This is a Brittana centric story, told mostly from Brittany's perspective, and hence it is tagged as such. This story does contain a significant amount of Quinntana though, so if if you aren't okay with that, then this probably isn't for you.
You sit perched on the very edge of the couch, not quite comfortable but not entirely uncomfortable, and you pick distractedly at a fray in your jeans. The loft is much bigger than you were expecting, all high ceilings and bare walls, and the vast expanse of it makes you feel small and insignificant. You just sit there taking it all in for a minute, trying to ignore the way Rachel sits across from you - frantically tapping at her phone and shooting what looks a lot like nervous glances your way every few seconds.
Maybe you should have called. It had seemed like a great idea in your head, showing up unannounced in New York to surprise Santana. She would find that special smile she reserved for you only and pull you inside, holding you and running her hands through your hair while she clung to you, desperate to get closer. It would be perfect, you had thought. You had only been mildly disappointed when you were greeted by a shocked Rachel on arrival instead of a jubilant Santana, but you had beamed at the shorter girl and squealed "surprise!" before pulling her into a hug that lifted her from the ground.
She had smiled at you once her feet were reacquainted with the floor, and she had looked genuinely pleased to see you, but you hadn't missed the flicker of something else that crossed her features when you asked if Santana was around. She had been uncharacteristically quiet as she had stepped back and allowed you in, sliding the door shut tentatively behind you. She had spoken a few short sentences about shopping, about lunch, about "she'll be back soon.." and you had smiled serenely at her, taking the spot on the couch that she had gestured to. It had all been a little weird you supposed, but then, Rachel was just kinda weird. It had never bothered you before.
Only now she's huffing at the screen of the device in her hands, biting her lip, and mumbling things about how Santana won't answer her phone or reply to her texts, and you're not really sure why it matters. You've waited this long already, and though the desire to see her has consumed your every waking thought for as long as you can remember, you guess another little while won't kill you. If anything it will give you time to calm the way your stomach is doing flips and somersaults, and maybe you won't be such a nervous wreck when you finally see the brown eyes that have haunted your dreams for months now.
You tell Rachel its fine - that you're more than happy to wait. You tell her you want to surprise Santana anyway, and you try not to dip your eyebrows in confusion when she shoots you a look - unreadable and lingering a little too long - before returning to her phone.
You hear the unmistakable sounds of voices and footsteps coming from the hallway behind the heavy steel door, and you freeze in anticipation. Rachel freezes too though, and her eyes widen a little before scrunching shut when the door flies open and not one, but two girls tumble in gasping with laughter, clinging to each other to remain upright. You recognize both immediately, and your heart swells and your whole body feels warm and fuzzy. Because here, in front of you, is the girl you love with every last breath and bone in your body, and you have never in your life felt as sure as you do right now. Your eyes fall to the blonde clutching at her and you're a little surprised Rachel didn't mention that Quinn was visiting too, but you're so happy to see her, to see them both and you stand from the sofa with a tentative smile.
The movement draws the attention of the two girls and you watch as Santana's eyes land on you, the laughter dying in her throat as she freezes and the grin slides from her face. You shuffle nervously, unsure of what exactly you should do, and when you glance at Quinn hoping to see a warm and reassuring smile, you're surprised to find her looking as though she's just seen a ghost. Your eyes flicker and find dark brown again and you can't read the expression on Santana's face; it pains you a little because you can normally read her so easily. Or at least you used to be able to. You really hope that's its okay that you're here like this.
Your eyes drift down her body to drink in the sight of her and its only then that you notice her hand, entwined with Quinn's, in an image so familiar it actually causes your breath to catch a little. Because normally it's your clammy hand she clings to, fingers threading between yours, and the memory of it is so haunting that it causes your hopeful smile to falter a little. You don't get to dwell on it for long though, and when she tears her hand free and you bring your head up again, Santana is glancing around at just about everything in the room except you and Quinn's gaze is fixed to the floor.
"Britt?" she says finally, her voice quiet and unsure as she regards you, and you feel relief wash over you as you see her face soften a little. "What are you doing here?" It's a legitimate question - a sensible starting point - only suddenly you're not sure you have the answer anymore.
"I.." you start but her gaze is making it hard for you to form words, and you clear your throat a little before trying again, "I wanted to see you." It's a simple statement, and you guess it doesn't answer her question, not really, but it's the only truth that really matters to you right now. You expect her to smile at your answer, at your presence in the middle of her apartment, but she doesn't, and it stings more than it should.
You hear Rachel shuffling from behind you and her voice floats across the room but you're only mildly aware of it. "I think I'll leave you guys to it... you know ... go and, er, get started on dinner" she stutters and there's a pause before she adds a quiet but firm "Quinn?" and hazel eyes have found yours and you don't recognize the look behind her orbs either, and it's all so frustrating. She hesitates at Rachel's words and her head turns slightly to look to Santana, only Santana's gaze is still fixed on you, face unmoved and stare slightly unnerving. Quinn stares at Santana's profile for a long moment before her eyes drop, and she moves past you quickly, disappearing after Rachel.
She sits opposite you, taking the seat Rachel just vacated, and fidgets uncomfortably before finally meeting your eyes. She smiles softly at you, as if she's just remembered who you both are now that you're alone, and it makes you ache in a way you can't quite explain. It's a good ache, you think, but it does hurt and it makes your head spin with questions and declarations of love and forever and you bite the inside of your cheek to force it down.
Her smile only grows though, and you are so gone. She just looks so beautiful sat here in front of you, the warm orange glow of early evening lighting her just perfectly through the window, and your eyes aren't sure which part of her to appreciate the most. She looks the same as she does in your dreams, in the photos you constantly flick through, but it still takes your breath away because she's really here and it's just so so much better.
"Sorry," she says a little sheepishly after a while and looks away bashfully. You guess you were so caught up in her that you hadn't noticed her caught up in you, and the thought finally brings the smile back to your lips when she tells you she can't quite believe you're really here.
You shrug a little and by now you are both shamelessly grinning at one another like lovesick fools and you feel a little dizzy. "I wanted to tell you something," you say, and she tilts her head slightly to one side as she looks at you curiously, wordlessly encouraging you to continue. "I just found out this week, I guess I'm on course to graduate with flying colors.." you say and trail off because the intensity of the look she is giving you renders you speechless.
"Britt..." she says, and she opens her mouth to speak again but it takes a second or two for her to actually make any sound and her voice is laced with so much emotion when she tells you she's proud of you that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. She regards you with such a tender and adoring gaze that you feel your heart no longer fits in your chest and you say the words you weren't actually sure you would be brave enough to.
"You were the one person, the only person I wanted to tell when I heard. You just.. you always made me feel so special, so smart... I couldn't wait to share it with you.." Tears pool in her eyes as she looks at you, and she shakes her head a little before clearing her throat and smiling at you lovingly.
There's a crashing noise of saucepans from the kitchen and just like that the spell is broken and reality sets in, and you watch carefully as the look you noticed earlier returns to Santana's features and her eyes leave yours once more. You know that look, you knew it earlier though you didn't want to acknowledge it, but now you can't ignore it - guilt. It makes you anxious, and when you ask her what's wrong, you wonder if you even want to know.
There is an uneasy feeling in your stomach that you first noticed back in February at Mr Schuester's wedding; when you had seen all the playful glances and smiles Santana and Quinn had exchanged, when you had seen the way Quinn's touches lingered a little too long on Santana's skin, when you had seen the way their faces were just a little too close as they had slow-danced around the room. When you had seen them duck out of the reception giggling at 10pm, only for them not to return...
You don't care to follow the train of thought, because - really - it's ridiculous. You had known it then and you know it now. Or you would do, but Santana still won't meet your eyes and your stomach lurches uncomfortably. You think back to a comment Tina made the week after the wedding, something snide about Santana "finally completing the Unholy Trinity" that you had ignored, because you know Tina has some sort of random problem with Santana, and there is just no way...
"Santana?" you say, and she looks up at you reluctantly. "Has something.. happened?" She stares at you. "Did something..." you trail off and your voice is shaky and betrays the insecurity now shredding your insides. "You and Quinn..." you start, but your voice fails you and you don't try again. You don't need to, because her head is dipped and her eyes flick back and forth between yours quickly, and you just know. The knowledge causes your heart to shatter within your chest and suddenly breathing feels like the most difficult task in the world.
You shut your eyes as tightly as you can, partly so you don't have to look at her, and partly in a feeble attempt to stem the tears that are threatening to force their way down your face. "Brittany.." she says but her voice sounds so distant and far away and it doesn't even sound like her anymore. You shake your head and lower it into your hands and try desperately to force air into your lungs but you feel winded.
"Brittany" she tries again but you react on instinct, a harsh "don't" falling from your lips and she falls silent. You're not sure how long the silence stretches, and when you finally look back up her eyes are red and shimmering with tears and you hate what this has become.
The tension hangs heavily in the room as you watch Quinn poke and prod her food miserably around her plate. You're vaguely aware of the sound of Kurt and Rachel speaking about some upcoming show they're in - about how they would love you to come along - but you're not really listening and you're sure they know it. You're definitely aware of Santana's stare on you, watching and waiting for something, for what you're not entirely sure. Your eyes don't leave Quinn though, and you don't even bother trying to disguise the scowl now sitting on your face.
Kurt had arrived home suddenly, and Santana had insisted you skip dinner - that you go somewhere to talk, to sort things out - but you had ignored her altogether and wandered over to the dinner table when Rachel had re-entered with a giant pot of spaghetti bolognese and now the 5 of you sit and eat in near silence.
Kurt coughs a little and asks Quinn how her day was, if she had fun shopping, if she managed to get that "hot new dress" she had been searching for and Quinn pauses her movements, and Santana shifts uncomfortably, and your mind screams at you to ignore it. Images are flashing before you though - changing rooms and hotel suites - and you drop your fork to your plate with a loud clatter.
"Not exactly," Quinn mumbles tightly before standing abruptly and walking towards the kitchen with her plate and you hear a crashing noise as you guess she throws it into the sink. You try really hard to ignore the look of concern, of conflict on Santana's face, as Quinn leaves the room.
You pad quietly into the kitchen and pause at the door to lean against the frame. Quinn stands with her back to you, hands gripping the edges of the sink and her body hunched over, and you know from the way her shoulders tighten that she's aware of your presence. She doesn't turn to you though, she doesn't move at all, and you only pause a little before walking forwards and taking a seat at the small table that sits in the middle of the room.
The sound of the chair scraping against the floor must break her from her thoughts, because she lets out a loud and exasperated sigh before slowly turning round to face you. Her arms are folded tightly across her chest in what you suspect is an act of defiance and she mostly looks at the floor as the room descends into silence. It's heavy and uncomfortable and you're not sure why you even came in here, but you did, and you stare at her willing her to do something, to say something.
"I'm not going to apologize."
It's not what you expect her to say, and you feel a little dazed at the words for a moment before you let your mouth drop open a little. "What?" you ask incredulously, and she finally looks up at you before speaking again, a little louder this time, a little surer.
"I'm not going to apologize for what happened. For what's happening." Her tone is terse and a little confrontational, you think, and you wonder where she even gets the nerve. You don't miss the way she adds a present to the past; the not so subtle hint that this thing between her and Santana is somehow current. The anger and betrayal you've been trying to quash for the last hour or so starts to swirl in your stomach and you have to be careful here. There is so much you want to say, so much you need to say to that. Your thoughts are running away and tripping over each other while you sit, desperate to keep your cool.
"Are you kidding?" you ask as you raise your eyebrows slightly, and you're amazed you manage to keep the emotion from your voice. She doesn't answer you, but you see the way her jaw tenses and her head lifts, and you guess that maybe she isn't. "You slept together Quinn." You try desperately to keep the waiver from your voice, to stop the anger from stealing all the sense in your words and leaving you a spluttering mess. "You're supposed to be her friend. You're supposed to be my friend. Do you have any idea how this makes me feel?"
She scoffs at your words, and you breathe deeply when she speaks again. "How you feel? What about how Santana feels? What about how it felt for her to watch you parade around your stupid relationship without a care in the world?" Your throat feels tight, and you swear there isn't enough air in the room. "She was hurting Brittany. Either you were too stupid to notice or you didn't care."
It's the second time in quick succession she uses the word 'stupid', and you know Quinn well enough to see the intent. You're so taken aback by her words, by the implication that you would ever disregard Santana's feelings, that you simply stare back at her wide-eyed.
"Someone had to do something, and you sure as hell weren't going to. I'm not going to apologize for - "
"For what?" you snap irritably, interrupting her. You've just about had enough of Quinn and this holier-than-thou crap. She has no right...
"...for helping her," she finishes sharply and it's your turn to let out a scoff. You roll your eyes and turn your head away from her because, quite frankly, you are seething now. She continues regardless though, and you wish she wouldn't bother,
"I was there for her when you weren't."
The words hurt like a physical blow and your entire body slumps. It had been there, that feeling - gnawing at the back of your brain since you arrived - but now Quinn has put words to it and the idea feels infinitely worse than it did before. The weight of your regrets has settled heavily on your chest and its suffocating. Maybe you have no right to feel so bitter about this; that Quinn was the one to offer Santana the comfort you would never deny her, but the jealousy rears anyway, and you feel nauseous from the power of it. It should have been you. You know it should have.
You hear a laugh escape her lips, but its harsh and mirthless and there is nothing funny about any of this.
"But here you are," she states, and you can hear the thinly-veiled acidity in her words. "You just couldn't leave it alone, could you?"
You suspect she probably isn't waiting for an answer to that.
You get it, you kind of do. You guess that Quinn felt a little abandoned when you found your way into her and Santana's lives and laid claim to the other girl's heart. You know it hurt her to watch her best friend drift away and into your arms, and to watch her oldest friendship descend into verbal smack-downs and physical blows. But it's not like you planned it that way, and it was never about taking Santana away from Quinn, so the resentment she's now directing at you leaves you a little perplexed.
She opens her mouth, but for the first time since you started this godforsaken conversation she actually falters, and it closes quickly. She closes her eyes slowly and takes a deep breath that you hear rattle through her lungs before she pushes off from the sink and stalks past you and out of the kitchen without another word. For your part you just sit, staring numbly at the space where she stood a second ago, and you finally allow the tears to silently fall.