She's exhausted, but there's no way in hell she's going to fall asleep. Not now.
Santana lays awake and watches her sleep, watches over her shoulder as whispered breaths leave the only person who makes her happy and the tiny thing whose existence suddenly makes her universe. They look like they're taking everything out of them, and it's for that reason that she's laid there, propped up on one elbow watching to make sure those breaths don't stop.
It's funny. A week ago, their bed was too small. There weren't enough covers, enough pillows, enough everything. Now it feels like there's something missing without the huge lump that had separated them and made them feel closer at the same time, something they didn't really notice was there at all as it grew and grew each day. It's hard to understand that the lump is asleep in a crib beside the bed now, that the thing it contained is now human-shaped and breathing ever-so-gently the real air of the earth.
It's even harder to understand that this tiny human being is theirs and she needs to look after it. Sometimes it feels like she's barely out of being a baby herself.
"Are you awake?" Santana jumps a little, caught in a daydream and looks down at her wife, nestled against her body. She moves closer, just to feel her warmth because God, she almost lost her. She almost lost both of them and it's those kind of moments (ones where a doctor in blue scrubs wheels her wife out of a delivery suite and along the hall shouting about haemorrhaging, blood loss and having no time left) that really stick in your head.
Santana nuzzles into her neck and presses a kiss there, savoring it. Two hours of thinking she would never be able to kiss her again have already told her that she needs to do it as much as she possibly can.
"Go back to sleep," Santana whispers and her mind buzzes with the list of things the doctors told her Brittany should and shouldn't do. No lifting, lots of rest, keep the wound clean in case of infection, no alcohol, no dancing, no driving, no anything that could possibly put as much strain on her body as carrying their daughter did. No anything that might mean she could come close to losing her again. "I'll watch her."
Brittany chuckles softly and turns onto her back, a hand pressed to her bandages as the stitches pull uncomfortably. The same hand moves to caress Santana's cheek and Santana still doesn't look away from the tiny bundle in her crib.
"She'll be fine," Brittany says soothingly. "We'llbe fine."
Santana darts her eyes away for a second. "How do you know?" she says quickly. "You almost died," she reminds her. "I almost lost... I almost lost both of you and... How do you know?" she asks again. "How do you know nothing's going to go wrong?"
Brittany pulls her gaze away from the crib and and tugs her cheeks until their foreheads and noses are pressed together. "Because you're looking after me now. That's how I know. You're better than some stupid baby doctor."
Santana smiles a little, but she can't shake of the worry that's still there. "What if I'm still not good enough?"
"You are," Brittany insists and she kisses her quickly as tears threaten. "You're the best wife and you're going to be the best mama in the world because you're the best at looking after the things you love."
Santana's heart still skips at the word "mama" - her new name. She's this little person's mama and nothing's going to change that. She's a parent and the huge wave of fear and responsibility almost makes her feel like a child herself under the overwhelming weight of it all. She doesn't understand how Brittany's so damn calm, so damn sure. A little part of her wonders if it's something that can only come from carrying a child inside of you and she feels a stab of jealousy that she didn't get to experience that bond.
Brittany sits up without another word and Santana darts up to help her, confused when she strips off her shirt and bra, leaving herself in nothing but the largest and most comfortable pair of underwear Santana could find under instruction from the nurses. She still feels the sting of embarrassment that rushed through her when they coddled around her like she was the one who'd just been born. She supposes, in a way, she kind of had. It doesn't make her feel any better.
Beside them, the baby fusses and Santana jolts to help Brittany when she reaches into the crib beside the bed, but stops when Brittany kindly pushes her hand away. "I got it," she whispers with a smile and she reaches into the crib to take out their daughter. She curls into herself naturally, legs brought up to her chest and fingers curled as her head lulls forward. Brittany cradles it instantly and it barely fits in her palm, she's so damn tiny. Brittany's movements are thoughtless, but strained as she turns the tiny ball of body in her hands until she's resting against her chest in her tiny yellow baby vest. Santana turns back on her side beside Brittany and watches as she settles back, guiding the perfectly bow-shaped mouth to her breast to nurse her.
The baby settles almost instantly in Brittany's arms.
"Does it feel weird?" Santana asks stupidly. She'd been too busy running around town, trying to find all the things they hadn't realized they would need, when Brittany had tried nursing before.
She's kind of glad when Brittany turns to her and shakes her head, before turning back to their daughter and running a hand over her almost non-existent hair. She looks at her softly and sighs woefully. "She still doesn't even have a name."
Santana kisses Brittany's bare shoulder. "I kind of liked Baby Girl Lopez-Pierce."
Brittany laughs. "I know, but... she needs a real one."
"Well, what do you want to call her?" Santana asks softly, completely enamored by how Brittany looks nursing their daughter. It's unlike anything she's ever seen. It looks so strange and alien, but inexplicably fulfilling at the same time.
Brittany strokes down their daughters arms. "The nurses say she's a beautiful blessing."
"And that's what you want to call her?" Santana asks tentatively, glad when Brittany chuckles softly and timidly shakes her head.
"No. I want to call her Isabel Grace," she shrugs. "We could call her Bella, which means beautiful, and Grace means blessing. Plus, Isabel means God's promise and I like that."
Santana stares from her wife to her daughter, not sure which one she loves more. It feels wonderful to know she doesn't have to chose.
"She's definitely beautiful," Santana agrees and she still doesn't know who she's talking about when Brittany's looking at her like that, all tired blue-eyes and pale exhausted skin that still manages to sparkle with the joy of this miracle they've been through. Santana nods because yes, just yes, to all of this that she almost lost.
"Isabel Grace Lopez-Pierce," she whispers. "I like it. It fits."
Brittany looks like she wants to jump up and down in joy, but she doesn't, she just beams and turns suddenly to look at the tiny little person who appears to have fallen asleep against her breast. She laughs, just because, and that fascinates Santana too because she's disgusting amounts of tired, ridiculously exhausted, but she's never been so happy. And neither has Brittany, apparently. She's never looked more perfectly content.
"Hey," she says suddenly and Brittany turns just as Santana cups her cheek and draws their mouths together, lips and tongues battling just as easily and desperately as they did fifteen years ago when they touched for the first time.
Santana thinks about back then, about being thirteen and scared and so painfully confused about the fluttery feelings her best friend left her with. She thinks about two years later, making love for the first time and how her entire existence seemed to click into place and make sense. She thinks about a year or so after that and being so terrified but clinging to each other as they were so close to being ripped apart. That was nothing, nothing, compared to what she's been through this week. It was nothing at all now that Brittany lingered on the precipice of life and death and came so damn close to losing.
And if she hadn't been one hundred percent sure at their senior graduation – dressed in red silky gowns and too close to being pulled apart by circumstance – that they were meant to be together, forever, the prospect that she might lose Brittany this quickly (twenty-eight years of life isn't really all that much in the whole scheme of things, and twenty years definitely isn't long enough to be in love with someone who literally has your heart) certainly made her sure that she knew.
"Don't leave me," Santana says, tears bubbling up from her throat. It's not the first lot of tears; Quinn got the first batch when she found her pacing the waiting room. It's not even the second or the third, but they suddenly seem the most important. "You can't leave me, you can't leave me behind. You have to stay. I-I can't do this without you."
Brittany hushes her, and Santana rolls her eyes because – who's the baby, here? Brittany presses kisses all over her face and cheeks before tugging her back so their mouths wrestle in a way that's rehearsed and precise with familiarity. After fifteen years, it doesn't feel any less perfect.
"Hey, hey..." she says sternly when Santana starts crying, starts thinking about a life where she doesn't get to kiss Brittany every day. "Stop. I'm not leaving you. I'm not going anywhere. I amrighthere and I'm not going anywhere."
Santana opens her mouth to argue that she doesn't know that. She really doesn't know that, because for nine months they were going into a hospital and Brittany was going to pop out a kid and everything would be like a freaking rainbow of happiness. For nine months, that was the plan and that's totally not how things turned out. There was blood and pain and gore and crying and – Brittany kisses her again.
"I'm not done loving you enough yet to die..." Brittany says simply and that just makes Santana cry more. "There's a lot I haven't done yet, too much I haven't seen, so... I'm not going anywhere. I won't let it happen. I promise."
And if there's anything Santana can trust and clutch at her chest with assured happiness it's Brittany's promise. I'm waiting for you, You're worth it, I love you, I won't go anywhere, I'll marry you, we'll be together forever, I do... they're all the things that Santana knows to be true more than she knows her own name.
She nods and takes a deep shaky breath. She runs her fingers over Isabel's head and feels the softness of her hair. She stillcan't believe that Brittany made that. Well, she can; if there's anyone who can make something this perfect, it's Brittany; it's just that, she can't believe she's really here. After a lifetime of dreaming, they're a family.
"Speaking of things I haven't seen yet," Brittany says nudging their shoulders to get her attention. Santana looks up a little, still lost in a daydream. "You haven't held her yet."
That gets her attention and Santana's heart sinks. "Yeah, I know. But I didn't... I didn't want to..." she starts but Brittany nods and silences her instantly.
"I know, I know," Brittany says gently. There's no anger in her voice, just understanding. "You wanted to wait until I woke up before you held her. But I'm awake now... I've been awake for a while and you still haven't held your daughter."
Santana takes her hand away from the baby's head and puts it into her lap, Brittany shakes her head with a smile and takes hold of it with the one not wrapped around Isabel, putting it back. She cups the back of her skull and it seems to fit there perfectly.
"What's the problem?" Brittany whispers gently into her ear, resting her forehead against Santana's temple.
Santana relaxes against Brittany and shakes her head. "I don't want to break her..." she says ridiculously. "I don't want to... be a bad parent. I don't want to mess her up."
Santana's prepared for an epic speech about how she's going to be the perfect mom, they'll both be perfect and that Santana doesn't need to be scared, but Brittany doesn't give her one.
Instead, she laughs and Santana jolts at the shock she gets hearing it.
Brittany kisses the same space her forehead previously rested and shifts back a little. "Lay back," Brittany demands and Santana narrows her eyes instead of doing it. Brittany laughs again. "Santana, lay down."
Santana lays down in the middle of the bed and watches nervously as Brittany uses one hand to rearrange the pillows around Santana's body. She's pretty sure she knows what's going to happen, but it doesn't make it any less scary when Brittany kneels up and faces her.
"Take off your shirt," she instructs further and Santana instantly yanks the tank top up and over her head until she's left in nothing but her underwear. Brittany smiles and then seconds later, there's a tiny human being nestled between Santana's breasts, ear pressed perfectly to the space above her heart. Santana's most shocked at how light but heavy she is, how comfortably warm she feels against her skin.
"She likes hearing heartbeats," Brittany tells her. "She recognizes them... and voices."
"Oh," Santana says, terrified. Her hands don't know where they're meant to be and she flails a little. Brittany rolls her eyes and takes pity, putting one on Isabel's back and the other under her backside, where her diaper puffs out, to support her.
"She knows my heartbeat," Brittany goes on. "But she knows your voice – I can tell because she always starts fussing when she hears it." Brittany smiles and lays down beside them gently, her hand resting over Santana's on Isabel's back. "I think she misses you."
Santana gulps back tears and Brittany kisses her cheek in silent knowing. "Britt..." she whispers.
"I want her to know your heartbeat, too," Brittany ignores the interruption. "I'm her mommy, but you're her mama. You're her parent, too, okay?" Santana turns her head and nods, surprised to see Brittany's silent tears streaming down her cheeks. "I know I made her... I know she's made of me and she's not made of you... but you're her parent. Being a parent is more than just... genetics. You're going to stick around and you're going to turn her into a bad ass just like you. You're going to love her as much as I do, you're going to be just as important as I am and I want her to know what her mama's heart sounds like. I want her to know that both her mommies love her."
Santana nods and Brittany goes on. "Because that's all that matters, okay? We're going to mess up sometimes and we're going to be bad at the whole parenting thing for a while, but we'll get better. And maybe she'll hate us when she's older because we won't let her kiss boys, or maybe she'll love us because we're the hottest and coolest parents ever, but we just have to love her and she'll be okay. We have to show her that her mommies love her and nothing else will matter."
Santana gasps out with a sob and shifts closer to Brittany instinctively, nodding. Brittany sees the move and leans in the rest of the way to press their lips and noses together.
"I'm a mom," Santana breathes quietly when she pulls away. "I'm a mom," she says and it's like it's the first time she's realized it, like it's the first time she truly believes that it's not going to all be taken away in the next five minutes.
Brittany smiles. "You're a mom," she agrees and Santana smiles easily for the first time in days.
"I'm a mom," she whispers and she kisses the top of Isabel's head, her cheek, her eyelids, as much brand new skins as she can reach. "Hi, Bella," she whispers and somehow it sounds broken and utterly complete at the same time. "I'm your mama."
When Isabel takes in a light baby breath and sighs it out again in her sleep, it feels like she's telling her that she knew that already.
Santana laughs and brings them both as close as possible. Brittany buries her head in Santana's neck, humming when Santana presses a kiss to her forehead.
"Nothing's ever happening to either of you," Santana whispers quietly. "I won't let it," she says determinedly. "I promise."
Mere seconds later, she falls asleep listening to the steady and reassuring beats of her wife's and daughter's hearts and knows that she and Brittany are going to be together forever.
Yet, somehow, it feels better because now she knows they won't be alone. They're not just two souls, desperately in love anymore. They're a family and, suddenly, the immeasurable amount of love in her chest makes sense.