Nowadays, Santana has so many secrets.
She hears Brittany's voice, sweet and punctuated with little upswing halts, lilting into the hallway from Brittany's bedroom: "―and then Princess Jasmine fell in love with Alice in Wonderland, except she didn't realize that she was in―"
(She did realize, though. Like last week, actually.)
For a second, Santana's heart speeds and she feels lightheaded. "Britt? What are you doing?" she says, fluttery all over. She steps through the door, her heart beating fast.
(She just couldn't say so, that's all. She still can't.)
Brittany and her sister sit spooned together in Brittany's beanbag chair, slumped against the wall, the Disney Princess: Happily Ever After Stories book open across their laps. Brittany's little sister leans her head against Brittany's shoulder, clutching her blanket to her chin, listening with rapt attention as Brittany points to the illustrations on the page. Their hair—Brittany's blonde like summer, her sister's blonde like autumn—lays hay-swept over the breast of Brittany's dance studio t-shirt. Brittany looks up from the book, and, even though Santana has seen them a million times, her eyes catch Santana by surprise.
A forever kind of blue.
"Santana," Brittany jumps, startled. A wide smile replaces her shock and oh god.
Brittany's smile doesn't fade and Santana can't stop looking at her.
(When Santana lies in bed at night, she replays every look and smile, wondering, hands folded over her ribcage. Sometimes she is such a girl. But that's the problem, isn't it? Brittany is such a girl, too.)
"Scooch over, munchkin," Brittany says dopily, dislodging her sister from her lap as she makes room on the chair for Santana, keeping her gaze locked with Santana's the whole time. The room seems bright, even though it's just after sundown outside, and Santana feels both inexplicably nervous and high and light and happy all at once.
It's only after Santana flops down next to Brittany that she feels the heat radiating from Brittany's body and realizes, unexpectedly, that Brittany's ears are sunburn pink; Brittany's blushing.
"Hey," Brittany says, shy all of a sudden. Her voice dips. She glances at Santana's mouth, avoiding her eyes for a second.
"Hey," Santana says back, shy because Brittany is shy, and that almost never happens.
(The other day after practice, they played the apple stem game. Santana told Brittany her stem broke at C, but it didn't. Now she's got that B stem hidden away in her desk drawer. Brittany's stem took forever to twist off and finally snapped on S, so you know, you know, you know―)
Brittany's little sister flops her legs over both Brittany's and Santana's laps and nuzzles into Brittany again; she watches Santana with wide, kindergarten eyes. Santana had forgotten she was there.
Not quite sure where to look anymore, Santana glances down at the page and sees that Brittany's not even reading from the story part of the book—just the title page where the illustrator has positioned a handful of characters in pinks and blues and greens and yellows around the table of contents. Santana bumps her knees against Brittany's leg and settles in, molding her body to fit Brittany's on the squishy chair. She folds her hands over Brittany's shoulder and looks to Brittany's fingers curled around the edges of the book.
"Keep reading?" she sighs more than says.
Brittany opens her mouth to answer something, but doesn't get far.
"Bedtime, pumpkin!" Brittany's dad's voice hollers down the hallway and Brittany's little sister groans.
"But Santana just got here!" she complains, looking to the two big girls to save her.
"Sorry, squirt," Santana shrugs. "I don't make the rules."
"Hide me," Brittany's sister begs, burying her face in Brittany's shoulder. She pulls her blanket up over her head. Brittany and Santana share a look over the top of her.
"Silly!" Brittany scolds, tugging the blanket down. "Santana will still be here when you wake up tomorrow."
"Besides," Santana reasons, "the last time I was here, you called me a meanie. You don't really want to hang around with me anyway." She pokes Brittany's sister in the ribs with her thumb.
"You are a meanie," Brittany's sister protests, wiggling away from Santana's touch, her voice muffled by Brittany's shoulder. "But you're our meanie and―"
Brittany cuts her off. "Not ours," she says. "Mine. And she's not mean. And you need to go to bed. You have playgroup tomorrow, I think. Dad says." And with that, Brittany bounces the little girl off her lap, jostling her to her feet. Brittany prods her sister to get going just as their dad appears in the doorway.
(Santana's stopped taking all the "dream guy" quizzes in Cosmo Girl because they just make her feel kind of sad.)
"Come on, sweetie," Brittany's dad says, scooping his younger daughter up in a hug hold before she can dodge him. She squeals, but he ignores her, glancing instead at Brittany and Santana, still curled against each other in the sagging chair.
Briefly, Santana feels guilty, caught even though she and Brittany haven't done anything wrong. She doesn't know why; she smolders with a shame so deep that she can't even allow herself to think about it, really. Brittany's dad doesn't seem to notice, though. He just smiles; Brittany so has his mouth.
"Hey, Santana-banana!" he says warmly and Santana feels her face heat. She kind of hates that nickname, but she kind of loves it, too.
"Hey, Mr. Pierce," she says weakly. She doesn't move away from Brittany and Brittany doesn't move away from her, either.
"You girls gonna watch the baseball game tonight?" Brittany's dad asks teasingly as Brittany's little sister squirms in his arms. "Let's go Indians!"
No television, not tonight; Santana can already tell. Everything feels too important, somehow.
Brittany shakes her head. "I have a moral abstraction against stealing," she says vaguely.
(When she can't sleep at night, Santana tries to think of all the little Brittany things that Brittany says during the day and puzzle them apart, one by one. When she finally gets them, she can't help but grin into the darkness. Sometimes she swears that Brittany only really makes jokes for her.)
"I'm thinking... no," Santana replies slowly, smiling, checking Brittany's face to make sure she's read the situation correctly. God, Brittany is just so―
"Okay. Suit yourselves!" Brittany's dad grins. "'Night, chickadees!"
At once: "G'night, Dad" and "'Night, Mr. Pierce."
Brittany's dad shuffles out of the room, Brittany's sister slung over his shoulder. He whistles cheerfully while she groans and rolls her eyes, thoroughly annoyed. He leaves the door open, but neither Santana nor Brittany gets up to close it. Instead, they just stare at each other.
Brittany looks like something else, comfy below the neck in a soft t-shirt and pajama bottoms, but with her hair still fixed from the day and pretty diamond studs pushpinned into the soft plush of her pink earlobes, like pearls resting upon a pillow. Santana stares at Brittany's ears too long. She stares at the light brush of freckles over Brittany's nose too long. She stares at Brittany's lips, still pink with gloss, too long, too long, too long.
When Santana returns to herself, she finds Brittany staring straight into her eyes. She shudders just a little.
"Quinn said that Jason H. likes you," Brittany blurts out.
"Who?" Santana asks.
"She says he was checking out your ass in gym."
Brittany wears an expression Santana can't quite place. Her bottom lip thins to a sliver and she acts like they're talking about something super serious, even though, duh, it's just about some stupid boy.
It comes out a little sharper than Santana wanted it to. She flinches; Brittany doesn't and doesn't seem to notice, either.
"You don't care?" Brittany asks, surprised.
Santana calculates: should she care? Maybe she should, but.
"He's a skateboarder, Britt. We don't get with skateboarders."
(He's not you.)
"But he plays basketball, too."
"He's just on the freshmen squad. He's not even JV."
They both sound relieved, and maybe that should bother Santana, but it doesn't. She still has her hands on Brittany's shoulder and their legs pushed together. She can't tell if it's her heart or Brittany's beating so crazily like this. Maybe both.
Brittany reaches awkwardly behind herself and nudges the door closed with fumbling fingertips, never looking away from Santana. The door clicks into place. Brittany stares, her expression deep and unreadable.
"Santana?" she says suddenly. "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
"What?" Santana asks, surprised. Her brow scrunches as she tries to follow Brittany's train of thought. After a second, Santana shrugs, blank. "I dunno."
"Like, if you could be anything. Like, whatever you wanted."
(It's not that she doesn't have an answer; it's that she has too many. Braver, for one thing. Better, for another. Different than this, whatever "this" is, really.)
She shrugs again and smiles past all the things she's thinking, just watching Brittany. She focuses on what she can say. "Famous, I guess? Rich? I dunno. What do you want to do when you grow up, BrittBritt?"
Brittany gives a quirky smile that somehow makes Santana feel smart and wonderful and like Brittany looks up to her, even though Santana knows that she doesn't deserve any of that. Brittany inhales deeply, her ears pink again, her cheeks flushed and breathing quick, as though she's about to tell a big secret.
(For a second, Santana's heart beats like a sprint, hopeful for something she can't even name. She holds her breath, like she did twisting the stem on that apple.)
"I want to be a Spanish minor."
It isn't what Santana expected, like... at all. But nothing ever is with Brittany. Brittany glances at Santana again, bashful. Her eyes look over Santana's mouth, then quickly away again, like she's nervous about what Santana will say. For a second, Santana thinks Brittany might kiss her. But then, a Spanish minor? What does that even mean?
"You know, in college," Brittany says, as though it will help.
"You want to be a Spanish minor when you grow up?"
"When I turn twenty-one, yeah." A pause. "I just... I dunno. I really, really want to learn Spanish."
Santana can't help it: she smiles. God, Brittany is so―
(Cute. Perfect. Wonderful. Thoughtful. Random. Brittany. Perfect.)
"Well, I could teach you some, if you wanted, BrittBritt. Like, what do you wanna know?"
"¿Còmo se dice 'You still haven't answered my question yet, cheater?' en español?" Brittany grins.
"Hey!" Santana says, lunging at Brittany to tickle her ribs. Brittany squeals and contorts in the chair, like a cat falling from a high place. She holds up her hands to fend Santana off, but Santana still manages to get past her defenses, poking her fingers into Brittany's side, eliciting loud giggles from both of them. "I was trying to save you some tuition money, ingrata!"
"¡Ayuda! ¡ Ayuda! ¡Policía!" Brittany squirms off the beanbag chair and onto the floor.
(Santana has no idea how much Spanish Brittany actually understands, which makes whispering her secretos against Brittany's cheek when Brittany is asleep dangerous and somehow also a relief, like maybe―)
Santana grins so widely that her face hurts and sprawls to occupy Brittany's recently vacated space. She feels Brittany's leftover heat on the chair and soaks it in and soaks up the moment like a cat in a sunbeam. Brittany watches her, breathless, and Santana wonders what she's thinking. She always wonders what Brittany's thinking.
When Santana finally answers Brittany's question, she doesn't lie: "I want to be happy."
Brittany looks at her reverently, and for a second Santana swears that Brittany knows all her secrets. "Me, too," she says quietly, suddenly still. She looks deeply at Santana with her forever eyes, her expression soft and deep and pliant, like Santana could tell Brittany anything in that moment and Brittany would believe it, completely and with all her heart.
(She just couldn't say. She still can't.)
Later that night, when they both lie in Brittany's bed, the quilt pulled up to their shoulders and their bodies pressed together, Santana leans over to check the green light on Brittany's digital clock―4:17 am. She counts Brittany's breathing, the deep troughs and little gasping crests of it, and moves in, soft and quiet, to press a kiss to Brittany's cheek.
Santana has so many secrets that she doesn't know what to do with all of them nowadays.
She sighs and feels Brittany shudder with dreams in her arms. Her voice is barely above just breath.
She falls to sleep.