A/N: I don't own these characters or anything related to Glee.
Warning: G!P, so if you don't like it, don't read it.
It's late November, and you're out with two of your closest girlfriends, hanging around inside the local bakery shop down the street from your apartment in the city. You never thought in a million years that this would be a typical Saturday morning for you, but Quinn and Rachel remind you of home and a time in your life when you were actually looking forward to your future, and you don't seem to want to avoid them anymore. Their playful and flirtatious banters are almost heartening now—after three years—and you'll never admit to it, but you think it's actually kind of cute. Deep down, you want what they have so desperately that it hurts your heart and makes your throat swell. And then you start to wonder if you're now allergic to that want, and that if you just let your desires go, you won't feel like you're suffocating anymore.
But Rachel and Quinn are the only people who seem to be able to put up with your moody attitudes—prompted by your helpless love life now days, so the idea of making any new friends is kind of like a roadblock in your head. So you keep them around, if only to keep you slightly sane and to remind you of what you want but can't have.
You wish you could deny the truth that runs through your mind every time you see them: that, though you wish with every ounce of your being that it wasn't so, you will never love anyone else. Your heart belongs to her, and it always will.
And as you watch dark storm clouds roll in through the clear glass window of the store, there's a sense of urgency and need tugging at your heart and stomach, and you're trying your damnedest to keep it hidden behind your best fake façade.
It's not like they really care to take notice either way; they're caught up in them, while you're stuck being—well, being you. They talk and you reflect—that's just how it is and has been for a while now.
And through all the struggle in life that you've faced, you're still not sure how you got to this point—how you've somehow ended up in the one place you never thought you'd be. Because true love is never supposed to make you feel like this. Yeah, you've always been a bit of a cynic when it came to happiness and love and all that crap, but Brittany was never supposed to make you feel like this—like you aren't as good or worthy as you used to believe you were, along time ago.
You've been listening to Quinn's hushed conversations with Rachel behind your back for the past few months. And even though they don't think you can hear what they're saying, their whispers are even louder than screams to your sensitive ears.
You know that they still talk to her on the phone sometimes—you hear her name come up during casual conversations before they remember that you're still here and the whole subject is kind of taboo. They don't really see her anymore, but they still talk occasionally. You're kind of glad that she's as much of a mystery to them now as she is to you.
You know that Brittany's with someone else and doing really well—you saw the wedding invitation posted on the refrigerator door in their apartment before Rachel took notice and quickly tore the cream-colored card from its place to stuff it under a pile of bills.
You know that she finally graduated from Juilliard last year—you saw her name in the paper for a show at the Lincoln Center. For a few seconds, you considered maybe attending; you could've just slid in the back of the theatre to watch her perform and then left before the lights turned back on. But then you remembered that she asked you to stay away, and you didn't want to risk making her upset. You respect her too much for that.
So this is how you and Brittany are now: she lives her life without a single thought of you, while you are constantly reminded of her everywhere you go. You often wonder if this is karma, but you can't for the life of you understand what you did to deserve this. Isn't making sacrifices just part of everyday life? When did everything you do and did become wrong?
You know that it's days away now and that Quinn went shopping for her dress last weekend. You want to be pissed at them for abandoning you and going along with all this nonsense, but then you remind yourself that they don't know. You never told them.
They always thought the two of you just grew apart and needed space. They don't know that you let her go, even though you loved her and still love her so completely.
They don't know how you ended things.
But you were young and stubborn, and you didn't understand that you could still be good for her, even if you weren't rich or famous. She was going places; she was going to become the star that you couldn't be and earn the credit that she so deserved, but you couldn't see past yourself. You were so caught up in your failures and your losses and your differences that you never realized all that you could be—all that you are now—and feel proud to just be you.
Even when you were much younger, you knew what it felt like to be too different and wrong to the world. You hated the way you had been made. You hated that you never really felt like you belonged. But Brittany had always been there to make you feel like you were special, and not in the you're-a-freak-with-an-extra-part kind of way, but a loved and cherished kind of way. You realize now that you should have been proud then. That you have every right to feel good about yourself now.
You wish you could tell her this; you want her to know that you never gave up on her and that every choice you ever made was always with her best interest in mind. Because she always had yours at the forefront of her thoughts. You guess you just wish that she could have believed in you like you believe in her.
And now she's getting married to a man that you've never met but already hate. You feel like he stole her from you, even if she never really belonged to you in the first place. You feel cheated out of a life and love that you spent years trying to deserve. You're so sure that he never worked this hard for Brittany's love, like you've spent your whole entire life doing.
You can't fathom the idea of someone loving her as much or more than you do. Not when you feel so damn empty without her. Even if you've learned to live with and carry that emptiness with you every step of the way.
You've never felt so fucking helpless.
You decide to finally talk to Quinn about Brittany the next day when you're flipping through the racks of clothes at your favorite boutique. Rachel's in the studio today recording her next song, so you feel a little more comfortable opening up. Quinn's always given you a straight answer; she's not going to skirt around your feelings as much without Rachel around to give her a stern and warning eye.
"How exactly do you fit into jeans like these?" Quinn holds up a pair of skinny pants, and you want to laugh at her curiosity.
Quinn's seen you naked only once before—you used to share an apartment and bathroom—so you know she's seen your extra appendage. And after a bit of embarrassment and shock and explaining, Quinn had been kind of impressed. You're maybe… sort of… well, not really all that small down there.
"Honestly, I have no idea," you smirk and shake your head at your best friend, who just rolls her eyes at you playfully. Maybe Quinn's good mood will give you an answer that you want.
You decide to wait a few minutes longer to drop the ball, but when you do, it doesn't really come out the way you planned.
"Have you met him?" you mumble, anger seeping through every word.
Quinn's eyebrows shoot up at your question. Maybe it's because you haven't been much of a conversation starter for the past few months. Actually, you can't really remember the last time you really said anything important to your friends. Or maybe it's because she's been waiting for you to say something since you found out that Brittany's getting married, and she's impressed that you finally found your balls.
"I was just wondering what he's like," you elaborate before turning away from her, not wanting to see her next reaction.
As you shuffle through the rack to your right, you can feel your heartbeat reaching dangerous speeds, so you try your best to calm down.
"Yeah… we've met him," she hesitates, as if she's wondering whether she should continue or not.
You turn around and give her a pleading look, silently asking her to keep going—telling her that you need to know.
She shakes her head once and then turns back to the clothes. "He's—he's a really nice guy. We ran into them at dinner one night. I don't really know that much about him, but he seems… good to her," she pauses and looks towards you. "And she seems happy with him," she finishes.
"Seems?" you squeak, a little hopefulness in you voice. You're sure Quinn doesn't miss it.
She shrugs and smiles, her kind and knowing eyes shine with sympathy. You almost have to turn away from them because they make you feel pitied, and that's the last thing you want.
"We're not as close as we used to be, Santana. If I could tell you how Brittany's feeling then I would, but I honestly don't know. She's changed a lot since you saw her last."
And the words hurt you a little more as they pour from her mouth. You're so torn between wanting Brittany to be happy and wanting her to be miserable just so you might have a chance.
Is that what you want? Are you really considering making a play? Is this why you're asking Quinn the questions that you haven't been able to ask until now?
"Santana," Quinn says in that knowing, singsong tone, like she's reading your mixed and jumbled thoughts as they're projected across your forehead. She really knows you too well.
"What?" you say blankly, trying to hide the seriousness of the situation in your voice.
"Brittany's moved on now, and you can't just show up and throw words around again like it hasn't been five years since you saw her last. She's not going to take well to anything you might have to say," Quinn sighs when she sees your face fall. "You have to let her go."
It hurts more than you thought it would, but Quinn's probably right. And you wouldn't have asked her in the first place if you didn't want her honesty. You can be thankful for that at least.
"I'm glad she didn't invite me to her wedding," you mumble under your breath.
You know Quinn hears you and the lie beneath your words.
It's Monday and you're sitting on the couch in Quinn and Rachel's apartment, staring at the bookshelf where a picture of you and the Glee Club rests. You can't believe that it's been twelve years since you all were standing on the stage at Nationals and cheering and smiling excitedly because you finally, finally earned what you had worked so hard for.
It stirs up a bit of anger inside of you that you hadn't been expecting. It seems that high school really isn't anything like the real world.
You always thought that if you worked hard enough, you would eventually succeed and get what you deserved. That if you practiced and practiced and practiced until you didn't think you could anymore, you'd eventually get your chance—you'd earn your rightful win.
But no one in high school ever tells you about dying parents, and vocal surgery that ruins your singing career forever, or an industry in which you can never be good enough to make it. They never teach you about luck and fate and the things that you have absolutely no control over, even when you've done just about everything right.
High school doesn't teach you what it really means to be an adult and live on your own—alone—while your friends move on and get married. While the people you thought were never going to be anything make it big, and you're stuck with thousands of dollars in rent payments and hospital, electric, water, and phone bills. When you're hurting and lashing out at the only girl you've ever loved because you feel worthless and know she deserves better.
Yeah, high school is nothing like the real world.
But you guess you should be grateful, because you've ended up on the other end much tougher and more resilient than before. You've learned that what doesn't kill you, does indeed make you stronger. You've learned the true meaning of loss and acceptance; you've learned to love the different parts of yourself. Like the fact that you are a stickler when it comes to any argument, and that you can plead your case better than anyone you know. Like the reality that you don't have to be on television or the radio to be successful, or that you don't need to be publicly showing off to know you're making a difference in the world.
You've probably changed more than anyone else you know.
Rachel tells you that she likes the new you much better, and most of the time you just sort of snort and laugh it off, but deep down you know you agree. You love most parts of the new you—the parts that don't burn and ache. You spend much more time in your head, thinking before you say things, and analyzing situations and conversations with an attorney's eyes and ears. Your hesitant personality has actually surprised you.
You wonder what Brittany would think of the new you.
You hope that she would like the more humble Santana.
It's not like you were looking for it, but when you stumble across Rachel's address book, and it just so happens to be flipped open under the letter B, you don't turn your head and continue on like you didn't see it.
And it's not like you can help the fact that your memory is almost photographic, so now the numbers and letters are stained to your mind like permanent marker.
And you most certainly can't help the traffic on the way home that leads you to drive thirty blocks out of your way and to the neighborhood that just so happens to be running over and over in your head.
No, it was all a complete accident.
When you park your new car—a perk of actually having money—on the side of the road and look up to the house in question, you fall back into your seat and take deep, slow breaths to calm your now erratic heart and lungs.
Questions and thoughts are running rampant in your mind, and you just want a second to think about what you're going to do.
Quinn warned you that Brittany would not want to see you or hear your excuses at this point. Not a week before her wedding. Not when you haven't seen her in what feels like forever.
But somewhere in your heart, hiding from you, there's a piece of you that doesn't think she'll be upset or angry to see you. Some part of you thinks that she must still miss you just as much as you miss her. Because she's the love of your life, and a love like that just doesn't fade away.
And that small piece of you seems to be burning brighter than any other, so you're reaching for the handle in the car and taking your first steps up to the home. Each stair-step you climb feels like you're hiking up a mountain peak.
The house is beautiful and perfect in every sense of the word. It reminds you of Brittany and her contagious joy and silliness, especially the many different paints coating the exterior of the house and the little cat statues and gnomes littered throughout the yard. The small chimes that sing and ring out every time a gust of wind whips past you and the colorful rocking chairs resting on the beautiful, old wooden porch. Everything reminds you of Brittany and your childhood.
You kind of hope that Brittany's innocent craziness annoys her fiancé, just so you know that there's one more reason Brittany's supposed to be with you.
When you finally bring your hand up to touch the tiny lit button, your heartbeat's even more irregular than it was in the car. You hope to god that Brittany's soon-to-be husband isn't home and that it's just her so that the two of you can talk without any distractions or buffers. There are things you need to say to her, and you're sure that her fiancé wouldn't really appreciate hearing them.
But after all this time, fate has proven that it's not always on your side, and that's the first thing that crosses your mind when the door swings open and a little brunette girl and man appear on the other side of the threshold.
You think about fate first and how much the world seems to hate you, and then your eyes fall to two miniature blue ones and your heart actually stops. Just for a second, but it stops.
The little girl can't be too old—she's so small. Her eyes are wide and gorgeous, and her frame is thin but strong, and you feel like your seeing Brittany again for the first time when you're at daycare and she's staring at you like your some sort of princess or something and she's never seen anyone more beautiful.
You don't think you've ever seen anyone as beautiful, except maybe the little girl's mother.
Mother. You cringe at the word and you feel your stomach drop and tumble inside, rolling over and over. It hurts so much more because you had no idea, and all of a sudden you feel out of place and intrusive, like this is the last place you should be.
"Hi," the man says, questioningly. But your eyes stay fixed on the wide-eyed girl and her eyes stay fixed on you.
"I-I was looking f-for Brittany… but if sh-she's not here, I-I think I'll j-just go," you manage to ramble out, stuttering your nervous way through the words.
"Oh," the man pauses, and shifts awkwardly before clearing his throat and continuing. "No, come on in. She's just upstairs."
While he ushers you inside their warm home, sudden chills cover your skin, and you feel an urgent and foreign sense of claustrophobia come over you. You kind of feel like you want to vomit.
The man closes the door behind the three of you, and then turns to meet your worried eyes. You sense a bit of recognition on his face as he looks you over and reads your expression. You think he knows who you are.
As if to remind you that he's somehow won here—that he's beaten you—he looks down towards Mini-Brittany and tells her to "go find Mommy because a visitor's here to see her." She rushes off faster than any child you've ever seen. Your eyes trail after her and you kind of want to cry because of how beautiful she is.
"Brittany's told me about you," the man says. You look back towards the voice and cringe again. "I guess I should have expected this visit," he mumbles, annoyed, and you don't like him already.
Yeah, you already hated him before you got here, but you didn't even know him. And now… now you still don't know him, but you hate him even more for taking that tone with you—like he's so much better than you are.
Just when you're about to say something back to him, you hear footsteps coming down the stairwell, and you freeze.
"Babe, who is it?" you hear Brittany's voice echo off the walls and you swallow loudly, trying to prepare yourself for seeing her again.
But when Brittany rounds the corner and her eyes bug out of her beautiful face and her expression turns into one of panic, you're not quite sure if any length of time could have prepared you for this.
"Santana?" Brittany exhales, like she's relieved, yet still completely worried that you've caught her doing something she shouldn't be. "What are you doing here?"
You feel like asking yourself the same question.