would Santana do if Brittany's mother didn't want to give her the ring?
Then there was the where and the how.
Public or private proposal.
She was fairly certain that Brittany wouldn't want something public, she always preferred special things between them to be intimate and private, but Rachel had started blathering on about proposals with grand displays of love and showing Santana youtube videos, making her second guess herself.
But most of all, Santana had never considered how much people wanted to hear the story. Everyone wanted to know who had proposed and how, a recitation of every word that was said, as if they were somehow part of the occasion. For Santana this was the absolute worst part because she hated that story.
She'd never considered any of these things.
At least not until the funeral.
"He was…" Santana pauses, struggling to find something appropriate to say, "…a really…great guy."
She winces and looks up at Brittany pleadingly.
"Totally," the blonde adds, grabbing for Santana's hand and giving it a squeeze. "He was super nice. Always so kind and generous. And he loved April very much."
Santana hears April sniff beside her. She leans over to wrap her arm around the smaller woman's back. She's not good with words, but she wants April to know that she is here for her.
April nods to her in thanks before turning back to the casket. "He didn't even want me to get a boob job, you know, now that they've started to head south." April sniffs. "My dear Clancy. A true gentleman."
Santana's gaze meets Quinn's incredulous expression on the other side of the grave and she suppresses an inappropriate smile, somewhat thankful for the brief moment of levity to relieve some tension. She didn't know Clancy well at all, April was only married to the guy for a month, but she can see that April is rather devastated. After all the internet dating websites she joined and countless dates, April rang Santana four months ago and told her that she'd met a wonderful older gentleman at the car wash and they'd hit it off. April threw herself into the relationship head first, and though Santana had some suspicions about the situation because let's face it, who wouldn't – the guy was in his seventies, what she'd seen of April and Clancy together seemed genuine, and they made each other happy.
So last week when Santana had gotten a call from a sobbing April telling her that Clancy had passed away from a heart attack, she and Brittany were on a plane back to Lima as soon as possible.
Santana makes eye contact with Mrs Pierce over Quinn's shoulder and gives her a somber smile. She's thankful that Brittany's parents are here, as much for Brittany as they are for April, and for herself too. At least Mr Pierce had told her as much when he'd offered his condolences. Relations between Brittany and her parents are still a little tense, though improving. They still don't understand Brittany's decision to quit school, but Santana thinks they're getting over their need to if it means having their daughter in their lives. They've spent a lot more time together this week than they have in the last year. Funerals will do that.
She knows from Brittany that the funeral has stirred up memories and emotions about her brother's death, and Santana assumes it must have for Mr and Mrs Pierce too. She knows it has for herself about her dad, it's hard for something like this not to. When you're confronted with grief it can so easily bring you right back to the first time it devastated you. Make you feel scared and vulnerable and overwhelmed. So being back in Lima for this has been both upsetting but comforting, and glancing around the people gathered there today she's thankful to be surrounded by people who love her - the family she has made for herself.
She's still thinking about family later that evening when she's watching Brittany stretch in the middle of the dance studio. They'd sneaked out of the wake after a few hours at April's urging. She'd cornered Santana and thanked her and Brittany for helping her organise everything and being supportive, but then insisted that they take some time for themselves because they'd done enough and according to April the wake wasn't going to be fun because Clancy's relatives were total downers. Normally Santana would have stayed to take care of April despite the older woman's protests, but throughout the day she'd noticed her girlfriend flexing and stretching out her limbs and fidgeting her fingers, a subconscious thing Santana knows Brittany does when she just needs to dance and relieve the tension in her body. So Santana had grabbed Brittany's hand and pulled her through the house towards her car, picking up the keys to the studio on the way. And she kept hold of Brittany's hand on the drive there, needing to feel a little more grounded that she otherwise was.
"Hey baby," she hears Brittany call from the centre of the room, a slight echo bouncing around the empty space. Santana looks up and smiles, the difference in Brittany's posture already evident and in turn having a calming effect on her. "You can press play now."
Santana nods her head and reaches for Brittany's phone, starting the playlist the blonde had already queued up. Soft piano begins to play and Santana leans back against the wall, expelling a deep breath and surrendering herself to one of her favourite things in the world – watching Brittany dance.
It relaxes her in a way that nothing else does, allows her mind to clear but focus at the same time, bringing a clarity and light that Santana is always thankful for.
She watches Brittany dance out her emotions, time becoming irrelevant even though Santana is vaguely aware of the sky starting to darken through the windows. Her mind settles on something Puck had said when they'd gotten back to the house after the cemetery. She and her best friend had been manning the table with the guestbook, awkwardly greeting a whole lot of strangers, when Brittany had swung past with a tumbler of whiskey for each of them and a kiss on the cheek for Santana. She was tasked with monitoring April's drinking for the first hour so she left just as quickly as she came. The two of them were watching her walk away when Puck had said to her, "you really need to marry that girl". And it was so casual, such an innocuous moment in a long line of many like it, but for some reason today it stuck. Today Santana felt it drop in her stomach and she hasn't been able to shake the thought since. She doesn't want to.
Because yes, being with Brittany for the rest of her life has obviously been the general plan for a long time, but the shape of that reality, what it actually looks like, has shifted over the years. In some versions of their future they are married in a huge ceremony and in others they elope and in others they live blissfully in sin their whole lives with their little un-baptised babies. Sometimes Santana isn't sure how she feels about marriage altogether and whether they need it. She knows that being married is Brittany's preference but that it isn't a deal breaker if Santana has strong feelings against it.
But it's as if Puck's words, on today of all days, has stirred up something inside her that watching Brittany dance has clarified.
She wants to marry Brittany.
She spent too much of her life belonging to no one, having no family, and she wants to belong to someone. She understands now why April was so hell bent on legally adopting Santana and making it official. She wants to be Brittany's family and she wants Brittany to be her family and she wants that piece of paper that says so. She wants the world to recognise it and respect it and she wants to celebrate it. She knows that it won't make it any more permanent, that people still leave for all sorts of reasons, but suddenly there is this desire for it burning in her gut.
She takes a deep breath and feels the weight of it settle over her, grounding her again in the way that holding Brittany's hand did earlier. In spite of this exciting revelation she's still Santana Lopez, ever cautious and thoughtful when it comes to the big things in life, and she can't just jump headfirst into this.
She needs a plan.
Step one of the plan involves telling some key people and threatening them with bodily harm if they so much as joke about it too suspiciously with Brittany.
Puck was first, largely by circumstance because Santana met him for breakfast the following morning, but she couldn't do it without telling her best friend about it. Puck had been there through it all, and he'd been the one pushing her towards the hot new cheerleader when Santana was too insecure to make a move.
At first he'd thought she was bullshitting him, but once he realised she was being serious, Santana had rarely seen him as genuinely happy as he was for her in that moment. She told him about how she'd come to this decision and it felt even better to say it out loud than to just think it. She was a little surprised by how interested he was in the details of it all, more so than Quinn was when she found out.
Her other best friend's reaction was far less surprising, the newly-redheaded woman rolling her eyes and telling Santana that it was about time, though the smile Quinn was struggling to contain gave her away.
(Santana wasn't planning on telling anyone else this early on besides Quinn and Puck (she wanted to tell April but Lord knows she can't keep a secret) but then she'd gone out drinking with Rachel and Quinn – the workshop for Rachel's off-off-Broadway show had been shut down and she wanted to drown her sorrows – and before she knew it words were tumbling out of her mouth and Rachel was squealing and pulling her into what might be the most aggressive hug Santana's ever been given. Though Rachel was handing those out pretty freely that night)
(That was also the night that Rachel and Quinn slept together. Much to Quinn's outrage, Rachel finally blabbed about it a month after the fact (because she's Rachel and she's got a big mouth), and really, it's a gift that just keeps on giving to Santana. It's just so entertaining for her, and giving them shit about it still hasn't gotten old. Rachel still claims to be mortified, though Santana's definitely caught her staring at Quinn's cleavage a few times, while Quinn still refuses to acknowledge it happened. It just brings Santana so much joy, and even though more often than not Brittany will give her a disapproving look when she mentions it to one of them, she knows her girlfriend thinks it's funny too.)
Step two is acquiring the ring, which means telling Mrs Pierce. That is an infinitely more terrifying prospect to Santana than almost anything else she's done in her life…at least in this moment.
She and Mrs Pierce are on good terms and have been for a while, at one point even better than Mrs Pierce was with her own daughter. Santana knows they've established a mutual respect and level of trust with each other and she's comfortable that both Pierce parents approve of her, but she's honestly not sure what to expect from today. Parents get weird about this stuff sometimes, not wanting to let go. She knows it's not the same thing, but she's also a little wary from their reaction to Brittany's career decisions. Parents have dreams for the kids and it can be hard for them to deal with it if they don't turn out the way they thought they would.
But it's something she needs to do, so when she schedules a weekend to fly back to Lima and spend some time with April making sure she's doing okay, Santana asks Mrs Pierce if she can stop by to talk to her about something.
So now she's sitting in Mrs Pierce's pristine dining room trying to remind herself to breathe while also trying not to concentrate too hard on her breathing because it will make her more anxious.
It's not working, she's sweating through her clothes, and after they've made an appropriate amount of small talk with Santana still not saying what she needs to say, Mrs Pierce departs from her conversation etiquette and just comes right out and asks her what she wanted to talk about. It catches Santana off-guard and she just blurts it out.
"I want to ask Brittany to marry me and I was hoping I could do it with your mother's ring."
Santana's eyes widen but as she hears herself she doesn't register any curse words, so she thinks she's done okay. She's holding her breath and staring at Mrs Pierce who doesn't look all that surprised at all. In fact her lips are quirked into a knowing smirk and there's something reassuring about it for Santana. Like Mrs Pierce believed there to be something inevitable about this moment.
After that it's easy, even fun. They talk about Santana's decision and her plan for the proposal and the possibilities for the wedding and it's another indication for Santana that this is what it means to be accepted into the Pierce family. They may not be the warmest bunch, but they like that she's there and that she makes Brittany happy. Mrs Pierce shows her the ring and it feels significant when she passes it to Santana, and she hopes the older woman knows she feels that.
The entire experience makes Santana all too sentimental and she drives straight home and tells April, who immediately screams so loudly as she pulls Santana into a hug that Santana thinks she suffers some sort of temporary hearing loss. April insists on champagne and then more champagne and Santana gets progressively more sentimental, culminating in a phone call to Brittany in which she starts crying because she doesn't think Brittany understands just how much Santana loves her.
Santana's last stop that weekend is to her cousin Ricky's place to see Anita, and when she tells Anita about her plan to propose there is more squealing and Santana makes a promise that if there are bridesmaids, Anita is going to be one of them.
Santana knows she wants to propose, but beyond that resolve nothing about it is certain. Everyone who knows has thrown ideas at her about what she should do and say and where and when it should be, and if anything it's making it all the more difficult. She's second guessing herself, and now two whole months have gone by with the ring burning a hole in her metaphoric pocket. She's been fixated on wanting it to be perfect even though she knows perfect doesn't exist. She feels like one of those idiots in a romantic comedy or tv show and there is a constant fear that Brittany will discover the ring – even though Santana's pretty confident about her hiding spot. Still, her neuroses about it is really starting to become annoying. At least that's what Puck tells her.
"Dude, just do it. You know Brittany is going to love whatever you do, so stop thinking about it, grow some fucking balls and do it."
Santana scrunches her face and turns to look at her best friend on her laptop screen.
"First of all don't tell people to grow some balls, that's some sexist shit."
Puck rolls his eyes but nods grudgingly.
"And secondly…I'm just…perfecting my plan."
Puck barks out a laugh that sounds entirely unpleasant through her laptop speakers. "You don't even have a plan to perfect!"
"Totally not true," she throws back at him, pointing at him through the camera. "I've settled on doing it at her dance studio."
"Yeah that only took eight weeks."
Another two weeks go by with Santana feeling like she's becoming more and more paralysed by this desire for everything to be perfect but then one afternoon she stubs her toe on their coffee table and something clicks into place. After hopping around cursing loudly for a few seconds she drops down onto their couch and her eyes fall to the offending coffee table that she and Brittany found at that flea market in Brooklyn five months ago. When they'd been debating the merits of buying it Brittany had casually mentioned something about it not having sharp edges and even though neither of them acknowledged it at the time, Santana knew that in the back of her mind Brittany was thinking about the safety of their future tiny humans. At the time the thought had warmed Santana's chest, spreading out through her limbs and propelling her forward to kiss her girlfriend right there in the middle of the market, surprising Brittany and making her blush.
Sure, it's kind of a big deal to ask someone to marry you, but in their own way she and Brittany have been planning to spend the rest of their lives together for a long time.
Santana just wants to make it official.
It's three days after that that Santana wakes up and decides that today is that day. The weather outside is cold and miserable and it's the kind of day Santana loves when she can stay inside with her girlfriend. She and Brittany have most of the day free before Brittany teaches an evening class and Santana knows now that she wants to keep the proposal simple, just the two of them in the place that they've made their home.
She's still getting dressed in their bedroom after her shower, Brittany no doubt halfway through her morning yoga routine in the lounge, when Santana hears the unmistakeable voice of one Quinn Fabray.
Her fists clench and she curses under her breath. This is exactly the thing she didn't want to happen. Today was the day and now Quinn's gone and fucked it up.
Not long after that she hears their door open and close, followed by an absence of conversation. Relief fills her as she assumes that Quinn just stopped by quickly for one reason or another.
Her confidence quickly returns and she exits the bedroom, taking a deep breath that leaves her twice as quick when she sees that it's Quinn still sitting at her kitchen bench and Brittany is nowhere to be found.
"Where's Brittany? What the fuck are you doing here?"
Quinn swings around, looking surprised and affronted. "Fucking rude much? I texted Brittany telling her I was bored and she told me you guys were just hanging and to come over. She just ducked out to get some milk. What's your problem?"
Santana breathes out loudly through her nose and runs her hand through her hair, turning and pacing back into the lounge. "My problem, Quinn, is that today was the day I was finally going to ask Brittany to marry me. And now you're here and Brittany's not!"
Quinn watches her pacing around the small area and rolls her eyes dramatically. "Well it's not my fault that you finally got your shit together to propose to Britt and I didn't know about it. You've taken so long I genuinely thought you might not do it. Like it's that difficult to say 'hey Brittany, will you marry me so that I can stop annoying the fuck out of all our friends?'"
"You're going to propose?"
Santana's head snaps over to Brittany standing at the door, beanie slightly askew and keys dangling from her fingers. She hears Quinn mutter "oh fuck" beside her and feels her heart thumping in her chest. This is most definitely not how she wanted this to go.
(So that's why Santana hates that story. Because it was really Quinn that accidentally proposed to Brittany for her.)
Santana doesn't think her real proposal was all that good either, but Brittany insists that it was perfect so that's all she cares about. The blonde's eyes were already glistening but they became actual tears rolling down her cheeks when Santana got down on one knee and revealed the ring, stumbling a couple of times through her speech.
Of course all with Quinn staring on from the sidelines.
(Santana doesn't much care about what Quinn is doing once Brittany breathes out an excited "Yes" and gives her a kiss that leaves her genuinely dazed.)
I'm sorry this took so long...but thank you to everyone who read, favourited, reviewed, followed, PMed and sent me asks on Tumblr. You're all wonderful and it's been awesome to be part of this super creative fandom. I wish I could write more but I'm lacking the time and the motivation. It's been super fun though.
Sidenote: I have no idea why I threw in the Faberry I don't even ship them I just love the idea of Santana making fun of them :)