Brittany jumped when she felt something press against her back, but it was only Santana sneaking up behind her, snaking her arms around Brittany's waist and resting her chin on her shoulder, peering out the window at the storm beyond them. Santana noticed that Brittany's hair was wet, cheek cold as she leaned in to kiss her.
"It's really coming down," Santana observed, and Brittany nodded. Today was the kind of day made for pajama pants and hot tea, and they had indulged heavily in both for the first half of the afternoon. But now it was barely past four o'clock and already the street lights were on, a desperate glow against the slate grey sky above, which had quickly turned a shade so dark it felt absolutely ominous. Santana could see the reflection of Brittany's wide blue eyes in the dark window, her bottom lip caught between her teeth in worry.
"Britt, what's wrong?" Santana asked.
"Nothing," she peeped quietly, and Santana reached further, grabbing Brittany's hand in hers and giving her a little squeeze.
"I know that's not true," she said, shaking her head. "What's up?" She saw what looked like fear well up in Brittany's eyes, and she furrowed her brows.
"It's just that I haven't seen Lord Tubbington since breakfast," Brittany explained, eyes following raindrops down the cold glass pane. Santana watched, too, the way they caught each other and propelled one another down to the bottom, as if in a race. She remembered long bus rides to and from cheerleading competitions, when Britt would rest her head against the glass and Santana would rest her head against Britt, and they would pick out which drops they thought would win.
"Doesn't he usually spend all day outside anyway?" Santana asked, and Brittany mumbled something that Santana couldn't understand. She nudged her and hmmed in such a way that asked her to repeat herself.
"I said, yeah, but it's storming so bad and I tried calling him in while you were in the bathroom but he didn't come, I couldn't even hear him meow." That explained the wet hair. At this point Britt was on the verge of tears, her voice thick with stoicism but eyes glassy and rimmed red. She turned around and Santana pulled her close, smoothing her hair and whispering reassuringly to her.
"Oh, panda," she said quietly, taking in one last breath of everything that was Brittany before she pulled away, placing her hands gently on either side of Brittany's face. "We'll go find him," Santana said with an air of authority. "Go put your shoes on, I'll be right there." Brittany nodded and shuffled off, and Santana broke away in the opposite direction, down to the closed door at the end of the hall. She banged on it several times until it finally opened under her falling fist, two bleary eyes and a head of disheveled blonde hair meeting her.
"What?" Sam asked, and the way he looked at her Santana wasn't quite sure if he was even truly awake yet. He had a thing for long afternoon naps, and could sleep through even the most fearsome storm. It was all white noise to him—Santana was pretty sure he could sleep through a train wreck.
"Lord Tubbington's missing," Santana said plainly. "We need to go find him."
"Uhm, the cat?" Sam asked, rubbing his hand over his face sleepily.
"Yes, the cat," Santana repeated, snapping her fingers loudly. "Good morning, Sam! The cat, he's missing. Brittany's upset. I needs you to wake your trouty butt up and help us find him." Sam dug the heels of his palms into his eyes, rubbing them fiercely, then blinked several times and finally made convincingly awake eye contact with Santana.
"Okay, hold on," he said, closing his bedroom door and re-emerging thirty seconds later in a pair of jeans, pulling a hoodie over a ratty Superman t-shirt. Brittany was standing by the door quietly, still in pajamas and a hoodie, arms crossed over her chest like she had gotten lost somehow between the window and the door.
They piled into Sam's car and drove up and down the quiet streets around their apartment complex. Brittany sat in the front passenger seat, squinting through the front windshield as the wiper blades flicked rapidly back and forth across them. Santana tried to look out the back window, but the rain was coming down so hard it was impossible to see anything. Sam idled slowly down the street, lights on, periodically cracking his window and calling out Lord Tubbington's name.
They carried on like this for almost an hour, each passing minute feeling incredibly futile to Santana. She wouldn't say so, though; seeing Brittany's face in the rear-view mirror, tight with worry, at risk of biting straight through her own lower lip, was enough for her to keep her comments to herself.
"Lord Tubbingtooon," Sam called in a flat voice, the hour mark having come and gone, and still with no sign of the cat or improvement of the storm. Brittany curled up in her seat, drawing her knees to her chest and resting her forehead against the glass pane. Santana felt hot frustration tie itself into a knot in her stomach. She hated nothing more than seeing Brittany upset, and not being able to do anything about it. She was a doer—if there was a problem, she solved it. If something was broken, she fixed it. She would go all Lima Heights, if need be, anything for Britt. But this, this stupid cat in this stupid freaking storm, was something she just couldn't…
Her train of thought was broken by a sudden flash of lightning in front of them, and Sam slamming on the brakes. The strike landed so close that for a moment the windows of the car were completely illuminated, the rest of the world whited out by the immense flash of light. The instantaneous crack was so loud that it rang through Santana's ears like a bomb detonating, and the vehicle itself rattled so hard she worried for Brittany's head, which she had no doubt smacked against the glass. It wasn't until the car finally stopped shaking that they realized they were all still screaming.
"Holy sh—" Sam started, but before he could even finish the proclamation, Brittany began screaming again.
"Lord Tubbington!" she screeched, pointing out the front windshield at an oversized streak of tabby grey that had zipped across the street in front of them, illuminated by the continual flashing of light in the sky above. It appeared that they had driven straight into the worst of the storm, the thunder and lightning so continuous it was as if one crack of light dovetailed directly into the next. Brittany tried to open her door but Sam reached out and grabbed her arm, stopping her.
"Brittany, your head!" he said, and it was then that they noticed the fine trickle of blood streaming from the small gash on the side of her forehead, no doubt from the way her skull banged against the window when Sam hit the brakes.
"Oh for Christ's sake," Santana yelled, throwing her own door open and jumping out into the storm. She could barely see through the rain, but the way the bushes on the edge of the street shook she had to assume that was where he had disappeared. She ran over to them and fell down on her hands and knees, crawling through the wet grass and mud, feeling it soak through the knees of her pants. Another flash of lightning brightened two glowing yellow eyes from the very middle of the shrub.
"You bastard," she growled, reaching into the bush for the cat, who turned tail and ran. Of course he did. Santana let out an unholy noise and got back up, chasing the cat through a neighboring yard, hair sticking to her face, entire body shivering and soaked through with rain. Who knew that obese monster of a cat could run so fast? She was completely out of breath when she finally caught him in a corner where a wooden fence met the side of a house, trying desperately to claw his way up but losing the fight against rain and gravity. He opened his mouth and hissed as she reached down and snatched him up by the scruff of his neck.
"Don't you dare," she muttered, lifting the hefty animal up with both hands and gripping him firmly against her body, "or I'll go all Lima Heights on your ass, too." He made guttural, exorcist-worthy noises the entire walk back to the street, where Sam had followed Santana through the rain and was waiting for her in the parked car.
"Lord Tubbington!" Brittany squealed, bursting into relieved tears as Santana deposited the fat, rain-soaked, yowling creature into his owner's lap. She crawled into the back seat and crossed her arms sourly over her soaked body, scowling at Sam from the back seat as he smirked. Brittany was positively beaming, too absorbed in drying Lord Tubbington's face with the sleeve of her jacket to notice.
Back at home Santana changed clothes and wrapped herself in a blanket, sinking into the couch. Her fingers were numb and her hair was still soaked through, and she was quite sure she would never be warm or dry again. Brittany released Lord Tubbington from her grasp and he darted into their bedroom, still growling, presumably to hide somewhere and dry himself until his memory of the incident had faded. Brittany plopped down on the couch next to Santana and wrapped her arms around her, finding her lips and kissing her in a half way, still smiling too widely to devote herself to it one hundred percent.
"Thank you for saving him," she said, pulling back slightly and making eye contact. "I love you."
"I love you too," Santana said, finally smiling despite herself. She reached up and touched the area around Brittany's cut forehead tenderly. "Maybe we should get that looked at…"
"No, it's nothing," Brittany said, waving it off. "It's just a cut, my head doesn't hurt or anything. It'll be fine."
"Okay," Santana said, nowhere near in the mood to argue about it. "Well, at least go change clothes, you're soaked."
"I will, I'm going to go take a shower," she said, kissing Santana one more time before getting up. "I just wanted to tell you that first." Santana's features warmed as she watched Brittany flounce off down the hallway, disappearing into their bedroom and babbling something aloud to the cat. Sam shed his shoes at the door and loafed into the living room, giving Santana a look caught between surprise and pleasure.
"What?" she asked. He smiled and shook his head.
"Nothing," he said. "Just, that was really cool, you know. To go get the cat like that. You looked like the crocodile hunter out there, jumping into the bushes, running through the trees…"
"Oh shut up," Santana spat, and Sam responded with a laugh. "I had to, I didn't have any choice."
"No, you didn't have to," he said. "But you did anyway." They looked at each other, Sam standing in the middle of the living room with his arms folded over his Superman shirt, looking down at Santana like he knew something about her. When they first moved in together, Santana wasn't sure she could tolerate seeing that guppy face every morning, or listening to him rambling on about Avengers and the Na'vi and whatever else went on in that nerd kingdom of a brain he had. But now, somehow, she felt that next to openly dating Brittany, he was the second-best thing that had happened to them.
"I hate you," she said with absolutely no conviction, smiling and refusing to look at him. "And I hate that cat."
"And you love Brittany," he said, leveling out the couch by landing on the other end of it. She sighed, pausing for a moment to hear the sound of Brittany serenading Lord Tubbington with what sounded suspiciously like Paul Anka's 'I Love You Baby.'
"Yeah," she finally said. "And I love Brittany."