A/N: No idea where this sprouted from. I suppose, like Purpose, there's a reason I'm writing it…

-H

Disclaimer: I do not own Glee :(


2012

Brittany took a deep breath. It felt like she'd been holding it for minutes, hours, days, months and even years. She held her breath until she felt like she was about to burst; it was the only way she was going to say what she needed to say. The deep breath held seven years of friendship and love and she was about to exhale.

"I know that I said that I'd wait forever for you, Santana," she whispered. Her voice couldn't come out any stronger. "But I can't do this anymore."

Dark eyes blinked in surprise.

"What?" She was hurt. Obviously she was hurt. Hell, it was killing Brittany to say this, but either way, she died a little every morning when she woke up to an empty bed.

"I let you hide us in high school, San," Brittany continued, the tightness in her chest threatening to push the torrent of tears she knew was waiting to fall. "We're three months away from graduating college and I can't hide anymore. I…" her voice choked and she managed to swallow a sob. "I can't wait for you to accept yourself. If you don't do it now, you never will. And I can't be around you if you're going to pretend to be something you're not. I just…I can't watch you be two different people anymore."

She had to get out of there fast. The tears were about to fall and she couldn't let Santana see how much she didn't want to do this, even though she probably could. She had to be strong. Santana Lopez was going to kill her slowly but surely if she didn't get out now.

As she stood up and walked to Santana's door, she wasn't sure what hurt more – walking away from the love of her life or watching Santana let it happen.


Thank God she's already got a job lined up. Sure, she still needs to graduate, but she'd gone for an interview over Christmas break at an awesome company and they'd called her a week later, asking her to come back to sign a contract.

If she didn't have that, she'd probably be dropping out right about now.

It's been a slow and torturous week since she walked away from Santana. She hadn't heard from her, hadn't seen her, and part of her was glad for it. But after seven years of seeing each other every day and spending practically every night together, Brittany found herself with permanent heartache. She loved Santana so much, but it just didn't feel like the raven-haired goddess felt the same way.

She'd told Brittany that she loved her. She'd told her on many occasions and Brittany had believed her. Honestly, she knew Santana loved her. That's also what hurt so much. If you loved someone, you fought for them, right? You did whatever you could to make sure that they came first and that they were happy. Right? She'd done all that and more for Santana, but it had seldom been reciprocated and Brittany was so tired of putting in all the effort to their relationship – their secret relationship – when Santana still did as she pleased. Look, she didn't cheat or anything like that. Brittany knew she would never. They'd been completely faithful to each other since their junior year of high school.

Five and a half years. That was a long time to be in a secret relationship with someone, no matter how much you loved them.

Santana was so petrified of rejection by everyone else that she forgot to keep the one person who loved her so completely close to her. And now that same rejection had come from the one person she'd probably least expected it to, but Brittany didn't regret it. It hurt. Jesus, did it hurt, but she knew she'd done the right thing.


The pounding on her door didn't stop, no matter how deep Brittany buried her head under her duvet.

"Brittany Susan Pierce! You'd better open this goddamn door before I call your mother!"

She threw the covers off and stomped across the room to unlock her front door.

"Fuck off, Fabray," she growled before turning around and promptly falling back into bed.

She heard Quinn sigh and close the door to her tiny apartment behind her.

"Jesus, Britt. Have you even moved out of here in the last week?"

"Yes. I moved from my bed to the bathroom and back again a few times."

"Smart ass."

Brittany didn't say anything. Her emotions were catching up to her again as they had done a few times over the last week and she started sobbing uncontrollably. Her pillow was soon soaked and her body shook and cramped with her effort to try and rein her heartache in.

She felt warm arms encircle her and her bed dipped. Quinn started humming and it took about fifteen minutes for Brittany's weeping to subside to a few shaky sobs and a whimper every now and then.

"Sweetie, I hate seeing you like this."

"It had to happen. If not now, two, three, four years down the line. She's never going to accept who she is, Quinn. And I need to accept that about her and move on."

Quinn was quiet and Brittany was thankful. But she knew it was because her best friend couldn't actually think of anything to say. It was often the case with her and Santana. So few people had actually known about them – Santana's paranoia had ensured that. Quinn figured it out back in high school, but she promised never to say anything and she'd kept her word.

Santana's older sister knew, but she lived in Lima with their parents so she didn't have to worry much.

Brittany's parents embraced their daughter's sexuality openly and Quinn had always mumbled that Santana was jealous because she was absolutely terrified that her parents would never accept her, even though both Brittany and Quinn knew they would. Santana was just so far deep in her insecurities that she refused to acknowledge even the possibility of people accepting that she was gay.

"I should've been enough," Brittany whispered out loud, but she'd meant to keep it to herself.

"You're so much more than that, Britt," Quinn replied softly. "So much more. And when you move past this, some lucky girl out there is going to find out just how amazing you are."

Brittany just snuggled into her best friend and hoped that she was right. She didn't think she could possibly feel this pain for the rest of her life and live. It would kill her. Possibly even more than being with Santana.

Bright future: being with Santana would kill her and the pain from being without her also felt like it would kill her.


It didn't kill her. It sometimes felt like it, though. After a month, Brittany was back to full strength in her classes and her professors had ceased with the concerned looks and offers of extensions on papers.

Brittany refused to allow any special treatment. Sure, she was dyslexic and all her teachers knew that, but she'd proven them all wrong and was sitting top of most of her classes. It helped that she was studying something super interesting.

She never thought she'd get into advertising, but the creativity it allowed her overactive imagination was perfect. Everyone had agreed. And now she had a job lined up at a very up and coming agency right there in LA. She didn't even have to move anywhere.

She knew that she'd probably see Santana at some point. Luckily, they weren't studying even remotely the same thing so their classes were never in the same buildings. But they did both like their coffee and the campus had an amazing little coffee house. Quinn had been making all their coffee runs since Brittany had come out of hiding, but that morning she had an early exam and Brittany was dying for some good caffeine.

Her head was down as she scrolled through some news updates from her soon-to-be boss on her phone and she heard the soft voice two people in front of her.

"Just a black coffee, please."

She almost dropped her phone. Her heart started hammering and that familiar ache that had kind of settled into a slight discomfort in her heart flared up, causing her to gasp in physical pain.

Just her voice could cripple her. What the hell would seeing her do?

Brittany slipped out of the line and fled. Her caffeine addiction would have to deal with the shitty coffee from her comms building.


Graduation day was amazing. Her parents, brother and sister flew in for the day and they all went out for lunch before the ceremony, Quinn included. She had been a firm attachment of the Pierce family since she and Brittany had become best friends in third grade.

Her apartment had pretty much already been packed up. With her very generous salary, she was able to move to a bigger apartment away from the campus and closer to work. The best part was that she was going to be living with Quinn.

"Britt, we gotta get going," Quinn said, checking her watch.

Brittany rolled her eyes. "Yes, mom."

"Hey!" Mrs. Pierce said, offended.

Her daughter chuckled. "You're my real mom and she's my college mom. I have more than enough love for you both."

Matching smiles went around the table. Brittany definitely knew how to brighten up any day with a few choice words.

Quinn held her hand tightly as she watched Santana walk up to get her diploma from the dean. She smiled, but Brittany knew it wasn't genuine. The brunette looked into the crowd and immediately found her. Her heart started hammering and that pain, absent for two months, made a resounding return.

She started hyperventilating as quietly as she could manage. She wasn't about to miss her own fucking graduation because Santana Lopez still held a vice like grip around her heart.

She tore her eyes away from desperate brown ones and focused on the blue sky, forcing her breathing to slow in time with the soft strokes Quinn's thumb was making across the back of her hand.

"Thank you," Brittany murmured when she was able to breathe normally again.

"Anything for you, Britt."


Her job was awesome, but hard work. Brittany had never shied away from hard work. To say she'd been dropped in the deep end and left to swim would be an accurate description. Her company had just landed a massive account – their biggest to date – and they obviously needed to make a really good first impression on what they could offer.

Brittany arrived at work early and left late. She almost forgot what the sun looked like. Luckily, the team she was working with was energetic and always raring to go, just like her. One of the associates, Brad, took a liking to her and she was forced to disclose her sexuality in a public setting when they all went out to a bar after a long week. Luckily, everyone was totally cool. One of her new friends, Lauren, even offered to introduce her to one of her friends, but Brittany politely declined.

The heartache came back every night. It had ever since seeing Santana at graduation. She was super quiet with her crying, but Quinn still knew and just gave her an extra long hug in the mornings.

Brittany was terrified that it wouldn't ever go away and she'd spend the rest of her life hopelessly in love with a girl who couldn't just accept herself. That was what hurt the most; Santana was such an amazing person, beautiful, sexy, so smart and funny. But she was only like that with Brittany. She became a completely different person as soon as someone else stepped in the room so hiding that they were in love with each other really hadn't been very difficult. Santana was a bitch and people just reasoned that Brittany was just a nice girl who tolerated her.

Brittany had never told Santana, but when she turned into the other Santana, that's exactly what happened – Brittany simply tolerated her. That was why they had spent most of their time together alone. That was why Brittany fell so head over heels in love with a romantic, sweet and loving girl who made her toes curl and set butterflies bursting through her stomach. The girl who made her skin tingle whenever she would press her lips anywhere on her body.

Santana had been Brittany's first and the blonde kind of hated that she would always be that person. It was yet another way for her to never forget the brunette.

Not that she ever could…


She tried dating. It was the 4th of July weekend and after weeks of hinting, Brittany took Lauren up on her offer.

Chelsea was attractive and funny and Brittany honestly had a good time hanging out with her. But she didn't feel anything when Chelsea pulled into her and pressed her lips onto Brittany's. She tried to fake it, but she was pretty sure that Chelsea could tell that she wasn't into it.

She agreed to another date. Maybe she was just rusty and needed to spend more time with someone other than her best friend.

Four dates later and Brittany actually liked Chelsea. She was sweet and thoughtful and sometimes showed up as Brittany was finishing work so that she could walk her home. It made Brittany smile and she loved linking their fingers together as they chatted, often drinking iced coffees. Chelsea was proud to be seen with Brittany. She wasn't scared to kiss her in public and Brittany relished in the feeling of freedom. She felt so at ease and more like herself than she ever had before.

Quinn approved of Chelsea. She'd passed the mandatory best friend clearance with flying colours.


She slept with Chelsea after a month and it was…nice. She acted like it was more and felt guilty when Chelsea was sleeping, her naked body draped over hers. Maybe it was like the kiss – that had felt infinitely better after a few times. Maybe the sex would get better after a few times.

Brittany's birthday was in August and summer was winding down, which made her sad because she really loved summer. Chelsea surprised her with a surprise four-day vacation to Hawaii. Lauren had already cleared her at work and Brittany excitedly got ready for her trip. She couldn't stop touching and kissing Chelsea at the airport. She was super happy and it was genuine.

The vacation was perfect and the sex really did get better. Brittany returned to work a little browner and sporting a new necklace with Chelsea's name on it.


October came around and she was working extra hard. She often didn't leave work until nine. She was exhausted and Chelsea was amazingly supportive. She gave her foot rubs and took bubble baths with her. It was in one of these bubble baths that Chelsea whispered I love you in her ear, sending shivers down her spine. They weren't from her words, though. She shivered because all she could think about was Santana saying those same words in a very similar situation.

Lord Tubbington was hiding from her and she needed to give him his nicotine tablets. He'd been avoiding her since she'd taken him to the vet so she figured he was pissed at her for making him kick the habit.

She checked the closet in Quinn's room and rummaged around where she kept her shoes. She knew Lord Tubbington liked to hide in her shoeboxes and for some strange reason, Quinn kept all her shoes in their boxes.

A smaller box with her name on it caught her eye and she furrowed her brow in curiosity. Quinn was pretty good with getting presents early, but Christmas was still two months away – this was early, even for her. Plus, it wasn't wrapped in Christmassy paper. And the writing on the card…

Santana.

It was her writing.

Brittany sat on the floor in front of Quinn's closet and stared at the box in her hand for an indeterminable amount of time. Her best friend eventually found her and Brittany just held up the box, silently demanding an explanation.

Quinn sat on her bed, fiddling with her hands in embarrassment.

"She came by on your birthday and dropped it off. She wanted to see you, but you were in Hawaii with Chelsea."

"Did you tell her that?" Brittany whispered.

Quinn nodded. "She looked…sad. She said to tell you happy birthday and that she wishes you all the best for the year ahead."

Brittany didn't realise that she was crying until she felt drops splatter on her hands bunched tightly in her lap, holding Santana's gift. Why did she feel so sad at the thought of Santana wishing her well? Should she be surprised, though? She didn't stop her when she'd left her in March. She didn't try to contact her. Except now. What was so special about Brittany's birthday that made her ex-secret girlfriend go to the trouble of finding out where she lived and getting her a present?

Brittany stood up, not saying another word to Quinn and shut herself in her room. She sat on her bed and put the present on the duvet, just staring at it. What could possibly be inside? And what would it mean?

Time was lost and eventually Brittany opened the box. She pulled out a folded stack of papers and her hands were shaking so badly that she could barely make out Santana's neat handwriting.

Dear Brittany

I think this is seventeenth draft of this letter that I'm writing so I hope this one makes the cut. You know that I've never been good with words, but I couldn't bear you not knowing anymore. Hence the letter. And the unexpected visit. I'm sorry, by the way, if I made you uncomfortable in any way. I know we haven't seen each other in months and then all of a sudden, there I am, standing on your doorstep.

Shit, I'm getting completely off topic again. Now you can understand how this is letter number seventeen.

Ok, firstly, happy birthday, Brittany. You're twenty-three years old today and you're living your life, just like you wanted. I love that you followed your dreams. You were always braver than me when it came to things like that. I succumbed to what my parents wanted me to do and I'm actually really hating my job. Law is just so-

Crap, there I go again. This isn't about me. This is about you. I'm sorry for going off on a tangent. At this point I'd normally rip up the page, but I don't think I have the energy to write another letter.

It's incredibly hard for me to sit here and try to put everything I want to say to you into words. And it's draining. I don't know how you do it, Britt-Britt. Feeling like this is so tiring. And yet, when I was with you, it felt so easy. But you always made everything easy. Being with you was probably the easiest thing in my life. And then I had to go and fuck it up by being insecure.

I don't blame you for leaving me. I really don't. I know it hurt you to say those things you said, even though they were completely true and I deserved them. I hate that I made you say them. I've never cried so much in my life. When I realised that you weren't coming back, that it hadn't just been some horrible nightmare, I just broke. My chest felt like it was cracking in two. I know I don't need to tell you this because you were probably feeling it too. I don't mean to sound arrogant. I just…I know you, Brittany. And I knew how much you loved me. Yet I still threw it back in your face.

I love you. I probably always will. You gave me everything and I just took it, giving you nothing back. I bet you're probably wondering why I didn't do or say anything if I knew all this, right? Well, the truth is, I didn't know it then. I've been seeing a psychologist. I started going to see her after graduation. I told her all about you. Pretty much everything we speak about involves you. Faith (that's my psychologist) made me realise how badly and unfairly I treated you. By that stage, I'd already lost you, though. I think that hurt the most. I woke up too fucking late.

I don't exactly know what I aim to achieve by writing you this letter, apart from wishing you happy birthday. I guess I just wanted you to know that even though we're not together anymore, you still give me strength and I'm finally putting that strength to good use and I'm really working on accepting myself. Faith has been helping me with that. I told her out loud that I was gay. But that took me two weeks to say. So it's been a slow process, but I guess I should thank you, Britt. You made me realise how stupid and selfish I was being. I want to be that person for you. I want to be able to hold your hand in public and kiss you and show you off to the world. But I can't. I know that these are very familiar words to you, but (and I hate this) it took losing you to make me realise how much I want you. But I want you in the way YOU want us. Open, out, proud. So I'm working on giving you that.

Of course, I'm not naïve enough to think that you're going to wait around for me. I made you do that for years and look what I drove you to do. I know that you're probably going to find an amazing girl who loves you and gives you tingles and makes you smile that beautiful Brittany smile and although I'll be slowly dying inside, you deserve that with someone who can give it to you.

Wow. This letter didn't really turn out the way I'd planned. Originally it was going to be a lot shorter and now my hand's cramping. Anyway, have an absolutely special birthday because you, Brittany Pierce, are the most special person in the whole world. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been loved by you.

All my love,

Santana

Brittany's bed was covered in tissues as tears poured down her cheeks. She'd read the letter four times to make sure she understood everything. And she did. Very clearly. Santana was changing. She was accepting herself. For her. But Brittany didn't want the acceptance to be for her. She wanted Santana to want to accept herself for herself.

With shaking hands, she placed the now well-read letter to one side and reached inside the box. She let a smile break out across her face, despite the tears still streaming.

She'd remembered. Santana had actually remembered. Brittany looked fondly at the little stuffed animal dressed in blue and white colours and holding the Argentine flag. Brittany held the bird close to her and squeezed it as new tears fell.

She had collected stuffed animals from all the places she'd been to as her own unique scrapbook. Her room at home was absolutely full of stuffed animals from all fifty states and anyone that knew her and had gone overseas had brought her back a stuffed animal from that country. Santana had teased her about her obsession, but over the years, had said that it was adorable. Santana had already added eleven animals over the years to her collection because her parents travelled a lot. Brittany didn't have any animals from South America, which made Santana's the first. She found herself wondering if Santana herself had gone to Argentina or if she'd made her parents get it for her.

Brittany took the letter, reading it again before folding it neatly and putting it on her bedside table before climbing under the covers and holding her new stuffed animal close to her as she fell into an exhausted sleep.


Chelsea could tell something was up, but she didn't press Brittany for any answers. The blonde wasn't sure if she appreciated it or wished that Chelsea would push her to tell her. After all, they were girlfriends. Girlfriends didn't have secrets, right? And Brittany knew she was harbouring a really big one.

Quinn had kept her distance since Brittany had found the box, knowing that she'd fucked up. Things weren't awkward around the apartment, but their natural flow with each other was lacking.

Christmas was approaching and Brittany was excited because she had the perfect idea for a present for Santana. Her birthday was a week before Christmas. There was a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that told her that she should probably be focusing more on her girlfriend's Christmas gift than on her ex-secret girlfriend's birthday.

Chelsea and Quinn chalked up the blonde's excitement to the fact that Christmas was her favourite holiday. Quinn had forgotten that it only became her favourite holiday because of a certain Latina's birthday around the same time.

The week of Santana's birthday came and Brittany needed quiet time to prepare her present for Santana. Once again, her best friend and girlfriend attributed her strange behaviour to the season. Brittany was curled up on her bed, her Argentine bird (she'd found out that it was their national animal) tucked against her tummy, a notebook in her hand. How the hell had Santana done this? It was hard and now she understood why Santana had been so drained. Her head was hurting just thinking about a response.

Once she started writing, though, she couldn't stop.


She'd found Santana's new address from Facebook and had posted the letter off one morning before work, timing it so that she'd get it on her birthday. Quinn's company was having a New Year's bash and she begged Brittany to come. Chelsea was invited, naturally.

The evening was so much fun. Brittany had way too much champagne and made sure Chelsea was always close by to kiss or touch, although the touches were becoming more like gropes.

Chelsea giggled, but let Brittany have fun. Quinn shook her head at her best friend's behaviour and continued to shmooze. Soon, the countdown began and Brittany wrapped her arms around her girlfriend, giving her a sensual kiss when fireworks started going off all around the building they were in. Chelsea guided Brittany into a slow spin as a song started up and her eyes flickered to the doorway. A flash of long dark hair was all she saw, but there was something lying on the floor. Her natural curiosity always getting the better of her, she walked over and knelt down, her breath catching in her throat at the sight of a familiar writing on the card.

Her hands shook again as she pulled out a dorky Christmas card. She couldn't help but smile at Santana's inner child – another thing that only she'd been allowed to see. She opened the card and gasped at the scrolling words.

Brittany,

You're actually quite an easy person to find – maybe you shouldn't advertise on Facebook and Twitter where you're going every second of the day. It makes stalking you incredibly simple.

I have a confession. I'm coming here tonight (and because you're reading this card I hope I actually had the courage to do it) to give you a midnight kiss. In public. I want to show you how serious I am about changing. And yes, I am changing for me too, Britt. But you still give me strength.

I hope that letter you sent me won't be the last because that was the best birthday gift I have ever received.

All my love,

Santana


A/N: I'm mean so I'm gonna leave it there for now ;p I guess I'm kinda stuck in this whole 'nice girls finish last' thing at the moment. My experience just reinforces the mantra – be nice and get stepped all over. *le sigh* Meh. Feeling sorry for myself, I guess. Writing is therapeutic though…

I'm definitely feeling Britt's vibe in this first part…There will be a few chapters. I'll probably post them as I drop back into this slight depression…

Ok, shutting up now. Feel free to slap me with a fish.

-H