At first Brittany thinks Santana might be sleeping, but then Santana's gaze lifts when Brittany flicks on the dresser lamp. Santana doesn't say anything; she sits perfectly still, propped comfortably against a mountain of decorative pillows. She smiles briefly at Brittany before her eyes flutter back down to the breathing bundle she holds in her arms, gentle as a leaf pirouetting from branch to earth in autumn.
"You're going to have to give that back, eventually," Brittany jokes, voice soft, so as not to wake the sleeping baby. She treads lightly across the carpet, the soft sunglow from the lamp following after her as she makes her way to the edge of the bed.
"Don't wanna," Santana pouts, only barely teasing.
Brittany silently asks Santana's permission to join her on the bed and Santana invites Brittany to sit beside her with a warm look. Carefully, Brittany sets down on the mattress, sliding across the quilt—tucked neatly at the corners of the bed—until she sits hip to hip with Santana. Brittany wraps her arms around Santana, one over her shoulder and one under her elbow, helping Santana to support the sleeping infant, her movements quiet and plush. Both she and Santana sigh, as always most comfortable fitted together like this.
"They're gonna want to leave before it gets too late, San," Brittany reminds Santana.
"They could stay here," Santana says hopefully. "They could take the guest room and we could keep him in here with us to give them a rest."
Santana wiggles her toes in her thick, knit socks—their feet get so cold nowadays, all the time—as adorable as ever, and Brittany laughs at her cheek, ribs shaking softly against Santana's side. She feels Santana laugh a little bit, too. They both know that Santana's idea is a silly one, so Brittany doesn't bother to correct it.
Instead, she takes the opportunity to look down at the baby in Santana's arms, to take in the dark tuft of hair that only mostly conceals the scaly cradle cap crawling over his scalp, to marvel at the way his jelly bones allow him to curl his knees all the way up to his chest around his bulbous little belly so that he can sleep in a tight ball.
Santana has him swaddled in a blanket, with only his arms and head visible. He seems warm and perfectly content. He breathes with tiny whistling snores, his noises barely audible over the sound of Santana and Brittany's own breathing and the low hum of the indoor heating. He smells like sweet milk and heaven, Brittany thinks.
"God," says Santana, and Brittany knows exactly what she means.
Brittany snakes her fingers from Santana's elbow to the back of Santana's hand, which Santana keeps curled around the baby's rump, cradling him to her chest. Brittany pets over the spots of dark on dark mottling Santana's skin and thumbs at the deep, ceraceous creases over Santana's knuckles before finding the gold band on Santana's finger. Brittany traces over the jewels molded into the ring and sinks a bit deeper into Santana's shoulder. She kisses Santana's cheek, her lips flower mild as they press against the smile traces at the corner of Santana's eye.
"Sweetheart," Brittany says firmly.
Santana sighs, conceding. "All right, all right, I know: no kidnapping," she says, rolling her eyes.
For a second, Santana's body stiffens as she considers standing and prepares to shift her weight, but then Santana seems to realize that she can't stand without jostling the baby.
Santana doesn't even have to ask.
"I'll get him," Brittany says, rocking her hips to the side so that she can scoot off the bed. She makes it about a half a foot before Santana gestures for her to stop and reaches out, gently rearranging Brittany's dangling necklace so it hangs backwards over Brittany's shoulder rather than at her front, so as to keep it out of the grasp of flailing infant hands, should the baby wake. Brittany silently thanks her before pushing herself off the mattress with a grunt. Slowly, she shuffles around the foot of the bed to where Santana sits and leans over. "Right here," Brittany says, crouching down and extending her arms so that Santana can hand the baby over.
Slowly, Santana unfolds herself, her knees spreading out on the mattress, as if in bloom. She tilts forward and passes the baby over to Brittany, holding her breath, her lips tucked into her mouth, anxious until she and Brittany make the transfer. She arranges the baby's head to rest on the crook of Brittany's arm and guides Brittany's hand to support the baby's bottom. Brittany revels in the new weight of the infant in her arms, in his heat and the little tittering breaths that rattle from his barely used lungs as he coos and shifts into this new embrace. Brittany draws the baby to her chest and holds him tight, pressing a kiss to his forehead.
Santana smiles at Brittany, on fours on the bed.
Brittany loves that Santana is the gentlest person in the world—that Santana cherishes what's precious and treats fragile things with care. She feels a swell of affection for Santana and for their time together.
"Okay," says Santana breathily, untangling her legs from underneath her, righting her body so she can stand up off the bed. She groans a little with the effort, her movements slow and almost mechanical as she first shifts to dangle her legs over the edge of the mattress, then grounds her feet on the floor, and finally pushes off with her arms to put herself upright.
Once she has her balance, she extends her arms so that Brittany can give the baby back to her. Brittany complies, easing the baby into Santana's hold. It's an extra move and one that could potentially wake the baby, but their interactions are practiced, quiet, and delicate; the baby doesn't mind at all. Instead, he nestles into Santana's heat, his wet little lips painting over the fabric of Santana's shirt as he turns into her body; he doesn't stir otherwise.
Briefly, Brittany takes in the sight, tucking it away in her memory for safekeeping: Santana in the dim light of their bedroom, a newborn cuddled to her chest, a sweet, modest smile on her face. Brittany beams and sets her hands on either side of Santana's hips, holding her so their shoulders touch. Santana feels warm and looks pretty, like a catalogue picture, under the low light, shadows tucked under her chin and down the sides of her neck.
"Ready to go, Abuela?" Brittany asks.
"Mhm," Santana nods, the lines at the side of her mouth multiplying as she smiles.
They walk together out of their room, shuffling into the light of the hallway, towards the front end of the house. As they enter the living room, they hear the thunder of little feet on hard wood as their other grandchild erupts from behind the couch.
"Meemaw!" he shouts, throwing himself into Brittany's legs, clutching around her knees. Brittany stumbles a bit, her glasses sliding down her nose, but stays standing; she lets go of Santana, so as not to affect her balance.
"The baby's sleeping," Santana warns the baby's sibling, hushing him.
"We'll take him, Ma," come the parents, rising from the couch.
Brittany had almost forgotten what a big production it is to get a young family out the door—to gather up the strewn contents of the diaper bag and pack them back into their places, to retrieve misplaced coloring books, to strap on Velcro tennies and shroud little faces with scarves and blankets, covering them from the outside cold, so as to keep the wind from stealing their breaths, to kiss and hug and send away with plates of cookies, to make plans for a next time, to say so many I love you's and We'll see each other soon's, truly meant.
After a long while, the noise and movement of parents and children sweeps out the door and suddenly it's quiet, just Brittany and Santana again in their empty house.
They lean against each other, Brittany's arm around Santana's waist. She gives Santana a little squeeze, feeling grateful and impressed just to have Santana and to have shared this night with her. She kisses softly into Santana's hair—more wiry than it used to be—and breathes in the scent of Santana's lived-in skin.
In that moment, Brittany thinks back to Santana, hands covering her mouth, eyebrows up by her hairline, half-laughing, half-crying at their first positive pregnancy test. She thinks back to Santana with swollen earlobes during the first trimester, grumpy because she couldn't ever manage to change out her studs without Brittany's help. She thinks to Santana sweat-drenched, lips parted, no make up, but the most beautiful thing in the world, their squalling, ruddy baby resting on her naked chest under the strange fluorescents of the birthing suite.
She thinks of both of them covered in flung rice mush, their picky nine month-old unfed in the high chair. She thinks of Santana slicing sandwiches into triangles for school days and soccer games. She thinks of their family vacations to Disneyland and the beach. She thinks of graduations and weddings and of that happy moment when they first learned that they would have grandchildren.
Even if Brittany had traveled back in time to tell herself at age sixteen that her life would turn out this way—that her life would be this way with Santana—she never would have believed herself.
"You're such a good mom," Brittany says to Santana, so sweet on her that her voice comes out wet, even though she didn't mean it to. "And you're such a good grandma."
Santana laughs a little bit. "We did pretty good, didn't we, Britty?" she says, her voice wet, too.
Brittany just nods; sometimes she can't believe the blessing of them—of their family and how happy they are.
"I love you, San," she says quietly, leading Santana away from the door.
"I love you, too, BrittBritt," Santana says, kissing Brittany's fingers as she and Brittany settle in and settle in and settle in.