So it's kind of short... but hey! An update! For those who are still interested and reading, I am very sorry this took so long. (Also to the people who sent PMs, as you can see, I'm woeful at keeping promises...) Hopefully I'll be back into the flow of writing now, and there will definitely be another update before the week is out. So yeah... I hope people don't hate it too much!
"Are you sure you want me there tonight?"
The words pause your hand where it hovers next to your face, mascara wand grasped firmly and now skirting dangerously close to your nose. You try to re-focus past the reflection of your own face to the bed behind you, from where the words drifted from.
Santana is sitting back against your headboard and fiddling absent-mindedly with one of the shimmering tops you tried on earlier before it was discarded to the miniature scrapheap forming on the bed. When she glances up to meet your eyes in the mirror you furrow your brow before returning to the task in hand, coating your lashes slowly and deliberately.
"Er, why wouldn't I?" you ask, and when your eyes flicker towards her form again you notice a brief smirk, no doubt prompted by the awkward face you're pulling as you apply your make-up.
"I dunno, I just don't want you to feel like you're stuck with me or anything," she says with a half-shrug and you find you're having quite a bit of trouble trying to be as delicate as possible while you have this conversation. Multitasking has never really been your strong point.
"Are you kidding? I've been looking forward to seeing you for weeks," you say, still squinting at your own reflection.
"Yeah, me too. I just don't wanna stop you from celebrating with your friends, that's all," she says, her tone light as she runs her fingers through the sequins on the garment sitting in her lap.
"They're your friends too," you tell her, re-capping the mascara and turning to face her properly. She quirks an eyebrow in your direction and you shrug with a smile. "Some of them…" you say with a tilt of your head, and she shakes her head with a grin.
"Well just don't feel like you have to hold my hand or anything, you can do your own thing," she says with a lazy smile and a flick of her wrist.
"Oh, why thank you," you exclaim with a hand to your chest and your best air of gratitude, and her eye roll is playful rather than sarcastic.
You lift the lip gloss from your dresser and turn back to the mirror, attention focused on your own lips, when her next words cause you to slip and smudge VeryBerry halfway down your chin.
"If you wanna hang out with Sam, that's obviously cool too."
She hasn't managed to convey quite as much indifference as you suspect she was going for, and that's probably why her eyes no longer face in your direction, rather down at her own perfectly manicured nails. You watch her carefully, left hand wiping at the gluey substance on your chin and smearing it into the back of your other hand.
You briefly contemplate lying. Well, maybe not lying as such, but just ignoring the comment altogether. She's bound to notice something though, if not in your tone, then certainly later on at the party. You're not even really sure why you've put off this conversation for so long. It's not that you're afraid to tell her, not really – no it's her reaction that has your mind pre-occupied and wandering through a maze of different outcomes.
Because what if she doesn't care? Sure, she's not going to jump for joy or punch the air or anything, but you want her to have to have some kind of feeling about it. You want her to be affected, however perverse it sounds.
"That might be a little awkward," you say carefully, eyes trained on her through the mirror. "We've kind of been avoiding each other since the break-up."
It's instant; the way her eyes snap up to meet yours without even missing a beat. She stares at you intently, and you search her face for a cue, for some indication of how she feels about that particular piece of information. Her eyes are insistent and you see her throat bobble as she watches you so closely, so carefully, like a leopard might watch its prey. You turn to face her properly, lip gloss clutched tightly in your hand.
"When?" she asks, voice ever so subtly strangled, eyes dropping briefly to her lap in an effort to conceal the pointedness of the question.
"A while ago," you admit quietly, shifting awkwardly where you stand.
You can hear it – the unspoken why bidding to fall from her tongue - but her face is impassive and her restraint apparently immovable. You thought that she might be guarded about this, careful in her questioning.
"Oh," is all she says when she finally remembers to speak, the atmosphere switching from intense to slightly awkward in the time it takes you to draw breath. All things considered, that's probably an easier place to start. She drops her gaze, and you wonder briefly if that's all you're getting.
"Don't tell me Trouty Mouth had the nerve to cut you off from those big fish lips of his?"
She's trying to lighten the mood but there is none of the usual lilt in her tone and the half-smile she wears is forced, of that much you are sure. Honestly, she looks and sounds a little uncomfortable, as if she herself isn't quite sure how to process this information or how she should react to it.
"I… kinda cut myself off," you mumble, and at her look you clarify it, leaving her with no doubt. "I mean, it was me that ended it." She tilts her head to the side and her eyes narrow ever so slightly.
"What did he do?" she asks seriously, her back straightening and her shoulders squaring. There is an intent to her now that wasn't there a moment ago, and you smile softly as you meet her gaze straight on and shrug.
"Nothing. He didn't do anything."
You think you see the exact moment realization clicks into place for her; her entire face falls for the briefest of seconds, and suddenly her eyes are alight with the kind of fire you haven't seen in her for the longest time. Her eyes begin to flick back and forth between your own, like she's searching for some kind of catch, and you can't decide if the look on her face is one of relief or of oddly mingled hope.
"I'm sorry," she says slowly, her eyes shining and causing your heart to quicken its pace.
"No you're not," you challenge teasingly. The knowing smile you receive in return graces her lips slowly, almost shyly, warming you with its sincerity and affection.
"No. No I'm not."
No, Santana may not be jumping for joy, or punching the air. For once though, she lets the emotions play out openly across her face, and you don't have to read between the lines or second guess what she's thinking. She quite clearly cares, and with that knowledge, hope and excitement floods your chest. You turn back to face the mirror, smirking coyly as you see her eyes following you in the mirror, and you return to applying your long since forgotten lip gloss.
The change is subtle, but you notice it nonetheless. Maybe it's the way she stands a little closer to you than she seemed to before, or maybe it's how she leans in when you speak, a gentle yet proprietary hand coming to rest on the small of your back while she tips her head back to laugh at something you've said.
Despite her earlier insistence that you do your own thing she's hardly left your side since you arrived, and god it feels like the good old days; when you were this indomitable twosome that moved effortlessly like a single being. Sugar is as taken with Santana as she ever was, and she follows you both around her own party, desperate for some bizarre sort of approval that Santana seems to give more readily than she ever would have before.
You've never seen Santana be so - well – nice, before. Sure, all the sarcastic quips remain, and the insults are still as subtle as a brick, but there is something softer about her now, something rather more good-natured. Maybe it's this new confidence she has about her these days, easier and less forced, that means no longer does she fight to be the center of attention or to have the last say.
The party is much bigger than you had been expecting. You don't even recognize half the guests and if all the other Glee kids are here they must be pretty scattered. You think you caught a glimpse of a set of wheels when you arrived, so Artie is definitely here, and you heard Kitty before you saw her, flirting her way through a throng of people. The house is full enough that you've been able to completely avoid Sam – last seen playing beer pong with some guys from the football team – altogether.
Or so you had thought, but the first time Santana excuses herself to go to the bathroom you hear the familiar voice call your name, and with it the familiar mop of blonde hair slides into your vision.
By in large you've exchanged nothing but stilted pleasantries these past few weeks - though most of that has been from you - while he has mostly alternated between wistful staring and a glower as though you had kicked him in the balls. Maybe it's the beer that has caused him to approach you all of a sudden, and you find yourself subtly glancing round for an escape-route.
You offer him an awkward hey and he pauses for a moment before smiling tentatively at you.
"I just wanted to say, well done. You know, for graduating and stuff," he says, hands stuffed into the pockets of his jeans.
"Oh," you say, a little startled, before you smile back. "Yeah, you too. Look at us go, right?"
He smiles and scratches at the back of his neck, considering you like there is something else he wants to say.
"Santana's here," he says, and you glance briefly in the direction she disappeared in before re-focusing on the boy in front of you, not really sure what you should say.
"Are you two-"
"Sorry, it's none of my business."
You watch him carefully and you actually let the question take hold in your brain for the briefest of moments. Are you? You're friends, of course, but maybe…
His voice breaks you from your trance and he asks you if you know yet what you'll be doing next year, and you tell him you're not really sure. He isn't either, it seems. He thinks he will probably be in Lima, and you think you will be in New York, though you don't actually say it out loud. Not yet.
"It would be cool if we could, I dunno, maybe keep in touch," he says eventually, and you're reminded strangely of your fondness for him - for this boy who has been, if nothing else, a good friend to you this past year.
"Sure," you tell him with a smile, and he seems pleased as he takes his leave to find his friends.
When you finally locate Santana again she is in the kitchen, leaning against the counter as she speaks to an enthusiastic and slightly drunk Artie. She wordlessly hands you a drink as you come to stand next to her, laughing at a story Artie is telling about an awful blind date Tina set him up on.
When he's finished, and all of your laughter breaks for pause, he brazenly asks over the rim of his cup if Santana is seeing anyone. You guess he's a little too drunk to notice the sharp look you send in his direction so you re-avert your eyes to Santana, who is looking more bemused than uncomfortable as she places a hand to her chest.
"The only relationship I'm in at the moment is the one with my DVR," she deadpans before wrinkling her nose, "and even then I have to share with Rachel."
"Yeah, but you can't have sex with a machine," Artie slurs suggestively, as if by quirking his eyebrows he'll somehow prompt Santana into sharing some kind of sordid secret with him.
"Well technically…" she starts conspiratorially as she leans towards him, but at your coughing fit she relents and stands straight with a wry smile. "No sex, sorry to disappoint Wheels."
It's pretty comical - the way Artie's face visibly falls, bitterly disappointed that he won't be getting any juicy gossip, much less any details. You find yourself a little too distracted to spare amusement at his expense though, your eyes raking across Santana's inexpressive features, searching for the lie in her words.
"That's… boring," Artie complains, and Santana can only laugh as she turns to pour herself another drink.
" 'Fraid so," she smirks, and your mind kicks into overdrive.
It's almost a full hour and several rums later when you pluck up the courage to bring up the conversation again. You're sitting amongst a large group though mostly you speak to one another while Sugar holds court next to you.
"Earlier," you start, not really sure how to phrase the question you want to ask with any subtlety. Santana half glances up from the picture message she's just received of Rachel at a karaoke bar (captioned with '5th in a row, I give it 1 more before we're asked to leave..').
"Hmm?" she asks, tapping out a reply on her phone.
You close one eye in concentration, desperate to phrase your point in a way you makes you seem the perfect combination of nonchalant and assured.
"When Artie asked you if you were seeing anyone…" you try, faltering just a little as her hands still and her head lifts slightly, her attention captured though she doesn't look at you yet. "You know, you don't have to lie for my sake," you say quietly as you glance around about you, and she meets your eyes properly with a questioning look. "Whatever it is that's going on with you and Quinn-… you're allowed to talk about it. It's okay."
Her eyes narrow and you swear it's like she can see straight through you.
"It's… okay?" she asks somewhat disbelievingly and you shrug with a smile, not entirely sure you trust yourself to speak. She places her phone in her lap, forgotten for a moment, as she watches you warily.
"There's nothing going on between Quinn and I," she says after a long pause. "Not anymore, anyway."
You wonder if she notices the way you sit up a little straighter at her words, or if the feeling of pure relief that engulfs you is obvious on your face. She waits watchfully for a response, and yet all you manage is a breathy "Oh." All the people seated around you talking and laughing seem as though they are muffled behind glass as you sit quietly regarding each other for a moment. Santana shrugs and picks up her phone again, shaking herself from the stare.
"She still comes to stay sometimes, we hang out. That's it though."
Her tone is so casual, as though it would make no odds to you whether she is or isn't with Quinn. You wonder if she actually thinks that, or if she is just trying to make light of a conversation threatening to take on a more serious and intense tone in the middle of a crowded party.
You should say something; something clever or profound, something meaningful. But when she's done fiddling with her phone and she looks up at you again, you find all the questions you are desperate to ask her seem to die in your throat.