Title: Once Upon A Time (You Found Me) [1/3]
Summary: He's got the life, he's got the looks, he's got the money — he has everything he needs. Well, that's what he thinks until on one Monday morning, he receives an invitation.
Notes: Brittiago fic! My first try, and if you don't know what it is then it's gender bent Santana but normal Brittany. Had a weird feeling to write this and this is what came of my feels.
Santiago loves New York City.
He loves the early mornings, the sound of the traffic, the yellow cabs that seem to be everywhere, the lights at night, the overcrowded sports bars and he especially loves the women.
They come in all different varieties and not that he's cocky or self-assured or anything, but he's had his fair share of them. It's something he prides himself on now that he can, since high school wasn't exactly the best time for him in terms of romance, relationships or just one night stands. He wasn't exactly like that back then.
It's not like he was unattractive in high school, he just sort of had an eating problem.
Not of those psychological ones or medical ones that needed pills or therapy; he just liked to eat food, which meant he was always a little... larger than normal boys.
He was on the football team, so it's not like he was a nerd or bottom of the social pile or anything, and he had the second in command of the Cheerio squad, Brittany, as his best friend, so he was popular. High School was good for him...
...Apart from the fact he fell into the same cliché as every other guy on the football team and had the biggest crush on the head cheerleader, one Miss Quinn Fabray.
She was perfect. She had brilliant, golden hair, bright, white and very straight teeth (that must have come from braces at some point,) the prettiest eyes ever and a smile to die for. The air she breathed was incredible, the scent that came off her was heavenly and she had this weird power over everyone where one flash of that grin, or one look with those eyes, would make them melt. She was just incredible, and Santiago doesn't know when he fell for her, but he did, and boy did he fall hard.
But, of course, put him next to Noah Puckerman or Sam Evans, and Santiago knew he didn't really have a chance.
Puck has a bad ass mohawk, a bad boy reputation, a leather jacket and a motorbike outside the school, and even though those things sound like they should make him super lame and put him back with the T-Birds and Danny Zuko and Kenickie, it weirdly worked for him. It made him cool and he also had a charming smile and the ability to seduce any woman, which was a bonus too.
Then there was Sam Evans. A dorky, fish lipped blonde who was weirdly charming with his comic book knowledge and ridiculously chiseled abs. His family background wasn't too great, so it's not like he was rich, but that played the sympathy card—whether that was played on purpose, Santiago doesn't know—but it worked with the girls.
So yeah, put those two next to Santiago, and really, it was pretty clear who would be left alone whilst the other two ran off with crowds of girls chasing them.
But now it isn't like that; now he has this new life in New York City and honestly, it's fucking amazing.
He has an incredible body—a finely framed six pack, if he may say so himself—he has the charm, the wit, the humor, the smile, the popularity and most definitely the sex appeal. He has a great job as the sports anchor for ESPN, he's pretty rich, he has a great studio apartment in Manhattan and just yeah, his life really is amazing.
See, after high school, he didn't go to college like his best friend and all his friends did. His self-esteem was lacking, he had no motivation to do anything and even though to fill his ambition and get his dream job, he should've probably gone to Northwestern or Arizona State or something to study broadcast journalism, he just didn't.
But then one day, he remembers it so clearly, he looked in the mirror and just knew he wanted a change. He wanted something different; working at Taco Bell in a dead end job and being teased for being overweight just wouldn't cut it. He wanted something more and in that moment, he chose to work for it. He chose to do something about it and so the next thing he knew, he was coughing up $50 each month for a gym membership, he was applying for internships in every available state for a job and was going for his goal.
It took a while, but all good things do, and one day, he got a call from ESPN saying they needed a running boy and if he was fit enough, and willing to work for less than minimum wage and ridiculous hours, he could have the job. It wasn't exactly the offer he wanted, but he did it anyway, knowing he was going to have to work his ass off.
And that's how he ended up here, really.
Within two years he'd dropped forty pounds, was built like Taylor Lautner and was being promoted above his peers from fetching cups of coffee and bagels to writing scripts and eventually getting a few moments on air for the sports announcement. That transpired into something more and here he is, the top rated sports anchor of ESPN.
He's got the life, he's got the looks, he's got the money; he has everything he needs.
Well, that's what he thinks until on one Monday morning, he receives an invitation.
The McKinley High School Reunion of Class 2012
That's all Santiago sees before he's on his phone, calling his mom and telling her that he's going to be home in a fortnight as Rachel Berry has organized a school reunion. His mom cheers and celebrates when he tells them he's coming home for the weekend, and he rolls his eyes when she begins babbling on about Mrs. Hagberg next door and her newly adopted cat. He swears that must be the seventeenth one she's got but he doesn't really care, if he's honest the woman's grouchy and old and used to chase Santiago around her garden with a golf club. He's still a little scared of her.
When he manages to get off the phone to his mom, he rings work and tells them he needs that weekend off. They don't get shitty with him, they can't, he's their top sports anchor and losing him would put them in serious trouble, so they accept and he smirks as he hangs up abruptly.
Then he grabs a beer, slumps onto the sofa and smiles to himself.
Two weeks and he's going home.
He can't wait.
The reunion's on the Sunday, but he heads back on Thursday night and uses the spare key beneath the flower pot—not exactly a hidden place, he knows—to sneak in. The house is quiet which either means his parents are out or asleep and so he tries to keep quiet, tip-toeing around and climbing the stairs stealthily toward his room.
It's exactly the way he left it. The walls are still black, there's still pictures of Bob Marley up on the wall from when he went through that weird Rastafarian stage which sounds a lot cooler than it was. The phase lasted a week. He spent two of those days stoned out his mind with some stoner kid called Brett in a basement somewhere just outside of town, then for the rest of the week sat in his room wearing nothing but green, yellow and red, listening to a random reggae playlist on Spotify and stuck a picture of Bob up on the wall. It was a strange phase, but eventually someone came along and kicked his ass back to normality.
He falls to the bed face first the moment his bags hit the floor, and he wonders if he should wake up his parents and tell them he's here. But the warmth and comfort of the bed seems just too inviting and that thought quickly shoots from his mind.
He'll say hello tomorrow..
When he wakes it's to the smell of eggs and bacon. A smile tugs at his lips immediately and he sits up, rubbing at his eyes and groaning at the muscles aching in his back. He really should've changed and got into bed properly last night; it would've saved the pain this morning.
He clambers out of bed, stripping the clothes from his body piece by piece until he's left in just his boxers. He tugs the duffel close to him and yanks out a Star Wars t-shirt, not caring how dorky it is, since he and his parents are gonna be the only ones to see it, and slides his arms through, pulling it over his head next.
His feet drag as he stumbles across the landing and down the stairs, tripping on the last one but catching himself. He can hear the low sound of his mom humming to whatever's playing on the radio and walks through the living room to the kitchen, taking note that nothing's changed since he's been here. The coffee table, the sofa and the TV are all in the same place, picture frames too. There's literally nothing different and it brings a strange warmth to his chest as he takes it all in; there really is no place like home.
"I know you've never been that graceful but honestly dear, you could've at least tried to be a little quieter last night."
He blinks, confused and stops in his place, peering around the kitchen to see if his mom's talking to anyone else, yet there's no-one there. His mom's getting old, but she can't be that old that she's turned into a crazy lady that talks to herself.
"Yes, Santiago," his mother turns around from where she's standing at the stove, frying pan in hand, and moves toward the kitchen table, sliding some eggs and three slices of bacon onto a place whilst her eyes flick up to him. "I'm talking to you."
His mouth drops open, crinkle forming between his thick brows and he shakes his head. Him arriving was supposed to be a surprise. He didn't even know she knew he was here and his plan to sneak up on her or just suddenly be there when she turned around from cooking has totally been ruined now.
"How'd you know I was here?" He says, scratching the back of his neck and moving to the table.
She shoots him a look. "Like I said, Tiago, you're not exactly graceful." She rounds the table and drops a kiss to his forehead, her hand rubbing at his shoulder. "But it's nice to have you back, honey."
He chuckles to himself, grabbing at the knife and fork already laid out and sighs as he takes the first bite. Shit, his mom's breakfasts have always the best. They're so good he actually has to kick himself to remember why he ever left Ohio.
Right, 'cause he didn't want to be a Lima Loser anymore.
Which reminds him, actually, he doesn't know who else is around here.
"Hey, ma?" He calls through a mouthful. "Who lives around here still? Anyone from my high school?"
His mom grabs the pot of freshly brewed coffee and then a mug from the cupboard above the stove. She twists around leans back against the counter and pours it slowly, her mind drifting off with thought. It's a few moments later when she has an answer, but by then she's already sitting down at the table, sliding the mug toward Santiago.
"Do you remember Tina and Mike Chang?"
He nods, slowly. He wasn't really friends with that lot. They were into that weird ass Glee club. Still, he's not rude and he's changed a lot since high school so they might have changed too. "Yeah?"
"They got married last Spring and have their second child on the way," his mother informs him, nodding into the sip she's taking. "And Noah Puckerman and Sam Evans?"
Santiago's ears perk up. "Where they at?"
"Noah has a pool cleaning business and Sam works down at the swimming center now as a lifeguard."
He nods, just to be polite, and makes a mental note to go and say hello, partly so he can smirk as they both look over the once fat kid and suddenly become scared that he's hotter than them, but that's neither here nor there. He sits there munching on his breakfast and carries on listening as his mom tells him about some other people, but then she brings someone else up, someone that makes him stop eating and snap his head toward her at the same time.
"Wha—what?" He stutters, a piece of egg falling from his mouth. "Who?"
"Brittany," his mom repeats casually. "She still lives in Ohio. Never left, actually."
Santiago's eyebrows rise and he jerks his head back a little. He hasn't talked to Brittany in what, six years? Shit.
See, Brittany Pierce was the closest thing he had to a best friend back in high school. He was popular and most of the football guys were his friends, but he never really clicked with any of them. It just so happened though when the football squad was introduced to the cheerleaders, that they would spend the following year traveling to games with and spending time with after practice (sleeping with too, but Coach Bieste never said that out loud), he found a friend in Brittany Pierce.
It was a weird sort of friendship, one that came out of nowhere, but he didn't mind. Brittany was Quinn Fabray's—the head cheerleader and hottest of all hotties—right hand woman, and he figured he couldn't go wrong being friends with her. But as time went on, he realized that he actually wanted to be friends with Brittany, and not because it was just another way to attempt to get Quinn to notice him.
They spent a strange amount of time together, in and out of school. At lunch they'd always sit together, and during their water breaks in practice, they'd always spend that together, too. Everyone who was on the outside thought they were dating, but that was stupid because Santiago was into Quinn and Brittany would never be into him anyway. Plus it was known that Brittany was sleeping with—possibly dating—Sam Evans at that point too, so their relationship was purely platonic.
Although, saying that, there were a few times when they'd be at one of their houses—their parents didn't buy into the 'just friends' thing so required an open door policy—and they'd be on a bed, or a sofa or whatever, and they'd always end up in compromising positions. Compromising only because they'd end up with their faces inches away, breathing heavy and smiles slowly dropping off their faces as they realized just how close they were.
It was what Santiago would've called a 'almost kiss' moment, but it never happened. One of them would pull out of it or someone would shout to them or walk in and they'd spring apart, almost as if they'd just been caught with their hand caught in a cookie jar. Never was it spoken about, but they both knew it would be a bad idea and really, in what world would Brittany fucking Pierce ever be into Santiago Lopez? Especially back then.
Plus, they were friends anyway, good friends at that.
Still though, he can't help but feel a slight clench in his chest at the mention of her again. He hasn't spoken to her in so long and he doesn't even have a reason why. They just stopped getting in contact with each other at some point and that was that.
"She never left?" He asks, voice peaking in pitch. He coughs to return it to normal. "Why not?"
His mom presses her lips together in thought, pushing up with one hand to aid her in standing. She grabs his empty plates and shrugs, walking back to the sink and he smiles; his mom always treats him like a little kid when he's here, and he kind of loves it.
"Just never did, I guess," she says, putting the dish in the sink and peering over her shoulder to look at him. "She works at your old elementary school, just in case you were wondering."
Santiago seems indifferent but his chest jumps at the information. He rests forward, elbows on the table top as he sips at his coffee, nodding but keeping a straight face. His mother smirks, thinking he didn't see, but turns back to the dishes and it's only a painful minute before he's swallowing the last of his coffee—ignoring the way it burns his throat—and taps the table.
"I'm gonna go get dressed and go out," he says smoothly, trying to be subtle, but by the look on his mom's face, he doesn't think it worked. "Just gonna walk around for a bit," he continues like they both don't know where he's really going.
Still his mom nods and doesn't give him the eye. "You can take my car if you need it."
He stops at the doorway and grins at his mom, hoping she was going to offer and sort of happy she didn't say anything about his sudden eagerness to leave. "Thanks, ma. See you later."
He leaves before he gets to see his mother laugh and shake her head knowingly.
Security at elementary schools has certainly elevated since Santiago last came to one.
It's understandable, really, but it sort of ruined his plan of sneaking in and surprising Brittany.
He backs away from the receptionist glaring at him and heads back out the school, pretending like he's going to leave. Except when he gets out of sight, and around the corner, he turns into James Bond and dives into 'special agent' mode. He knows this school like the back of his hand, he used to come here after all, and manages to sneak into the playground, weaving around the side so he doesn't look too much like a creeper seeing as some kids are all out for recess.
It would look so bad if he were caught ducking behind hedges so he wasn't seen though, so he picks up the pace and moves a little quicker.
He makes it toward the back entrance of the school and slides inside unseen. He shifts the leather jacket covering his torso and shakes his head, running his hands through his short, dark hair, as the wind sort of screwed it up outside, whilst walking through the school, peering inside each classroom he passes.
Now, with the knowledge that he has, or that he did have when he came here, there are only two classrooms left, so he tries one, but no luck, and so when the last one comes into view, he sucks in a deep, shaky breath. Brittany's probably in there and God, he's missed her. His hands actually shake as he reaches for the door handle, but this is ridiculous. He shouldn't be nervous; maybe a little scared as he hasn't got in contact with the girl for so long, but nervous? No.
He pushes the emotion away and pulls his hand back, switching from choosing just to open the door handle to knocking softly on the door once, twice, three times.
He hears a small "come in" from the other side and braces himself as he pushes the door open, breathing out and freezing immediately the moment he steps over the threshold because shit, apparently not all the kids are out for recess.
Which means Santiago's just walked in on a full classroom.
"Can I help you?" The voice says and Santiago tucks his thumbs into his jean pockets, squaring his shoulders to find the source and sure enough, he does, but the source just isn't looking back at him.
Instead, the source of the voice is facing the interactive whiteboard, writing something in loopy handwriting across the top of it, but Santiago can't really focus on that because his eyes are too firmly focused on the perfect ass covered in tight black pants, sticking out as its owner stretches onto the tips of her toes to reach the very top of the whiteboard, choosing to continue writing instead of seeing who's at the door.
He smirks to himself and swallows, completely forgetting that there are like, twenty pairs of small eyes on him as he moves one step closer into the classroom.
"Uh, yeah... Is Bri—Miss Pierce, here?" He asks, figuring the children here must call her by that name instead of her forename.
And then she turns around and Santiago's mind goes blank because really, he should've noticed it before. This girl isn't just anyone, she's the one he was looking for.
"Yes, I'm Miss—San?" Brittany half-screeches the moment their eyes lock, recognition sinking in and Santiago's face lights up, splitting into a grin simultaneously. That's her. "Oh my Gosh!"
Before he can even do anything, there's a few fast footsteps and then arms are wrapping around his neck, pulling him into a tight hug. His hands shoot to Brittany's hips instantly, and he blinks as her scent wafts up from her skin, trying not to let his eyes flutter because shit, she smells really good. He bites down on his tongue to keep back the gasp threatening to spill as the heat from Brittany's touch flares across his skin, and he wonders why the hell he's getting such a warm reception. It's not that he's complaining or anything, though.
"You're here," is whispered into his ear and he nods against Brittany's hair. "You're back."
"Yeah, Britt. I'm here," he murmurs equally as lowly, back.
Brittany's head turns and lips brush against the shell of his ear. He desperately fights the urge to shudder and instead chooses to listen. "I've missed you."
It's said with such affection that his brow quivers and he's forced to pull away, clearing his throat with a short cough and putting a respectable distance between them. But Brittany's always been a touchy person and she steps closer, hands coming up to grasp the lapels of his jacket as blue eyes roam his face with utter awe. Apparently she doesn't have the same reservations as Santiago, but he supposes that's to do with New York. That place seems to toughen people and he's not used to small town affection.
"I've missed you, too, B," he says back through a chuckle, letting his eyes do a once over of her body.
She looks fucking amazing. Her hair's longer, straight and finishing just below her breasts, she's got a little more curve to her body, but she still moves with her eighteen year old dancers grace. Her make-up's light, just like it always was but she's still breathtakingly beautiful and he can't help but smile as he looks into her eyes. They're still bright and clear, and he thought they may have faded with time but he was definitely wrong. If anything, it looks like someone just shined some polish onto them and he's honestly astounded by how she looks.
She looks a little more mature obviously, and damn, she was hot back in high school but this is completely different. She's on a whole new level of sexy and he finds himself gulping as he stares at her.
"You look great."
Brittany's face glows with his words and she tugs her bottom lip between her teeth. "You too, San," she breathes out, lips curving into a smile, and then their eyes meet and that's it.
They stay just looking at the subtle differences—well, for Santiago, major differences—and it lasts for a good five minutes before one of the children in the classroom begins giggling and well, at that age, giggling is just contagious so it's only a few seconds later that the entire classroom is laughing childishly. Brittany even begins to giggle herself as she snaps back into reality, stepping back from Santiago and placing herself between the aisles of the tables, hands thumbing the hem of her shirt nervously.
"San, this is my class," she says, waving her hands either side of her. "And class?" She turns to them and presses her hands to her hips, but by the way her head tilts, Santiago knows she's smiling. "This is my friend, Santiago. Say hello."
The entire classroom says "good morning, Santiago" in a collective drone and he smiles, chuckles lightly and lifts a hand, awkwardly waving toward them.
They all stare at him and it's slightly intimidating, but he just looks away and focuses on the array of different shaped paper fishes stuck to the board that covers the entire width of the right hand wall. In the center he picks out one that says 'Miss Pierce' and it's covered in crayon. Apparently some things never change.
"Right, class," Brittany claps her hands together and skips back to the interactive whiteboard, picking up one of the pens and turning again, rising to the tips of her toes to continue writing. "Read what's on the board and then turn to page seventeen in the textbooks in the center of your tables and answer sections A and B. If you need any help then I'll be right outside," she finishes writing whatever's on the board and then turns back to the children. "Okay?"
"Yes, Miss Pierce," they all drone out simultaneously again and Brittany grins at them before skipping back towards Santiago, grabbing his hand and dragging him outside the classroom and into the hall again, not breaking the skin contact even when they've stopped and are facing each other. He swallows and tries to ignore the way his skin tingles against Brittany's as their eyes meet again.
"I can't believe you're back," Brittany says and a crinkle forms in her eyebrows with disbelief. Her voice is breathy and it makes him smile, but the second he goes to make a comment about it it's gone, and so is the contact with her as she drops their clasped hands.
"The reunion is on Sunday," he points out, ignoring the way his palm instantly feels ice cold from the loss of contact. "But I thought I'd come home a little earlier just to catch up with everyone. Obviously I didn't really think seeing you through though," he chuckles awkwardly, tucking one hand into his pocket whilst the other one rubs at the back of his neck. "My mom didn't tell me you were a teacher, just said you worked here."
Brittany smiles softly, blue eyes twinkling. "I'm not. Just an assistant but the teacher's sick today, so," she shrugs and leaves the rest of the sentence for interpretation. Santana nods and smiles back, dropping his vision to the floor where his converse is skidding along the linoleum floor. "San?"
He looks up. "Yeah?"
"Do you wanna catch up later? I mean, I'm teaching now," she peers back into the classroom quickly. "So I can't right now but," her hand reaches forward to grab at his, squeezing gently. "I really wanna catch up with you."
The way she says it makes his chest feel a little tighter, and he almost slaps himself for feeling like this. Seriously, why is he? He's been around Brittany before and they've been fine, what's with the sudden change?
"Yeah," he manages to get out, realizing he hasn't answered. "I wanna catch up with you, too."
Brittany's smile transforms into a grin, her body rocking as she tips onto the balls of her feet, bouncing excitedly. It's something she's always done and he finds it nothing but endearing right now. Some things definitely don't change.
"Awesome. How about the Lima Bean after I get off work? Around 4?"
He grins and nods, feeling excitement buzz through his skin until he almost copies the woman in front of him and begins bouncing on his feet, too. But he's a grown man, he can't do something like that, so with the other millions of things he's forced back today, he does the same to that urge and shoves his hands into pockets, nodding casually.
"Yeah, that works for me. I'll see you there?"
"Definitely," Brittany beams and Santiago doesn't realize what's happening until she's pulling away and skipping back into the room with a smile. Even then, he reaches up and presses the tips of his fingers to the tingling skin where Brittany's warm lips were only seconds ago.
He just coughs, realizing what he's doing and looks around the empty hallway as the hand drops from his face, ignoring the way blood rushes to his cheeks.
He gets to the Lima Bean fifteen minutes early.
It's not like he means to or anything, he just miscalculated the time it took to drive from his house to the coffee shop. But hey, he hasn't been back to Ohio in well over six years so it's not unlikely that he forgot how long it would take.
He walks in and immediately shivers at the change in temperature, shaking the cold from his face. Outside it's chilly and the moment he walked in he was blasted by hot air from whatever the opposite of an air-conditioning unit is, but he doesn't focus on that too long, instead buzzing with excitement as his eyes flick around the shop, trying to find golden hair and crystal blue eyes.
Although, he is fifteen minutes early, so when he realizes Brittany isn't here yet, he sinks back down to the floor and heads over to the counter, not too disappointed with the lack of company.
He orders a coffee and a cookie and sits down in a window seat, propping one foot up on the little ledge covering the base of the window and keeping the other one on the floor where it taps along to the beat of the dimmed music playing overhead. His fingers toy with the edge of the cookie, occasionally picking off a piece and bringing it to his mouth, but otherwise he's just staring out the window, watching people walk by and thinking about how he feels like an outsider now.
It feels like everyone knows he's not from around here. It's like he has some weird big city stench coming off him and the moment he walked into the Bean he felt eyes snap to him like he was stepping on foreign territory. In some ways, he feels like this isn't really his home anymore; he feels like this is just a place he grew up in, his hometown and that's all it'll ever be now he lives in the Big Apple. It sort of upsets him in that way, because this is where he started off and grew up. This is where he had that revelation and knew that he wanted more from his life than a small town and a minimum wage paycheck.
Without this place, he wouldn't be the man he is today and don't get him wrong, he loves New York to bits, he freaking loves everything about it, but now that he's here, back in Lima, he's realized how much he's missed this damn place. He's missed the little things about this place and even though he knows back in New York he's got everything; the money, the job, the apartment, the life, it's just not the same. Sure, it's not like he's lonely there, he's semi-famous and he's got loads of friends, but it's just not the same as here.
Lima's one of those places where you could walk down the high street and bump into ten people you know. It's one of those places where you could go into a bakery every morning and Mrs. Walker—the baker's wife—would smile at you and hand you the same loaf of bread, ready and packed for you. It's one of those places where people know your name and not because you're on their TV every morning. It's one of those places where you can call up your best friend and tell her you'll be over in a minute for a night of movies and junk food, and she wouldn't say no because she was going out to a bar for the night or because work was making her stay late because no-one ever works past 6pm here.
It's just one of those places you can call home, in spite of all it's small town faults, and honestly, he misses that.
Those thoughts take up so much of his mind that fifteen minutes just blurs by, and before he knows it there's a finger tapping on his shoulder and the breaths hitching in his throat as he turns and finds Brittany looking down at him, grinning.
"Hey, San," she breathes out, her nose a little pink, ears tinged that color, too.
Santiago's lips curve up at the side and his chest squeezes at the sight of his ex-best friend. He stands, like the gentleman he is, but then freezes, staring at the woman, unsure how to greet her. That only lasts until he shakes his head and figures he should greet her like he would any other girl friend, so he tugs her into a hug, wrapping his arms around her waist.
Her chin fits perfectly over his shoulder—he's just that little bit taller—and they embrace for a few seconds, sinking into each other and breathing each other in until they realize they probably shouldn't be hugging for this long, especially in the middle of a coffee shop. Santiago breaks it and immediately avoids Brittany's face, suddenly fearing what it'll have on it after that weirdly long hug, and steps toward her chair, pulling it out and gesturing for her to sit down.
A grateful smile cracks across her face, a slight blush dusting her cheeks and she tucks a strand of hair behind her ear as she slides into the seat, scooting forward with his aid. The one thing his mom always taught him was manners, and especially how to treat a lady. It's actually part of his charm as it's hard to find a gentlemen around town these days, especially in New York.
He moves back to his seat and sits down, wetting his lips as he edges toward the table, and the moment they're both comfortable and staring at each other, Santiago freezes. Why does this feel so much like a date? Why does it feel like he's courting Brittany or something? It's not a date. They're just friends. That's what they're best at.
Still, there's still that feeling lingering within his mind.
His elbows touch the table and he clears his throat, smiling softly at the woman across from him. "So," he starts, but quickly stops when he takes note of the empty state of Brittany's side of the table. Shit, she doesn't even have a drink. He didn't buy her one. Yep, real smooth, Lopez. "Crap, sorry... I didn't get you a coffee," he mumbles, almost punching himself in the head. If this were a date, he would've screwed it up already.
Brittany giggles, rubbing her hand across her nose and Santiago fights the feeling of overwhelming cuteness he gets as he watches his friend. She really is fucking adorable.
"You don't need to get it for me," she whispers and glances up through thick eyelashes. "I can get it myself."
He's so distracted by how cute she is that he almost doesn't register what she says, but he kicks himself back into action quickly and jolts from the table, insistent on buying her a coffee. He did come back after all and he's the guy so, you know, it's just the way things work, even if this isn't a date.
"No, I'll get it," he tells her and she flashes him another one of her slightly dazzling, grateful smiles. "Caramel mocha with extra whipped cream right?"
It's the same order Brittany used to get all those years ago when they'd come here. Admittedly, it wasn't often, since being on the football team and the Cheerios did take up a lot of time, and whenever they weren't training for that, they were sprawled out across one of their beds, doing homework or complaining about how exhausting high school was. But that was what Brittany would always get whenever they did manage to come here.
Something twinkles in blue eyes as Brittany stares at him, and he feels something stir, or flutter or whatever, low in his stomach. She's looking at him with a slight edge of disbelief, almost like she can't believe that he remembers after all this time but he just ducks his chin to his chest and shrugs, playing it off cool even though yeah, it is kind of weird he remembers it. Especially seeing as he doesn't even know what Puck or Sam's favorite orders are or were and the three of them used to come here together all the time.
But whatever. He's just gotta remember how this isn't a date, no matter how much it feels like it.
He's handing over a ten dollar bill at the counter when someone behind him rudely clears their throat; and he's not dumb, he's lived in New York long enough to know that that's a polite 'hurry the fuck up.' Hell, he's been one of those people that's cleared their throat so the person in front would hurry up. He knows an impatient ass when he sees one and so you know what, he's just gonna take his time. It's the only way to deal with people like that.
Though it seems this person isn't taking too well to how he's deliberately passing over the bill in slow motion and so they decide to clear their throat again, a little louder too and shit, now he's getting pissed off. The best thing though, is that he knows how to scare people like that. Small town impatient ass' are nothing in comparison to the people you meet in New York who do the same thing and so he's gonna give them a piece of his mind.
He spins around, tongue ready to whip out the 'back up off my grill' speech with a daunting expression when he comes face to face with stunning hazel eyes and a bright, white smile and fuck, of course he'd have to know the person coughing behind him. Of course he'd have to instantly recognize her and for her to instantly recognize him, too. Of course it'd have to be someone he was hoping to run into this weekend but wasn't hoping so much to run into here because he's not prepared.
Because of course though, the 'impatient ass' would have to be Quinn Fabray, wouldn't it?
The world just would just tip off its axis if it didn't manage to shock Santiago somehow.
"Whoa, Quinn Fabray."
He doesn't even realize he said that out loud until a perfectly shaped eyebrow quirks and a sly smile tugs at the corner of Quinn's lips, but when he does, he almost runs out the Bean right then, jumps in his moms car, drives to the nearest lake and drowns himself because shit, he was supposed to be fucking prepared for this! He was supposed to be smooth and charming and now he just looks like an idiot, and not in one of those endearing ways either.
So much for making an impression.
"Santiago Lopez..." Quinn almost purrs and his heart leaps into his throat. Hot damn she has such a sexy voice, not to mention he's trying not to celebrate that she remembers and recognizes him. She tilts her head to the side and shows a half smirk. "You're back from the big city."
If there's one thing he knows, is when a woman's attracted to him. It's something he uses in bars and clubs back in NY to pick up chicks, along with his variety of chat up lines and his extreme charm, but that's not really the point here. The point is, is that he knows when a woman wants him, and now that he's standing here in front of Quinn fucking Fabray, he can tell that she wants him and he's actually in with a chance.
"And with a brand new look, I see," she continues and Santiago smirks. Yep, he's totally in with a chance. Time to switch on the Lopez skill.
He nods slowly and wets his lips, lifting his chin a little as he speaks. "You could say I've changed a little over the years, and you would know if you were a sports kind of girl."
He throws in a wink after and Quinn giggles. She fucking giggles. This is gonna be easier than he thought.
"And why's that?" She fires back, running her tongue along her lower lip teasingly and crossing her arms over her chest.
Santiago knows her game though, he watched it for years in high school—in the least creepiest way possible—so he knows what to say and what to do. Which is why he reaches toward her, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear and flashes a smile down at her.
"I'm kind of a big deal at ESPN," he says casually with a shrug, and he knows he's bragging and that he kind of sounds like a douche, but so what? Six years ago he was fat and was working in Taco Bell for fucks sake. He's come a long way and he'll be damned if he isn't going to whip it out to try and charm someone, especially when that someone is Quinn fucking Fabray.
"Oh, yeah?" Quinn asks, and she's interested, in more than just the job, too. He's got this in the bag. "Do you work there?"
He sniffs and looks away, smiling. "You could say that," he drawls out, slowly glancing back at her. Rule one of trying to charm someone: never give too much away. The details and information is for the date. "So what about you? What do you do?"
"Freelance photographer," she gestures to the camera hanging around her neck and squints at him slightly. "It's something I'm passionate about."
"Sounds interesting," he replies and leans forward, turning up the Lopez skill a little more. "I'd like to know more, if you're willing to tell me."
Putting the ball in her court; good move.
Quinn tugs her bottom lip between her lip and both of them know exactly what's going on here. That was one of the most attractive things about Quinn was that she never beat around the bush; if she wanted something she went straight for it and right now, he won't lie, he's hoping things are going to go his way.
And they do.
"I think I'd be okay with that," she says through a smirk.
He steps closer. "How about over dinner then? Tonight, maybe?"
Quinn doesn't even blink by the proximity of Santiago's body nor is she caught off guard by his forwardness. Instead, she presses her lips together, smirking slightly and cocks a brow, mirroring Santiago's movement and edging closer to him until he can feel her hot breath beating against the hollow of his throat. He gulps quietly, licks his lips and waits for the answer, but instead of giving one, Quinn just blindly reaches over the counter, plucks a pen off the cash machine and then grabs one of Santiago's large hands. She brings it between them, resting it a little too close to her cleavage and scribbles down her number on the back of his hand, eyeing it for a few moments before she's happy and drops the pen back to the counter.
Then she's on the balls of her feet, leaning into Santiago and pulling him down with a hand curled at the nape his neck, her lips brushing the shell of his ear.
"Just text me the time and the place," she whispers and he can hear the smirk in her tone. She pulls back a little, not much though and bats her lashes at him, murmuring, "See you later, San," before she spins gracefully and leaves the coffee shop.
And Santiago all about dies as he watches her go, because he just asked Quinn Fabray out, fucking Quinn Fabray, and the best part is she actually said yes.
At that moment, the barista slides over Brittany's caramel mocha with extra whipped cream and for that he's glad, because otherwise he totally would fist pumped the air or done a little celebration dance and God only knows that would've been embarrassing.
Clearing his throat and putting on the 'cool' act, he grabs the coffee and heads back to the table.
When he gets back to the table, Brittany's looking out the window and he immediately notices the change in her body language. Before she was open, leaning forward, arms open and face bright, but now she's all sorts of dark with a crease between her eyebrows and arms crossed over her chest, but still leaning onto the table. He looks at her curiously, unbeknownst as to why the sudden change. What's happened since he left?
He slides into his seat anyway, pushing the coffee across the table and nudging Brittany with it simultaneously until blue eyes flicker to him, but even then she doesn't smile. His face contorts with confusion and he cocks his head to the side, brows scrunching together and eyes narrowing quizzically. He's spent enough time with her to know that look, but he doesn't know who's pissed her off.
"Yo, B?" He calls, poking her forearm. It's hard not to notice the way she flinches away from him like he's an open flame. "What's wrong with you?"
She lets out a heavy exhale and her shoulders relax, arms uncrossing and one hand falling to the coffee and she brings it to her, taking a long slurp before she even thinks about answering.
"Nothing," she breathes out, but it's so unconvincing that Santiago just lifts a brow in her direction, giving her that 'are you serious?' look. She shakes her head but looks over to the counter and the confusion within him just grows. "I didn't know you talked to Quinn."
Santiago falters at the expression on his friends face. "I didn't—I mean, I don't. I just ran into her at the counter."
Blue eyes flicker over him. "You seemed pretty close," she comments and he jerks his head back a little. "Ever get over your little fear and ask her out?"
There's a playful edge to her tone now and he smiles, feeling the atmosphere around them loosen a little. Brittany's now sitting comfortably again, resting her elbows on the table top and grinning at him and he mirrors her stance, but doesn't think about how small the width of the table is and ends up a hell of a lot closer than intended. But Brittany doesn't flinch, so neither does he.
"I just did," he throws back with a smirk. "Going out tonight."
Something flashes over blue eyes but the moment he notices it, it's gone.
"Working quick, San," she says through a grin, almost commending his speed. "Nice work."
He laughs throatily. "I got the skills now, Britt. Plus now I'm good looking so that helps, too," he jokes.
"You were always good looking," Brittany fires back immediately and his eyebrow lifts. That was a quick response. "You just needed the confidence."
"Which came with the looks, I guess." He shrugs and brings his coffee to his lips, sipping the lukewarm liquid. "Plus, no-one was interested in the old me, B. I had to change, and it seems it worked," he winks and raises his cup, feigning wanting to clink their cups together. "I'm now hot enough for Quinn Fabray."
Brittany's head ducks a little, her eyes falling to her coffee as she spins it in hand. "You don't know that people weren't interested in you, San," she murmurs but he hates the old pity trick. He knows no-one was interested in him and Brittany's obligated to say different because she's not a bitch, and she's his friend. She has to say it.
"You don't have to say that, Britt," he tells her. "I know no-one was. Hell, the only reason I wasn't a virgin was because that Marley girl from Glee club was easy as shit and we both got especially drunk at one of Puckerman's parties," he continues through a chuckle.
Brittany just looks at him, staring for a long moment like she's trying to tell him something with her expression, before she coughs and suddenly changes the topic.
Santiago's a little curious, but he doesn't question it, just goes along with the new conversation.
After swapping numbers with Brittany and leaving the Lima Bean with a promise that they'll do something tomorrow, Santiago heads back home, nervous on the drive back.
His mom's car is a Chevy Cruze, so it's not like it's old and he can't drive it or whatever, it's just that he lives in New York which means he hasn't driven in well over six years, purely because he hasn't needed to. And this car is a damn stick shift which means he drives home grinding all the gears,which is really sort of embarrassing when it makes that really loud noise and attracts the attention of anyone within a half a mile radius.
But anyway, he gets home in once piece and swears that he's never going to drive that thing again when his phone buzzes in his pocket. He fishes it out, simultaneously throwing his keys onto the kitchen table as he heads for the fridge and opens up the text on screen. It's from Brittany.
Hey stranger. Text her yet? - B x
He chuckles to himself, blindly reaching for the fridge door and opening it. It's packed full of groceries and he almost takes a step back, shocked by the fullness of it because back in New York he barely ever has a full fridge. In fact, he can't remember the last time, or if there even was a time when it looked like this, stuffed full of fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, cheese and any other food you can think of.
But he supposes it is his mom, and she always complains about how his diet probably consists of takeaways or restaurant meals and that he needs a healthy, home cooked meal every now and then. And even though he groans and moans about it, what she's saying isn't a lie, it just happens like that when you have a lifestyle like he does and he loves that his mom wants to cook for him.
He reaches inside the fridge and grabs a bottle of water, kicking the door shut with his foot as he texts back with a smile on his face.
Not yet, woman. I've just got home. Give a man a break! ;) - S xx
He doesn't know whether the winking face was a little too much, or whether the extra kiss was too but he doesn't care. He and Britt always used to text with those faces and that many kisses, sometimes even more if one of them were drunk or feeling a little more emotional.
Unscrewing the cap of his water, he takes a long sip and leans against the counter, preparing himself to text Quinn. After all, this moment is pretty big. His high school dreams could actually come true and he could kiss Quinn fucking Fabray tonight. Hell, he's sure if he wanted to he could probably charm his way into her pants, but he's not gonna push it that far yet. Quinn isn't one of those 'one night stand' kind of chicks. Girl needs wooing and Santiago's only too happy to do so.
Damn, he could get a girlfriend out of this.
Stop making excuses and text her, San! Girls don't wait forever you know - B xx
There's something in that text that makes him still on his way into the living room. He doesn't know what it is but he stares at the text and then re-reads it three times, trying to pick out why it brought this reaction out in him. But the longer he looks at it, the harder it gets to decipher why and he just ends up shaking his head and continuing his journey to the living room as he taps out a text to Quinn.
He never texts back to Brittany though, but only because he can't figure out what he's supposed to say back to that.
Was there a hidden meaning?
No, he's just being stupid, right?
He and Quinn end up going to Breadstix.
Okay, maybe it's not glamorous or anything, but he hasn't been here in years and he even suggested they go somewhere else after he picked her up from the old Fabray household, but she insisted that they go there after he revealed how much he missed those damn bread sticks.
That conversation did include a few flirtatious glances and even a playful push from Quinn, which made him chuckle at her and earn another. Quinn Fabray has never touched him like that, nor has Quinn Fabray ever freaking flirted with him, and he has to desperately try to fight showing the excitement and overwhelming joy he feels because it's actually happening.
He's a complete gentleman the entire way through the meal, never being too forward or suggestive, pulling out her chair for her and standing from his own when she leaves for the ladies room. They talk about what they've both done in the six years since high school, and he learns that Quinn graduated from Yale with honors and a law degree since her father pushed her into it, but she chose not to go for that life.
She admits it was probably stupid to take photos for a living instead of becoming a hot shot lawyer, but it's what she enjoys, and it gives Santiago the opportunity to reach out and cover her hand with his as he tells her that it wasn't and isn't stupid and that he admires her for it, so he doesn't complain.
Their date lasts for two and a half hours, definitely longer than his usual ones and he offers to take her home afterward, to which she accepts, but she says she doesn't want the night to end just yet and so despite it being 11:30, he uses one of his after-dinner date ideas he has packed up his sleeve and they head out somewhere different.
It's not that fancy, again, but they end up going for a walk to Lima's viewpoint where they can see the stars. Cliché, he knows, but when he feels Quinn's hand bump against his, he doesn't really care. He slides his fingers through Quinn's and waits for his body to flare up with the touch like it did when Bri—someone else touched him, but it never comes and his expression falters a little.
Luckily the darkness covers that up and he ignores it as he continues their date, pointing out a few constellations in the sky and making Quinn smile and chuckle with him. It's refreshing and he enjoys his evening, especially when he shrugs off his jacket and offers it to her when she shudders, saying she's cold, because it makes him feel wanted.
The night has to come to a close though, and he holds her hand, leads her back to the car and drives her home. He walks her to her front door—very teenage-ary, he knows—and asks if he can kiss her goodnight. She smirks at him, but nods and he leans forward, tipping her chin up with his free hand as his lips gently settle upon hers.
It's everything he wanted during high school, and he closes his eyes, expecting fireworks, but once again it never comes.
That cuts the kiss off short, but it seems Quinn's not having any of that as she grabs his collar and pulls him back down, their mouths coming back together in a harder kiss. His hands fall to her waist, his eyes squeezing shut and he desperately tries, forces even, the fireworks to come, especially hard when Quinn's tongue flicks against his lips and he takes that sign to slide his tongue into her mouth, but they just don't appear and he sort of really fucking hates that.
This is everything he wanted. Fucking everything, but it's not giving him that feeling, those fireworks or those butterflies and he has to admit, he's a little disappointed by it. But he still gets to kiss Quinn Fabray and he pushes the negative thoughts back, thinking that sometimes the fireworks and butterflies take time to develop, so he's just going to continue wooing Quinn until that happens.
The kiss breaks and he pulls back, wetting his lips and meeting dark, hazel eyes staring back at him. He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and leans forward, placing one last, soft and chaste kiss on her lips before he bids her goodnight and walks away with a smile on his face.
Time; that's all he needs to get that feeling.
His phone buzzes in his jacket pocket the moment he steps through the front door to his house. When he digs it out and looks out the screen, he swears Brittany must have some psychic powers or something because that's happened before, but he shakes it off and opens the text.
Well? How'd it go? Did your high school dream finally come true? :P - B xx
He laughs to himself, quickly cupping his mouth to muffle the sound because it's past midnight and his parents are asleep, and texts back.
The charming Lopez got more than a small goodnight kiss. Told you I got skills ;) - S xx
He grabs another bottle of water from the fridge before he trudges up the stairs and heads for his bedroom. It's only a few moments later that his phone vibrates and he throws himself down onto his bed, grabbing at his phone to read the text.
Tell me you didn't sleep with her... - B xx
He chokes on the sip he's taking and splutters a little, wiping the corners of his mouth with his shirt sleeve.
What kind of guy do you think I am, Britt? Damn, girl. You're hurting me here. - S xx
Barely a blink of an eye later and there's a text on his screen again.
Don't give me that, San. You're almost as bad as Noah... Okay, that was a little harsh. But still! Did you or did you not? - B xx
He rolls his eyes, but there's a smile on his face and he leaves his phone for a moment, choosing to change quickly into a pair of sleeping shorts before he dives back into bed, quickly slipping beneath the covers and flipping his bedside lamp off.
No, I didn't. I just gave her some sugar and when I pulled away she wanted a little more. But honestly, Britt, as bad as Puck? Are you trying to hurt me? No fair :( - S xx
He has to admit, saying he's as bad as Noah fucking Puckerman was a little harsh, but he knows Brittany didn't really mean it. He's a lot different from Puck. See, he's not in it for the sex. Sure, that's good (most of the time) but he's not just there for that. If he could be in a relationship he would, but he's just never really found a girl that's made him feel something more, made him feel like he could fall in love, or made him feel those fireworks and butterflies.
It's a little girly to think like that, but it's not like he's saying it out loud. That would totally ruin his game. That's just one of his inside thoughts that never leaves his brain.
His phone buzzes on the mattress beside him again and he reaches for it.
Glad you had a good night, San. Still wanna meet up tomorrow? Was thinking about watching the Lakers and Warriors game and getting some Chinese food or something. Not too boring for you is it? - B xx
Santiago grins to himself. A night in with Brittany watching basketball? That sounds like one of the best ideas ever. Seriously, Brittany is so fucking amazing it's unreal. No wonder they used to get along so well. A girl that actually wants to stay in, order in and watch basketball instead of going out for the night? Yes fucking please.
Hell no! Can't think of anything better actually, but I need to go get some new threads in the afternoon. Wanna come? - S xx
Someone's gotta stop you from buying another awful leather jacket ;) Come pick me up at 1? - B xx
Once again, his eyes roll but he chuckles to himself and tucks his right hand beneath his head, using his left hand to type back.
Shut up. You love the Grease look. I'll see you tomorrow, B - S xx
Yeah, San. See you tomorrow. Night *cuddles* - B xxx
He gazes at his phone for a few moments and stares at the word between the two asterisk, feeling a weird tug at the pit of his stomach as he imagines cuddling with Brittany like they used to.
He falls asleep with a smile on his face and in the morning, he wakes to the text still open on his phone, causing him to wake up with a smile, too.