Love You When I Do (Love You When I Don't)
Only do not forget, if I wake up crying
it's only because in my dreams I'm a lost child
hunting through the leaves of the night for your hands
- Pablo Neruda, Love Sonnet XXI
There are nights when Brittany can't sleep.
There are nights when she wakes up and her heart is beating too fast to have just been resting, when her palms are sweaty, her breath is too erratic and she struggles to remember where she is.
Her eyes stream with tears and she clutches across the empty space of her bed for something that isn't there. It takes her too long to remember where she is and, when she does, it takes her twice as long to figure out why she's there.
Those are the nights when her dreams don't make sense.
She has one of those nights the night before Mr. Schue's wedding.
Not many people know this, but weddings make Brittany uncomfortable.
She's not really sure if it's the over-anticipation, the worry, the panic, or the fact that everything needs to be perfect but, whatever it is, it always leaves her feeling anxious.
There's too much possibility for things to go wrong at weddings. No matter how much you plan things, someone always ends up disappointed. Even if you do get to wear a pretty dress, wear champagne and dance, things never turn out how you expect them to.
Brittany can't think of a wedding she's ever been to where she slept the night before.
The night before her Uncle Harris' wedding when she was twelve, she couldn't sleep because she was sure that she was going to take her steps wrong, that she'd walk too fast, that she'd accidentally trip and rip her dress.
The night before Burt and Carole's wedding, her brain was a mess of dance moves and I'm not making out with you because I'm in love with you. All she could think about was Santana's face and Artie's kind smile and how she wanted to be able to dance with both of them.
The night before Finn and Rachel's wedding, she couldn't shake the feeling that something was going to go wrong, that their dresses were too pink, that someone should speak to Quinn. All she could think about was Dave Karofsky in a hospital bed and how, a year before, he and Santana were scared about the same things, that she might feel like he did.
The last wedding Brittany went to was her own.
It wasn't a real wedding but she didn't know that at the time.
She thought that the world was ending even though it felt like it'd been ending since August. It was kind of nice to think that everything might just stop.
That didn't stop her from sitting up all night, staring at her dress and looking at pictures of someone who wasn't the boy she was marrying. It didn't stop her from throwing up three times and having to lock her cell phone in her desk drawer so she didn't call anyone.
She just wanted it to stop.
She just wanted…
She's not sure what she wanted.
Ms. Pillsbury doesn't show up.
Brittany's shoulders relax and she breathes a sigh of relief the minute that they find out.
She wants to feel sorry for Mr. Schue but she knows that Ms. Pillsbury wouldn't have stood him up if it wasn't for a good reason. She's not like Brittany. She doesn't worry about stuff once it's too late; she worries about it before it happens and stops it if she thinks it's a bad idea.
A lot of people think Ms. Pillsbury is weird but, since she's been helping Brittany with school, Brittany thinks she's kind of cool. She's not mean or rude like other people. She's patient and she doesn't laugh when Brittany gets the answers wrong. She smiles when she gets them right. She believes in her and not many people do that anymore.
Not even Sam.
Brittany's not even sure if he ever has.
Still, his arm tightens around her shoulders when she relaxes and he pulls her closer.
She doesn't really want to think about what it means.
The wedding reception is kind of awkward.
Santana hasn't done more than smile at her in the church and it sucks because she really misses her best friend.
She misses talking to her about stuff and making her laugh and listening to her rant about random stuff that doesn't really matter. She misses movie nights and slumber parties. She misses shopping and spending rainy afternoons in the Lima Bean, goofing around because one of their moms is sick of them.
Telling Santana to go to New York was meant to make things better but it hasn't.
She misses Santana when she's there and she misses her just as much when she's in the same room.
She just misses her and she doesn't know what to do.
This weirdness that they're in makes it hard to go up there and tell Santana that she's had too much to drink, makes it awkward to take her up to bed. She can't even go over there and just hold her up because there's only so long before weepy Santana appears and Brittany only knows one way to comfort Santana and it would just make things worse for the both of them.
So Brittany does nothing, and just watches Santana dance with Quinn over Sam's shoulder.
When Santana and Quinn leave, Brittany has to fight her itchy feet to follow them.
Her back straightens and she clears her throat, watching after them as they leave the reception and head back out into the hotel lobby.
She watches until they leave and only stops staring at the door when Sam clears his throat. He stares at her knowingly when her eyes settle on him. He's smiling slightly, yet uncomfortably, and she feels a blush fill her cheeks, caught.
"Sorry," she whispers but she's not sure what she's apologizing for.
Sam just shrugs. "They're your best friends," he says easily. "They moved away and you're here and you miss them."
It's hard to argue the truth, so she just remains silent and looks down at the table in front of her. Sam's hand reaches to cover hers but she doesn't react to it. He laughs a little.
"It's okay to miss them," he says. Brittany swallows and stares until Sam starts to get up. She looks at him in confusion and doesn't feel comfortable with the way he stares down at her. It makes her feel small. "I'm going to go to our room," he says. "Go be with your best friends."
Brittany studies him for a second and there's a part of her that wants to tell him that if she wanted to go see her friends then she doesn't need his permission. She bites those words back and, instead, just nods. She thinks she needs a breather before she returns to their room.
She hasn't really felt in a bed-sharing mood recently.
Sam grins like he's the best thing in the world.
"Have fun," he whispers and Brittany knows she won't.
She doesn't even make it to their floor.
She presses the button to the elevator and folds her hands together as she waits for it to arrive. Her heart hammers nervously and she jumps a little when the doors open and Mike and Mercedes are standing there, whispering lowly together in panic.
"Hey guys, what's up?" she asks softly. Their eyes snap to her, big and bright and worried.
"Nothing," Mercedes shakes her head, stopping Brittany when she tries to take their place in the elevator. "Where are you going? I thought you and Sam were on the other side of the building."
Brittany nods. "We are," she says. "But I was actually going to go make sure that Santana and Quinn were okay." She follows the words with a nod so that they don't notice her nervousness. "I think they drank a lot."
Mike looks at Mercedes and Mercedes looks back with a weird expression on her face. Mike gulps and Brittany smiles to ease the tension she feels.
"They're in bed," Mike says and he's still looking at Mercedes with wide eyes.
For a second, Brittany wonders what's going on. Maybe Mike and Mercedes are having sex. She's pretty sure that's probably the last combination of the Glee club left to be fulfilled. Whatever. They deserve to be happy.
"Yeah," Mercedes says, finally snapping Brittany back to the conversation. "We just checked on them and they're fast asleep. Passed out. Which is where we should be. It's been a long day."
Mike nods in agreement. "Yeah," he nods. "Long day."
"You can see them at breakfast," Mercedes goes on. "We can all tease them about their hangover."
Brittany nods, feeling the nerves draining from her.
"Right," she says but it feels wrong.
Sam's already snoring by the time that she gets to their hotel room.
He doesn't wake up when she stubs her toe putting on her pajamas or when she turns on the TV and finds the cartoons.
It makes it easier to steal one of the pillows off the bed and find a blanket in the closet. She dumps them on the floor beside the bed and falls onto her stomach to watch the cartoons there.
She doesn't feel bad. Not really. She'll say that he was sprawled across the bed when she got in and didn't want to wake him, or that she was doing something and accidentally fell asleep. She'll find something nicer to say than the truth—that it's hard to fall asleep beside him, that it's even harder to wake up next to him, and that she can barely sleep beside him anyway—and that will be enough.
It will be okay.
Not that it matters.
She barely sleeps and, when she does, she wakes up before him anyway.
It's still dark and she gasps awake from a dream that's not bad but makes her feel bad. Sam's still fast asleep beside her, spread across the bed and snoring. It's late enough that the TV is playing infomercials and when she rolls onto her back she sees that it's almost five-thirty.
She gets up and settles into the armchair by the window with her blanket and pillow and can't stop the weary feeling that suddenly overcomes her. She stares out of the window, watching as the colors of the nighttime swirl into the ones of day, and tries to breathe easy but can't.
She's not sure how long she's been there, just that she's been staring into space, but after a while, the sound of footsteps jolts her back into conscious. She looks down and her heart skips a little when she finds a familiar silhouette in the morning.
Santana's still wearing her dress from yesterday and her hair's a mess but Brittany doesn't pay any attention. She just notices how Santana looks frantic, worried, and presses her hand to the glass to get closer.
It's like a magnetic pull.
Brown eyes instantly turn to find her and Brittany smiles when they do.
But Santana just looks sad. She smiles, relieved, but looks sad.
"Hi," Brittany mouths.
Santana's smile grows a little more, her face tensing in something that looks too much like pain. She lifts her hand in a wave and keeps looking back. "Hi," she mouths back.
Brittany doesn't look away. She just watches and watches until Santana gives her one last smile and leaves.
Things are weird after the wedding.
Nothing really changes but everything's really tense. Mr. Schue is back in Glee club but doesn't come back to help with Brittany's tutoring and Ms. Pillsbury seems more determined to get Brittany to graduate.
The pile of work she had to catch up at the beginning of the year doesn't even really exist anymore and with each week that passes, Brittany wonders how long it'll be before she has to find a new place where she belongs.
It's not something that anyone else seems to be worried about. Blaine is already busy with his NYADA application and Tina and Artie are looking at colleges too. Sam has his own college applications and Brittany hates how everyone's separating again.
It gives her the same feeling that weddings do. There's so much anticipation, so much determination to be perfect and, while everyone else is already getting excited for the champagne and dancing, Brittany's still worried about tripping over her dress and falling on her face in front of everyone.
She already tripped on it last year and she's so scared of doing it again that she's not sure she even wants to move.
"Brittany," Ms. Pillsbury says. Brittany jolts and looks up at her. She smiles. "Are you stuck on a problem? Do you need my help?"
Brittany glances down at her worksheet and pauses.
It's complete and she didn't even realize.
The truth is—
The truth is that, once she got over the shock of flunking out, she started to think that it was a good thing. It meant that she wouldn't be lonely and that she could put off being a Lima Loser for a little bit longer. The fact that she still had to go back to school meant that she could put off applying for her job at Sheets-n-Things or Breadstix for another year.
But, after a while, and once everything started to change, she realized how much being held back had really held her back.
Most of her friends were gone and were in completely different states. She had no one to dance with anymore. She had no one really to talk to anymore. She had no one to help her with her school work. Mike was in Chicago, Quinn was at Yale, Mercedes was in LA, Santana was too busy cheerleading in Kentucky.
She found herself wondering what would have happened if she'd have been smart. She could have gotten scholarships for both her and Santana. They could have gone to New York. She wouldn't be alone.
Sam's great and everything and, at first, she thought that he was enough—that he could replace some of the missing things—but nothing feels the same and she misses it.
She's missing out.
And the fact that it's her own fault makes her feel more stupid than anything.
She gives in and calls Santana on a Friday.
They haven't really talked much since she left for New York—or since they broke up, really—and that's the worst thing.
It makes it hard to be best friends when they're so far apart.
All she has is the memory of Santana's voice, old videos and photographs that cover her bedroom wall and adorn every surface.
But even with all that, she still feels this emptiness that she can't really explain.
"Hello?" Santana says when she answers. Her voice is distant and there's a lot of noise in the background, like voices and loud, thumping music. Brittany checks the clock and it's almost eleven. She must be out in the city.
The tears sting before she can realize. "Hi, Santana," she whispers.
There's a pause. "Britt?" Another longer pause and some muttered words away from the phone. "Sorry, Britt," is the next thing she says. "I'm at a club."
She drags long breaths of air into her lungs and covers her eyes with her hand for a second. "I can hear," she says as she gets up from the bed and moves towards the window. "What's the occasion? Anything special?"
Santana laughs her proper, deep, happy laugh all of a sudden and Brittany has to fight not to sob.
"Nothing special," Santana says loudly. "Quinn came to visit from Yale—Hey! Watch it asshole!—sorry... yeah, Quinn's here so we went out. We're at this gay bar. It's awesome."
Brittany wipes away tears and nods. "Sounds like fun," she says as enthusiastically as she can. "Say hi to everyone for me."
"Will do—God, dammit, Fabgay, I'm coming—ugh," Santana scoffs. "Listen, I have to go Britt, we're relocating."
Sadness rises so quickly in Brittany's chest that it feels like she's drowning. She presses her fingers to her cheeks to stop the sound of tears in her voice and fights a smile onto her face. "That's okay. I'm supposed to be calling Sam, anyway," she lies. "I'll speak to you soon?"
A laugh and then a scream almost burst Brittany's eardrum. She pulls the phone away from her ear slightly and, when she returns it, a different voice is on the line.
"Hi, Britt! Bye, Britt!" Quinn's voice screams. "Santana has to go. I'm gonna go get her drunk! Bye!"
"Quinn, give me the damn—"
Quinn laughs. "Okay, Handsy, you only have to ask," she says around a chuckle. "Hurry up and get that fine ass in the car."
"Yeah, yeah, hang on, I'm coming," Santana mumbles and groans. "Britt? You still there? Britt, I have to go. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Okay," Brittany says as happily as she can. "Santana, I—"
The dial tone cuts her off. It's the last thing she needs to collapse into tears.
In the weeks that follow, Quinn spends a lot of weekends in New York.
Sam spends more time with Blaine and Artie, so she spends more time at home, attempting to study.
It doesn't really take her long to finish her homework anymore—Ms. Pillsbury makes sure that she knows what she has to do every day at the end of school—so she mostly just checks Facebook.
She sees how Quinn checks in at museums and clubs and tags Santana with her. Sometimes she tags Rachel and Kurt, but mostly it's Santana and it makes Brittany feel irrationally jealous and terrified. She feels like she's being replaced because she can remember how, this time last year, it would have been her tagging Santana in everything. No one ever had a chance. It was always her and Santana, together and now it's not and it's the hardest thing ever.
Santana was her girlfriend and she lost her. Santana was her best friend and now she's losing that too.
It hurts and she doesn't know what to do.
She doesn't see them until Regionals.
They're all there waiting for them outside the bus when they get there that morning and Brittany holds Sam's hand just a little tighter when she sees them.
Rachel, Quinn and Santana are joking around and, a year ago, she would have been able to just go up there and join them but she can't. Her face falls and Sam gives her a look but she smiles at him and kisses him on the cheek so he stops.
She gets on the bus before everyone else so that she doesn't awkwardly have to choose who to sit close to.
She's still disappointed; Sam sits beside her and Santana and Quinn sit at the back of the bus with Rachel and Kurt anyway.
She's fixing her make-up when Santana finally steps up to her. Brittany gives her a half smile in the mirror, angry because she can't get it right.
Santana used to do it for her.
"You okay?" Santana asks and she looks different, happier, lighter, better. There's a glow to her cheeks that Brittany's missed. "Do you want me to do it?"
Brittany shakes her head. "No, I'm fine," she says, smudging her mascara as she draws her hand across her face. "Crap."
"Here," Santana says as she pulls up a chair beside her. "Let me…"
She's already grabbing some tissue and cleanser before Brittany can protest, so she doesn't. She just sits there quietly and lets Santana clean her face before starting over.
"Nervous?" Santana asks. Brittany shakes her head. The action makes Santana smirk. "Liar," she whispers. "You're always nervous before competitions." Her smile falls a second later and her spare hand falls to grip Brittany's in her lap, holding it tightly. "I miss you, Britt."
Brittany's jaw quivers at the words and she smiles a real smile for the first time in ages. "I miss you too," she says quietly and then studies Santana's face. "Are you happy?"
A thumb sweeps under Brittany's eye and stops. Santana smiles. "Yeah, Britt, I'm happy," she says. "Are you happy?"
For a moment, Brittany wants to tell the truth and tell Santana everything, that she's tired, she's lonely, she's angry and sad. She wants Santana to save her but there's another truth for her to tell. The one that matters because it's the only one she really cares about.
"Of course," she mutters, the if you're happy, I'm happy whispering in her brain.
Santana smiles and then caps the mascara. "Good," she nods and then sweeps in to kiss Brittany on the cheek as she gets up. "Break a leg."
There's some drama between Mr. Schue and Finn, and Ryder and Jake. Brittany doesn't know what it is because she isn't really listening and doesn't really care, but she stands beside Santana and watches how she gets mad at all of them.
She tells Mr. Schue off and is all kinds of mean to Finn when he tries to reason his actions. She yells at Ryder and Jake and, when Kitty tries defend one of them with her own vicious words, Santana pounces.
She screams in Spanish, her face going red as Quinn and Rachel hold her back with Mike's help. Kitty just aggravates her even more, no matter how much Ryder and Jake try to stop her. Brittany just watches in silence and purses her lips angrily. Kitty somehow manages to get in a slap which doesn't go down with Quinn.
Before anyone else can step up and tell Kitty to stop, Quinn is talking to her, low and slow, until a look of fear crosses her face and she nods quickly.
A second later, they're called on stage and Brittany only lingers outside the door long enough to witness something that derails her completely.
Quinn kneels down in front of Santana and touches her cheek. She smiles and there's an expression behind her smile that Brittany's never seen before. It's intimate and close and it makes Brittany freeze.
"Ugh, I thought you were the only bitch with the balls to slap me," Santana mutters as Quinn grabs a bottle of water and presses it to a reddening cheek.
Brittany conceals herself more into the darkness and presses herself into the wall, intrigued.
"Me too," Quinn says lowly, a smile in her voice. She moves closer to Santana. "But then again, I thought I was the only one who was making you scream lately. And, if I remember correctly, there were no balls involved with that."
Brittany's breath catches in her throat but the sound of it is masked by Santana's laugh. She stumbles away before she can hear anything else she doesn't want to and bumps into Sam before she can remember where she's going.
"Britt! What are you doing? Quick!" he says and pulls her on stage where she's forced to forget.
And, as they're called as the winners a little while later, all she can see is Santana and Quinn in the audience, hugging in celebration.
She tries not to think about it and convinces herself that she misunderstood what Quinn meant.
It's probably some inside joke that Brittany doesn't know and that kind of makes her feel worse, but it's better than dealing with the alternative of what else it could mean.
She's silent the whole way back on the bus and doesn't argue when Rachel leads everyone back to her dads' house for a celebration. She lets Sam guide her by the hand and smiles when he cuddles up to her on the couch.
"What's wrong?" he asks when she hasn't danced, hasn't drunk anything or said anything. He just looks in the same direction as she is, towards where Rachel, Quinn and Santana are mixing cocktails and sighs like he knows what's wrong. "Have you had a fight?"
She shakes her head. He purses his lips together in thought.
"Then what's up?"
Brittany shrugs and pauses before turning to him. "I just miss them, is all," she says in a small voice. "Everything feels weird."
Sam squeezes her hand. "It's just going to feel weirder if you're sitting over here with me not talking to them."
He untangles their bodies and presses a kiss to the top of her head.
"I'm going to get a drink," he says. "Go be with your friends."
She sits there for another half an hour before she does anything. It's long enough that Sam starts playing beer pong with the other guys and Santana and Quinn follow Rachel and Kurt upstairs.
Brittany gets up and makes herself a drink, talks to Marley for a while, and waits for them to return, questioning whether to follow them all the while.
It isn't until Rachel and Kurt return alone that she gets the courage, except it's not so much courage as white hot fear.
"Where's Santana?" she asks Kurt, not sure how she got beside him so quickly.
He looks at her and narrows his eyes. Brittany's sure she sees something behind them. "She's upstairs with Quinn. They'll be down in a sec."
Brittany nods. "What are they doing?" she asks.
Kurt gives her a look and shakes his head. "I don't know, Britt. They'll be down in a second."
She nods again but it's not good enough. Her breathing becomes labored and she steps backward away from him, pausing only a second before darting upstairs as calmly as she can. She's sure she hears Kurt call her name in confusion but she's already upstairs by the time she realizes it, desperate and aching.
She doesn't hear anything at first and, for a minute, she's sure that they've left and Kurt was just covering for them.
Except, then, she hears giggling followed by a gasp and a hiss and her feet follow it without her brain's instruction.
She opens the door without knocking or making her presence known but, deep down, she thinks she doesn't want them to hear her. She wants to see whatever's going on except, the minute she does, she takes it all back.
It's the last thing she ever wants to see and she never even realized it.
Because she doesn't think she'll ever get the image of Quinn pressing Santana up against the wall in the Berrys' bathroom out of her head. She'll never be able to forget Quinn's mouth against Santana's, Santana's hands clutching at her closer, touching her where she used to touch Brittany, as Quinn's own hands hide themselves beneath Santana's shirt.
She'll never forget it, not even how they look so shocked when they see her.
It's enough, so she turns around, and heads in the opposite direction.
"Britt! Britt, wait!"
She stops in the middle of the kitchen and breathes as much as she can. She feels like she's been winded, kicked in the chest, and she guesses she sort of has.
"Britt, it's not—" Quinn starts but stops when she sees Brittany's face. Santana stands next to her, still rearranging her shirt, unable to look anyone in the eye. Quinn stares between the both of them and must notice something because she steps away quickly. "I'll leave you two alone," she whispers but Brittany barely notices.
She barely even registers it because the sight of Santana is suddenly so painful that she doesn't know whether to scream or cry. The way she just stands there, still clutching at her shirt and staring at the ground, makes Brittany angrier than she's ever been.
"Quinn?" Brittany finally manages to say. Silent tears fall down her face and she pants for desperate breath. "Quinn?!" she repeats. "You're having sex with Quinn?"
Santana looks up at her and what strikes Brittany most is the lack of shame or guilt or empathy in her expression. In that moment, she just looks mad and that just makes Brittany feel more angry. It bubbles within her as she watches Santana shake her head carefully from side to side in refusal.
"It's none of your business," Santana whispers and before the words are even out of her mouth, Brittany's hand is reaching out to slap her across the face.
The sound echoes around the room and Brittany gasps at it in surprise. When she finally clears the fog of anger from her vision, she sees that Santana remains unmoved. Her head is still turned to the side, her red cheek on view, and her jaw is clenched tightly shut as she keeps her eyes closed.
When they open, they're so dark and disappointed that Brittany doesn't know whether to look away or disappear into them. She chooses the former when Santana fixes her with a stare.
"You have no right," Santana says and what's most shocking is the lack of anger. It shouldn't surprise Brittany that Santana hasn't tried to hit her back, but it does. For a second, it makes her anger feel validated. That hurts most. "You have no right, Brittany."
Brittany looks at her and scoffs. "I have every right," she spits and she feels like a snake, venomous and unpredictable. "You're my… You're my…"
"I'm not," Santana tells her quickly. "Not anymore."
"You're my best friend," Brittany finally manages to say but the expression on Santana's face tells her that she knows that's not what she wanted to say. She shakes her head and looks away. Tears pour down her cheeks and she sniffs shamelessly before shrugging. "Why her?" she asks softly. "Why?"
A bitter laugh escapes Santana's mouth and she shakes her head. "It has nothing to do with you, Brittany," she tries again. "Who I sleep or don't sleep with has zero to do with you anymore, okay?"
Her words spit from her with sadness, with annoyance and Brittany feels herself getting angry. She rounds on Santana and Santana's eyes close, like she's waiting for another slap or worse.
"It has everything to do with me!" The words erupt from Brittany's mouth with more fury than she's ever felt. She feels heat in her cheeks and a pain in her fists from where they clench at her sides too tightly. Tears still leak from her eyes but she's sure it's just from the tension in her body, the ache in her chest. She sobs out a wordless cry and shoves Santana away from her. "When it comes to you, it will always have everything to do with me!" She shakes her head and her body feels like a see-saw, bouncing between anger and absolute sadness. She sobs again and shakes her head. "Why her?" she repeats. "Why Quinn?" she demands. "Is this what you wanted all along? Is this why you broke up with me? So that you could get the smart, beautiful, funny girl who actually graduated? Is that it? Is this why you didn't tell me?"
Santana rounds on her and, for a moment, Brittany's sure that she's getting that return slap. A finger points into Brittany's chest and brown eyes are staring deep into Brittany's own, wild and hurt.
"Don't you dare," Santana tells her. "Don't you dare say that to me! Don't you ever…" she trails off. "Don't you dare blame this on me. This is not what I want, okay? None of this is what I wanted."
Breath pants from her quickly and she shakes her head before turning away from Brittany. For a second Brittany thinks she might leave but then she turns back and her finger jabs Brittany in the shoulder again.
"How dare you?!" she asks and she's close enough that Brittany can see tears rolling down her cheeks. It kills her that she can't wipe them away anymore. "How dare you accuse me of keeping things from you when you kept the fact that you were dating Sam from me for three months? How dare you blame all of this on me when all I've done is do exactly what you asked me to do?!"
"I never—" Brittany tries but Santana cuts straight through her.
"Yes, you did, Brittany," she says sternly. "I've done everything you've asked me to do because I know what happens when I don't. A long time ago, you asked me to sing a duet with you, you asked me to come on your show, and I didn't and I almost lost you forever, so I promised myself that, whatever you asked of me, whatever you needed me to do for you, I'd do it."
Her voice softens the more she speaks and Brittany finds herself caught in the words, aching to hear them as much as she doesn't want to.
"You asked me to talk about feelings, so I did it," Santana whispers. "You asked me to embrace who I am, so I did. You got me that scholarship to Kentucky, so I went but then you told me that being left behind hurt you, so I decided to set you free." Her face falls. "It was the dumbest thing I've ever done and I didn't realize it until it was too late again. But I tried to win you back, Britt-Britt. I tried but you picked Sam and you told me to go to New York and get a girlfriend, so that's what I tried to do."
"I never told you to sleep with Quinn," Brittany tries but Santana just shakes her head and laughs.
"That's not the point," she whispers. "The point is that I've done everything I can to be with you. I've done everything and you have never picked me. You will never pick me and I think I'm starting to realize this now. I feel like I'm just some… second choice for you, some puppy dog that you can keep around just in case."
The words feel like a sharp, electric shock, straight to her heart and it almost stings to breathe in the moments after Brittany hears them. Her face falls but Santana's just remains calm with honesty.
"Maybe that's not true, but that's what it feels like right now," she whispers and shakes her head. "I'm so mad at you, Britt," she says quietly and shrugs. "I made you my whole life but you couldn't even tell me you weren't graduating. You're so smart, Britt, but you're so stubborn and proud that you won't let yourself believe it. You don't even try. You just listen to anyone who calls you stupid and that's it."
Brittany's bottom lip quivers. She takes a step back away from Santana because her words hurt so much.
"You have to know…" she tries but the tears are stuck in her throat, stopping the words that want to come out. "You have to know, how much I love—I love you…" She shakes her head because the idea of Santana not knowing, of her not realizing, makes Brittany feel like she's spinning out of control. "You have to."
Santana's face doesn't even really react. Her chin tilts up and she shrugs. "How can I Britt?" she asks. "How can I know that when there's a boy downstairs who gets to kiss you still? How can I know that when you told him you'd marry him?"
Brittany gasps and she's reaching for Santana, searching for words, desperate. Santana pushes her hands away and shakes her head, moving out of reach. Brittany's reminded, too harshly, of that moment two years ago, when Santana told her she loved her. She pushed Brittany's hands away then, too, but this feels worse.
Santana wipes the tears away from the corners of her eyes and shrugs.
"So, yeah, Britt, I've been having sex with Quinn…So what?" Her shoulders shrug and Brittany feels like she's drowning. "I've been having sex with whoever I want; because I am nineteen years-old and I don't have any idea what I want, or who I am, because I've been too busy building my entire existence around you to figure it out and I need to give myself a chance if you won't."
Panicked, Brittany reaches for her again. She feels like she's drowning, like she's caught up in a twister and being swept far away into some scary new world without her ruby slippers. Her hand grabs at Santana's shirt and pulls her closer, needing her to keep her safe.
"I will," she whimpers. "I will, I promise. You just have to wait. I promise, I'll give you all my chances. You can have all of them because I don't love him. I don't love anyone like I love you and I'm sorry I never made sure you knew that but I do," she begs. "I only love you. I promise."
Santana's face softens suddenly and she looks so beautiful that Brittany knows in that moment—not even deep down, but right on the tips of her fingers—that this is it.
"And I love you, Britt-Britt," Santana breathes so certainly that it Brittany's sure she can feel how badly it aches within Santana's chest. "I love you so much that I can barely breathe, but I cannot do this anymore, okay? I can't wait anymore because if I do I'll be waiting forever."
"No," Brittany shakes her head. Santana nods and starts to untangle Brittany's fingers from her shirt. "No, you won't, you can't… no. Please."
Her tears seem to jolt something in Santana because, a second later, warm hands are holding Brittany's face and she feels safe for the first time in months. Brittany's hands creep around to clutch at her hips and Santana breathes against her face so softly it feels like a kiss. Their noses squash together and Brittany calms instantly at the feel of it.
"You're my soulmate," Santana whispers brokenly and Brittany begins to sob because they feel right. The thing that felt missing when she listened to Sam say those words feels lodged in her chest, too big to fit there, as those words fall from Santana's mouth.
She reaches up to hold Santana's cheeks in her hands and loves the way she shudders and holds her just a little closer.
"I was made for you," Santana continues. "Sometimes—Sometimes I'm sure the only reason I can sing is for the nights you can't sleep. Sometimes I'm sure that I only exist to sing you lullabies…"
Brittany gasps when Santana pushes her away suddenly and covers her face with her hands. She watches as Santana begins to sob, as her shoulder shakes with the power and the pain in her words. All Brittany wants to do is hold her, but the fact that it's probably the worst thing she could do makes her stand where she is and look as small as possible.
"Sorry," Santana says when her tears finally stop. "I'm sorry but I can't do this anymore, Britt. I can't. It hurts." She shakes her head and shrugs her shoulders. "I need you to pick me for good or not pick me at all, okay?"
She fixes Brittany a look that begs and Brittany just looks back at her. She's not sure what to say.
"It's not fair, okay?" she whispers. "If you don't want me then you need to let me find someone who does, okay? You need to let me be happy."
Brittany nods and she feels hollow, empty, like a pumpkin on Halloween. "Okay," she whispers because there's not much else she can say.
Santana wipes her eyes with the crook of her finger and sighs. "I should go," she whispers and grabs her jacket, ready to leave.
Brittany feels panic rise within her again. She feels like, the minute Santana leaves this room, she's never going to see her again.
"Wait," she starts desperately. "When will I see you again?"
Santana studies her for a second and then shrugs. "That's up to you," she explains softly. "I'm not going to chase after you anymore, Brittany. I'm tired of fighting for you, okay? I've done everything I can. If you want this—if you want us—then you need to make that choice, but I'm not going to wait forever."
Brittany gulps but nods. "Okay," she agrees.
Brittany watches as Santana pulls on her leather jacket. She wants to do something like hug her or kiss her goodbye but knows she shouldn't. Santana's actions slow suddenly and she glances back up Brittany worriedly.
"Can you do something else for me?" she asks in a whisper.
Brittany doesn't pause. "Anything."
Santana sighs. "Before you do anything, can you figure out what you want to do… after you graduate, I mean? Because I like New York, Britt… it's perfect for me. But I don't want you to pick me but then decide you want to stay in Lima. I can't do that again, Britt." She shakes her head. "If you pick me, then you need to be able to tell me what you want from the future, okay?"
The words scare Brittany but she nods.
"I promise," she whispers.
Santana nods and pulls her jacket around her. She heads towards the door and stops once she gets there.
"Goodbye, Britt," she says.
Those two words scare Brittany more than any monster, more than any fail grade or loneliness.
"I'll see you soon," she says stubbornly.
The words seem to shake Santana, but she still leaves anyway.
I searched, but no one else had your rhythms,
your light, the shady day you brought from the forest;
nobody had your tiny ears
- Pablo Neruda, Love Sonnet XLIII
Brittany heads home alone a little while later.
Kurt comes upstairs to see where Santana is, to check on them, and stops when he finds her sitting against the wall, silently crying against her knees.
He doesn't ask any questions, but she asks him to tell Sam that she doesn't feel well and that she'll call him later. He gives her a hug for no reason and reassures her that he will.
It's not until she's lying in bed, alone and heartbroken, that she lets everything wash over her.
She's not sure which one she feels most.
The more she thinks about it, the more she hates herself for how she treated Santana, for not setting her straight. She wishes she could go back to that day in the choir room, when Santana broke up with her, and refuse to let her do it. She wishes that she'd not been so proud that she couldn't admit that she wasn't mad at Santana for leaving her behind, but herself for getting left behind. If she'd have been able to say that, then maybe Santana would have made her feel better. She would have been able to admit that missed Santana more than anything she's ever missed in her life before it was too late.
There would be no Sam, no Quinn, no anybody.
She feels like she's living the wrong life because she knows that she should be Santana's, that Santana should be hers, just like last year.
And now, if she wants that, she has to work for it.
Everything is in her hands.
She feels a rush of terror when she realizes she can't decide anything until she knows she's graduating.
Regardless of everything that Ms. Pillsbury has done for her, has helped her achieve, to strive for, she still can't help but feel like everything's going to go wrong. Graduation is too far away and Brittany knows that having more time means more time to fix everything but also more time to break it.
She wraps herself in her quilt and lets her eyes linger over to her wall of photographs but there are too many pictures of Sam there for her to think clearly. She turns over, to where her favorite picture of her and Santana still sits proudly.
That's what she's fighting for.
She knows it will be worth it.
She doesn't know what to say to Sam.
He asks her about her so-called fight with Santana, but that's what everyone's been doing—or at least they've been talking about it behind her back.
She knows what they're thinking but she's not sure what she wants to say about it yet.
Sam walks quietly beside her as they walk to class and asks her what they were arguing about for about the five millionth time.
She gives him the same answer she gave him all the other times and sighs, more frustrated at herself for being unable to explain than with him for asking,
"Nothing," she whispers. "It's fine."
It's the middle of April by the time that Ms. Pillsbury finally asks her the last thing that Brittany wants to be asked.
She's in the middle of her tutoring session and is trying to finish an English assignment, when Ms. Pillsbury stops rearranging her pamphlets and clears her throat.
"Do you need a glass of water?" Brittany asks, looking up when she's cleared her throat four times in a row.
Ms. Pillsbury looks at her fondly before leaning closer to her across the desk like she wants to tell her a secret.
"Have you heard back from any colleges?" she asks softly, carefully, like Brittany's as easy to scare away as a butterfly.
Brittany instantly turns her expression back down to her work and shrugs her shoulders, even as they start to tense up. She's momentarily reminded of the pile of mail that sits on her desk, unopened and gathering dust. It's been four weeks since she received the first one and they've been piling up ever since.
"I haven't had time to check my mail recently," she lies with a shrug.
Ms. Pillsbury reaches forward and stops Brittany's pen with a press of her hand to Brittany's. It shocks Brittany for a second because she's not actually sure if Ms. Pillsbury's ever touched her, or any other student before. She looks up at her softly, eyes narrowed in confusion.
She thinks that, when she looks back when she's really old and wrinkly, she'll always remember Ms. Pillsbury as her favorite teacher.
"What are you so scared of, Sweetie?" Ms. Pillsbury asks softly and Brittany can see in her eyes that she cares.
And, as she remembers all the hard work Ms. Pillsbury's put into helping her, the answer is easy.
"Letting everyone down again," she whispers. "Failing again, and being a Third Year Senior or a Lima Loser. Losing Santana forever…"
Ms. Pillsbury's thumb sweeps over the back of her hand and Brittany sighs when she feels a tear roll down her cheek.
"Oh, Brittany…" she whispers. "You must know that none of those things will happen."
"They might," she argues.
A kind sigh leaves the woman in front of her. Brittany can't help but hear the fondness and the relief in it.
"Brittany, you have a 3.62 GPA," she reminds her. "And as much as you like to pretend that it was a fluke, you studied for hours and you got a 2340 on your SAT score. You're a cheerleader and you're in Glee club. You have your own web show and you still work for the school newspaper. You're not going to fail. You're not going to be a Lima Loser and you most certainly will not let anyone down."
"I already did," Brittany blurts before she can stop herself. She purses her lips together and shakes her head. "It doesn't matter. No one would believe me if I got into college anyway."
"Then they obviously don't know you well enough," Ms. Pillsbury tells her. "And they don't deserve to if they can't even expect the best from you."
"You've worked so hard, Brittany."
"I know," Brittany nods, staring down into her hands. "It's just hard, you know? I'm scared. I don't want to believe in the possibility until I'm standing on that stage, you know?"
Ms. Pillsbury smiles at her and it's nice to have someone else who can believe in her.
"I know," she says softly. "But just for the record, I'm incredibly proud of you for what you've done this year and you should be just as proud of yourself."
Brittany can't help but grin at that. "Thanks, Ms. P."
"You're very welcome, Britt," she smiles. "But get on with your work."
Four things happen on the day that Brittany breaks up with Sam.
The first is that she gets another letter in the mail.
The second is that she gets an A+ on her history project.
The third is that Sam gets rejected for the last college he applied to.
The fourth is that he asks Brittany to marry him.
She really doesn't expect it.
They haven't really been spending that much time together. She can't even remember the last time she kissed him. He's been spending more time with Blaine and Artie than her so, when he asks her to meet him in the auditorium after school, she's not sure what to expect.
What she finds is the entire Glee club, sat out on stools with the band ready to play behind them. A panic settles deep into her gut at the sight of them but she settles herself into the chair Sam guides her to anyway.
When the opening chords to Taylor Swift's "Love Story" start, Brittany swallows. She barely listens and all she can think of is how the butterflies in her stomach are missing, how the tears aren't present in her eyes. She forces herself to smile but, when Sam drops down onto one knee in front of her and sings the "Marry me, Juliet…" part of the song, she finds herself unable to look at him, especially when he pulls out the same ring he gave her last time.
When the song ends, Sam doesn't get up and Brittany can feel the whole of the Glee club watching them.
She avoids Sam's eye but when he takes her hand, she's forced to look at him and find the happiness and desperation in his eyes.
"Brittany, I want to do this properly this time. I want us to be together and start our future together. I want you to be my wife and I want you to be mine forever," he says. "Will you marry me?"
For a second, all she can hear are Santana's words.
Pick me for good or don't pick me at all.
Just as quickly, she realizes that there's not even a choice and there never should have been: not now, not two years ago, not even when Sam tried to kiss her in that classroom.
"No," she says softly and stands up. "I'm sorry."
Before anyone can stop her, she leaves.
He finds her at her locker a few moments later and pulls her into a nearby classroom before she can stop him.
"Britt, you can't just walk away like that," he says. "It's not fair."
Brittany pulls her hand away from his and sighs. "No," she says. "Putting me on the spot like that in front of all of our friends isn't fair." She shakes her head. "Where is this even coming from?"
Sam grabs her hands again and stops her from where she shifts on the spot, holding her steady. She can't even look him in the eye.
"Listen," he says softly. "I've been thinking about it for a while, but the rejection letter from OSU today was just the last thing I needed to be sure that I was doing the right thing. And this is the right thing for both of us, I know it is."
Brittany sighs but hears him out.
He swallows. "When we got married before, Beiste said that she didn't want us to be another young teenage couple who get married early and pop out a couple of kids but I don't see what's wrong with that. We're obviously not book smart enough to go to college but we're life smart enough to start a family. We both know what we're doing and it'll be good for us. I know it will, Britt. So, please marry me."
Brittany looks at him and sighs. She feels the familiar ache in her cheeks that comes with needing to cry and shakes her head, pulling her hands from his again and stepping away.
"No," she repeats.
Sam sighs with exasperation and grabs for her hand again. He only manages to grab one and pulls himself closer to her this time.
"Britt, please," he tries. "I'll be a good husband and you'll be a good wife. I can feel it. We're made for each other."
Brittany yanks her hand back from him and wipes the first tear that falls from her eyes. "We're not made for each other," she tells him. "And I won't marry you."
She sees the resolve drain away from his face and slip into sadness.
"Britt, you're my soulmate. I love you—"
"Well, I don't love you," bursts free from her and she's sure she can hear something inside of her whispering finally when it does.
Sam's face falls and a few moments later, his body falls to sit on one of the tables behind him. His breathing sucks in unevenly and she just watches him with welcome guilt as he tries to process what she's saying.
"But we're good together," he whispers.
"We're not," Brittany whispers.
He looks up at her and she sees the first hints of anger in his eyes. "How do you know if you're not even giving us a chance?"
Brittany wipes at the tears that still roll down her cheeks and sighs. "Because you don't scare me, Sam. If we were meant to be together, I'd be terrified of losing you but I'm not. I'm still terrified that I've lost somebody else."
It takes a second but then he realizes what she's saying. He sighs and his hand moves to rub through his hair in irritation. She watches him carefully, sensing something approaching, and is validated when a second later he kicks away one of the chairs angrily. He bitterly begins pacing the room, avoiding her and shaking his head.
"I don't get it, Brittany," he says. "Santana broke up with you. She broke your heart but you still want her. She broke up with you and left you and who was here to pick up the pieces? Me! And what do I get? Nothing." He groans. "You realize that she's just going to hurt you again, right? Because that's what she does. She hurts people."
Brittany shakes her head and shrugs. "I hurt her more," she says honestly.
As Sam shakes his head from side to side in refusal, Brittany feels only guilt but not regret. She knows that she's done the right thing.
"You know, Britt, when she hurts you again, you're going to feel stupid for not listening to me," he tells her. "I hope you know that."
The anger she feels burns. She shakes her head at him as she moves closer and grabs him to stop him so that he can hear her next words.
"You don't know anything about us," she whispers furiously, shaking her head at him with wide, certain eyes. "Loving Santana is the smartest thing that I have ever done," she tells him. "Loving Santana is the smartest thing I will ever do." She stops to breathe and swallow back some of the anger she feels. "You don't get it, Sam. She is the best thing that's ever happened to me. Sure, she's made some mistakes, but so have I." Her voice breaks and the tears fall down her cheeks quicker than she can anticipate. "That's what people do. She's not perfect, nothing is, and that's why I love her, regardless of the bad things. She's still kind and awkward and beautiful and she's the love of my life. She's the one, Sam. She's my one. She's my soulmate."
Sam shoots her a look. "She is not your soulmate. She left you."
Brittany shakes her head. "That doesn't mean anything," she whispers but then stops and observes him for a second. She can see that he's unhappy, that he doesn't understand what's going on. She touches his arm and shrugs. "I thought that I'd get over her if I dated you, but I was wrong," she admits. "I thought you made me happy but you just made me forget how sad I was." Her bottom lip shakes for a second. "After a while, you just made me miss her more."
There's a pause before he shakes his head again. "She'll hurt you, I know it."
"Sam, you can't talk me out of this," Brittany whispers. "I'm sorry—Sam," she calls after him as he heads for the door. "Sam, I'm sorry! Sam!"
He doesn't stop, just walks out.
Still, as she stands there in that classroom, she can't help but feel like she's done something she should have done a long time ago.
Brittany graduates on a sunny day in May a few days after they win Nationals.
She wakes up only a few hours after she fell asleep and finds the graduation outfit she set out the night before exactly where she left it.
For some reason, it still doesn't feel real.
It doesn't feel real until she's standing in the girl's locker room wearing her red graduation gown.
The tears sting at her eyes and she clears her throat to stop them even though nobody can see. She turns from side to side and feels panic and pride at what she sees.
She's been waiting so long that she thought she'd be happy except all she feels is sad. It hits her, yet again, that she's still a year too late and she's doing something she should have been able to do last year. A tear slides down her cheek and she sighs because she didn't want to cry today.
"Do you believe me now?"
Brittany turns and finds Ms. Pillsbury standing in the doorway. She steps closer and Brittany wipes away another tear from her cheek before she can see it.
She probably does anyway because she pulls a handy pack of tissues and takes one out before putting them in the pocket of Brittany's gown. She turns Brittany to her and begins to wipe under her eyes, down her cheeks, before taking the cap from her hands and reaching up to rest it atop her head.
"It suits you," Ms. Pillsbury says. "But it's no good if you're standing in here and not on that stage."
Brittany grabs for her hand. "I'm scared," she admits.
"And that's okay," Ms. Pillsbury says. "You're allowed to be scared."
Brittany nods and sniffs. Ms. Pillsbury smiles and suddenly pulls her in for a hug.
"I'm so proud of you, Brittany," she whispers.
Brittany squeezes her closer. "I couldn't have done it without you."
"You could have," Ms. Pillsbury tells her. "You just had to want it bad enough."
And, as Brittany closes her eyes, she knows that she's right.
A cheer, louder than anybody else's, erupts around the auditorium when they call Brittany's name.
When she takes her diploma from Ms. Pillsbury, everything suddenly feels real. She clutches close to her like it's made of gold and carries it to an empty spot between Blaine and Artie. There are tears in her eyes when she looks up and when she looks up, her eyes somehow manage to find the last person she expects to see.
Her body relaxes at the sight of her, almost collapses inwards, and her bottom lip shakes with tears and relief.
She's crying too, tears pouring down her cheeks and onto her pretty dress. Their eyes meet and it's like there's no one else in the room. Brown eyes glow gold with pride and Brittany shrugs her shoulder like it's nothing. Santana shakes her head in refusal and Brittany laughs, too happy not to.
They don't look away from each other for one second, not until they're ushered offstage and to the gym for refreshments.
Brittany hugs her parents quickly before disappearing to find the only person she wants to see.
She worries that she's left but then finds her, standing by their old lockers, running her fingers over the metal and still crying silently.
"I thought you'd left," Brittany whispers. Santana jumps and turns to look at her. "I thought I'd missed you."
Santana wipes her cheeks and smiles. "I was just leaving."
"But you came," Brittany tells her in awe.
Santana gives her a look. "I wouldn't have missed it," she promises. "I knew you could do it."
Brittany nods. "You always believed in me," she whispers.
Santana struggles for a second and quietly wipes her eyes for a few moments before looking back at her. "I always will," she tells her sternly.
Brittany gulps. Santana takes a deep breath.
"I heard you broke up with Trouty Mouth," she says softly.
Brittany nods. "About a month ago."
"How's that thinking about your future coming along?" she asks and her voice is terrified. Brittany can hear it. "What's next for Brittany S. Pierce?"
She tilts her head to the side and studies Santana for a second. "I haven't decided yet," she tells her honestly.
Santana's expression suddenly turns sad, disappointed. She steps quickly towards Brittany and wraps her in a hug that Brittany doesn't have long enough to sink into because as soon as she's there, she's letting go.
"I'll see you around, Britt," she says and then a second later, she's gone.
Brittany stares at the empty hallway, lost, until her mother comes and finds her.
She goes to Blaine's graduation party and, when she gets home, with her diploma in hand, the pile of unopened mail on her desk looks bigger than it did before.
It's late. Her parents are already in bed. For some reason, after almost two months of them slowly building up, she feels confident enough to open them.
She still delays opening them, though. She showers and changes into her pajamas. The chill of the evening breezes in through her window, so she pulls a blanket around her shoulders before sitting on the floor and leaning against her bed.
She thumbs through the envelopes and sorts them into the order that she wants to open them.
Even then, it still takes her a while. She just stares at them, willing herself to open just one, but can't.
It's not until it's almost morning, and she remembers the look on Santana's face when she told her that she didn't know what she wanted to do, that she realizes this is only way she'll ever know what happens next for her until she actually gives herself some options.
She takes the first envelope and tears it open as quickly and neatly as she can before pulling out the contents. She scans over it quickly and breathes out before putting it on the other side of her in a new pile and taking the next letter. She opens the next one and does the same thing, and then the next one, and the next one, the tears streaming down her face by the time that she reaches the last one, the important one.
She opens that one a little slower and reads it more carefully. The words soak in slowly and she drops it thoughtlessly with the rest before burying her head into her knees and bursting into sobs.
She cries herself to sleep there on her bedroom floor, and doesn't dream.
Everything feels too late.
She doesn't know what to do. She's not sure what happens next. The panic rises in her quicker than water and the decision to go see Ms. Pillsbury is more of an act of instinct rather than anything else.
She's not sure where Mr. Schue is but Brittany feels awkward walking into their apartment without anyone else there with her. Ms. Pillsbury makes her tea and looks down at the pile of letters Brittany hands her. She doesn't even react and understands what Brittany needs without her having to say anything.
Brittany spends the whole day there, watching Ms. Pillsbury make all the calls she needs for her. It's dark by the time she finally sets the phone down, and she sighs softly before offering Brittany a smile.
"It's all up to you now, Britt," she nods.
Brittany reaches for her hand quickly, glad when she takes it and squeezes it tight.
It's halfway through June and she's at Sheets-n-Things with her mom when she runs into the last person she wants to see.
Quinn spots her before she does and when Brittany notices her, she sees her surprise first, then her fear. Her own face falls quickly and she looks down into the cart in front of her as she comes to a halt.
There's a pile of towels in Quinn's hands and, for a moment, Brittany thinks she's going to drop them and run but she doesn't. She drops them into her own cart and moves towards Brittany and Brittany wants to walk away but she knows it'll just make her look childish.
"Britt…" Quinn starts softly. "Hi."
Brittany doesn't speak, she just waits.
"I know you're mad at me," Quinn finally says. "And as much as other people might argue, you have every right to be."
Brittany shakes her head because she can feel tears in her eyes and she refuses to let them free.
"Is she here?" she asks quickly, quietly because there's something that's been bugging her for months and that's whether or not they're still sleeping together. She knows that Quinn still goes to New York a lot but she's not sure for what reason. She doesn't want to think about it.
Quinn's expression softens. "She's in New York. I'm visiting my mom."
The relief forces Brittany to lean forward onto the cart to support her bodyweight. She can breathe easier and Quinn just watches her silently until she looks back up at her.
"Are you two—" The words feel like razors slicing through her vocal chords.
Quinn shakes her head. "Not since… not since Rachel's…." she trails off. "She didn't want to and I couldn't do that to you. Not once I saw your reaction…" She breathes out. "I was selfish. I tried to convince myself that I was helping her get over you but I was just making her worse. I didn't think of her, or you or how you'd feel. I'm sorry for that, Britt."
Brittany nods but she can't do anything else but stand there.
"She's doing really well, Britt," Quinn tells her softly a moment later. "She's singing and she's working hard. She's doing really good."
There's a part of Brittany that wants Quinn to stop but an even bigger part of her that wants her to go on and just keep telling her things. Important things or silly things, she doesn't really care; she just wants to hear them.
"She really misses you, Britt," she tells her. "You know that, right?" Brittany shakes her head because she doesn't. Quinn sighs. "Well, she does."
Brittany looks up at Quinn and when she does, she doesn't see anyone but her best friend. She sees the girl who quietly watched them fall in love and didn't say anything. She's the person who let them be, and never judged them. She finds the person who knew how they felt before they did, and feels a sudden rush of relief.
"I ruined it," she tells her softly.
Quinn moves closer. "You didn't," she says. "But you can still fix it."
"I don't even know if she still wants—"
A laugh bubbles up Quinn's throat and she pulls Brittany into a hug before she knows what she wants one. "She does," she whispers into Brittany's hair.
The tears come quickly. She muffles the sobs into Quinn's shoulder and sighs at how Quinn holds her tight enough that it almost hurts to breathe.
"I don't know what to do," she whispers.
Quinn clicks her tongue and shakes her head. "Yes, you do," she says. "You do but she's not going to wait forever, Britt. You know that right?" Quinn holds her away from her a second and sets her with one of her stern and scary expressions. "She'll give up soon and it'll be over forever and I'll be mad at you, okay? If I don't get to dance at your wedding, I will be so mad at you, Brittany."
There's a smile on her face and it brings a disbelieving, hopeless one to Brittany's face too.
"What are you waiting for, Britt?" Quinn asks.
And, standing there in the place that was once destined to be her future, Brittany doesn't know.
She doesn't get a big send off like Rachel Berry.
She doesn't tell anyone that she's leaving except her parents and Ms. Pillsbury and leaves for the airport at midnight ready to get on the cheapest flight she could get on a rainy day in July.
She has one suitcase and two huge duffel bags and her dad helps her heft them onto a luggage cart before they kiss her goodbye. She checks in and hands over her bags and it's not as scary as she thought. In fact, as she waits for her flight to be called, she starts to feel excited.
It's not until she's sitting in her seat, waiting for her plane to bus its way onto the runway, that she starts to feel nervous. Her feet begin to tap and everything feels too loud. For a moment, all she wants is a hug but she knows that's not possible. Strangers don't like that… especially on planes.
Instead she reaches into her bag and pulls out her iPod, slipping in her ear buds and closing her eyes as the plane begins to move.
She waits for them to get to the runway and begin to take off before she puts it on shuffle and, when she does, she laughs out loud at what she hears.
"I took my love, I took it down…" her iPod sings. "I climbed a mountain and I turned around…"
The tears roll down her cheeks silently and her mouth moves silently before she can realize.
"And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills," she mouths along with it. "Till the Landslide brought me down…"
The tears don't stop, but she doesn't care.
She listens to it on repeat.
Her cab driver helps her with her bags and then points her towards a building across the street.
For a minute, she thinks that coming here first was the wrong thing to do. It's barely five in the morning and there's barely anyone on the street. The sky is still dark in places and the sun is only just warming the sky.
Maybe she should have called first.
She looks down at the crumpled piece of paper in her hands and checks the address for what feels like the millionth time. It's too late to turn back now. It would be pointless to come all the way here and not do what she came here for.
She drags her bags over to the other side of the street and then into the building. Their names are written on their mailbox with the apartment number beneath it and there's no mistaking she's in the right place.
She looks down at herself and wishes that she'd maybe worn something prettier than sweatpants and a tank top. She could have found a pretty dress except, it doesn't matter now and, like a lot of other things, it's too late. She's already wasted too much time and she can't waste any more. She doesn't want to.
It takes her a while to get to their floor with all her bags but she makes it eventually. Her heart beats wildly in her chest when she gets to their door and she has to pause for a second to calm herself down. She doesn't know how she's going to do this. She doesn't want to wake Rachel or Kurt or anyone else up, just Santana. She doesn't even know if that's possible.
She pulls her cell phone from her pocket and dials Santana's number before she can stop herself. It rings and it rings and she thinks that she'll never answer but then it does.
"I didn't mean to wake you up," she whispers softly.
There's some rustling on the other end of the line before: "Brittany?" she breathes and Brittany can imagine her, sitting up and rubbing her eyes. "Britt, it's five in the morning."
"I know," Brittany says quickly, her voice wavering. "I know, but I need to talk to you."
Santana sighs and there's a long pause where Brittany can hear her breathing on the other end of the line. She kind of thinks that she can hear her thinking but it all sounds like she's underwater, too fast and too quick to be understood.
"Britt, can't it wait?" she asks carefully.
Brittany swallows and shakes her head. "Not really," she whispers and then: "Could you—could you open your front door, please?"
There's another pause but Brittany thinks that it has more to do with the fact that Santana's not sure what to say than anything else. A smile teases at the corner of Brittany's mouth but the tears sting at her eyes too.
"Brittany, are you—are you…" Santana starts but then there's a gasp that sounds kind of like a sob. Brittany hears more rustling and then gentle footsteps, padding across hardwood floors. Heavy breathing sounds against her ear, and she listens to it until she can't hear it over the noise of the door sliding open in front of her.
When she sees Santana, she feels like her heart's beating right for the first time in months. She feels like she's in the right place, like she's not lost anymore. Brittany steps closer when Santana's eyes widen and grow glassy with tears.
"Hey," Brittany whispers.
A smile fits against her mouth but falls when, not a moment later, Santana shakes her head and slides the door closed with a crash.
It wakes up Rachel and Kurt.
She hears their voices behind the door a couple of minutes later and they don't sound angry so much as confused.
Brittany presses her hands and her forehead to the door so that she can hear better and sighs when Santana doesn't say anything.
"Please open the door," she begs as gently as she can. "I just want to talk. Just hear me out and I'll leave if you want me to. I promise."
She hears whispering and footsteps but the door still doesn't open.
"Go home, Brittany," Santana says a few moments later and she must be behind the door because she sounds close.
Brittany sighs and lets the tears roll down her cheeks. She squashes her nose against the door and talks quietly so that hopefully only Santana can hear.
"I am home," she tells her in a whisper. "I'm with you."
The words make Santana gasp and Brittany can already hear her crying. Her eyes try to burn holes into the door but it doesn't work.
"Britt, I can't do this," Santana whimpers. "I can't do it… I can't. I'm tired, okay? I'm tired of doing this over and over again. It's been months, Britt, months. You graduated six weeks ago. Why now? Why are you doing this?"
Brittany takes a deep breath and it shakes as it enters her lungs. "Why?" she asks quietly. "Because I miss my girlfriend… I miss my girlfriend except she isn't my girlfriend anymore because she broke up with me and I let her." The words choke from Brittany and they sound like they've been stuck in her voice for months, covered in dust. "I was mad at myself and I took it all out on her and made her think I was mad at her but I wasn't. I was just scared and lonely and it was hard being without her."
Brittany's eyes fall to the floor and she sniffs.
"I don't get to pick you, Santana," she tells her honestly. "I don't have a choice when it comes to you. I just love you and I don't know why or how or for how long, I just know that beyond everything else I do, I love you." Despite the silence from behind the door, she goes on. "I could feed you some bull crap about how you're the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I fall asleep but it wouldn't be true. It would just be a line because the real truth is that you're all I think about, all the time, every single day since the moment I met you." A sob erupts from her through a laugh. "I even think about you when I'm dreaming, you know? I just can't help it. I can't even remember what was inside my head before I met you."
The relief Brittany feels is only bested by the bitterness she feels at herself for not saying this sooner because she knows it's no good anymore. She's too late. She shakes her head and wipes her eyes, laughing as she shrugs.
"I counted smiles, too, you know?" she whispers. "I counted everything. I waited for you for so long, that it was the only thing I could do sometimes. Noticing every perfect little thing about you was the only way that I could remember what I was being so patient for. Your eyes, your laugh, your kindness, the way you sigh in your sleep, your voice… your tiny ears. They were just the things that made me sure that you're worth it."
A sob wracks through Brittany's body. "And, do you know what? You might think that I'm just using you for convenience but what you don't know is that I'm still waiting, that I would wait for you a million times over if it meant I got you in the end." Her bottom lip quivers and she bites it quickly so that she can speak. "You're my one great love, Santana," she tells her honestly. "And I can't imagine being one hundred years-old and not being madly in love with you still."
It takes a while but, eventually, the door slides open. Brittany backs away from it and sighs in relief when Santana stands there behind it, wrapped in a blanket with tears rolling down her cheeks. She smiles and wants to move forward but doesn't know if she can.
Santana looks at her and her shoulders slump, her body begins to crumble and she looks at Brittany desperately, like she's the only thing she needs. It only takes Brittany a second before she's moving forward and gathering Santana into her arms, a mess of tears and sighs of relief.
"I'm sorry," Santana sobs. "I'm so sorry."
Brittany shakes her head and tangles her hands in Santana's hair. "I'm sorry, too."
Santana's nose buries into her neck and Brittany holds her close, keeps her near, as she cries.
"Britt-Britt," she sighs and there's still some hopelessness in her voice. "What are we going to do? I can't do this anymore." Her words choke a little. "None of this is worth it if I don't get to share it with you."
Brittany sighs. "So share it with me."
"How? You live in Lima."
Brittany pulls away and looks down at her. "Not anymore," she whispers and turns shy. Her shoulders scrunch and she smiles timidly. "I—I got into NYU."
Santana's mouth drops but her arms tighten around Brittany on instinct. Tears well in her eyes and she shakes her head as her cheeks glow with pride.
"You got into NYU?" she repeats.
Brittany shrugs and forces a smile onto her face. "And Columbia too, but I liked NYU better."
Santana's hand reaches for her face and recognition falls onto her face. The happiness that Brittany soon finds there tells her that she made the right choice. She watches it carefully and wipes the tears from Santana's cheeks as she smiles.
"You're staying here," she whispers. "in New York… to be with me?"
Brittany gulps and for some reason, this feels like the perfect moment. She sees how Santana's face changes as she watches her and feels the butterflies start to dance in her stomach. She pulls away from Santana quickly and looks down at her hands before clearing her throat.
"I'm not doing this right," she whispers to herself more than anyone else.
Brittany shakes her head. "I've been doing a lot of thinking," she whispers. "Especially after that night at Rachel's parents', I've been thinking a lot about things and I think I know what I was meant to do. I tried so hard to get you to realize that I love you and that we belong together that I couldn't even see that there are better ways."
Santana's face falls. "Britt, what's going on?" she whispers.
Brittany doesn't say anything else; she just drops to her knees and reaches into the pocket of her sweats.
"I've been asking the wrong things," she mumbles as she holds the small red leather box in her fingers. "I've been asking you to do all of these things and none of them matter, not really. I should have just told you that I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Brittany swallows and isn't prepared when Santana falls to her knees too. She grabs Brittany's face in her hands and looks at her with wide eyes. Brittany almost laughs at the shock in her face.
"I know that we're young, I know that I shouldn't know this already, but I do," Brittany explains. "Because the truth is that I don't have a choice but, even if I did, I would choose you every single time because no one will ever make me feel like I belong as well as you do. You make me happy, Santana, and I know that I said I would marry Sam, but without you, I didn't know what I was going to do, you know? Without you I'm crazy and I don't know what I'm doing but I'm getting better and I know I want to marry you. I want to see you in a wedding dress and I want to—"
Brittany doesn't get to say anything else. The kiss Santana presses to her mouth, furious with desperation, stops her in her tracks. It catches her off guard but then she sinks into it and it feels like she's home, warm and safe all over. Hands push into her hair and Brittany can feel the fabric of Santana's long t-shirt shifting beneath her palm as she clutches at her waist and pulls her closer.
It feel so good that, when Santana starts to pull away, Brittany just leans back in and kisses her twice as hard.
She kisses her until Santana's hand resting on her face, her thumb resting in the hollow beneath her bottom lip, forces her to stop. Their noses squash together and Brittany pants, her eyes blinking open slowly to find Santana's.
"You don't even have to ask," she whispers as the pad of her thumb sweeps over Brittany's mouth. Brittany's eyes flutter at the feel of it. "I'm yours, okay?" Santana tells her. "I could deny it until the day I die but it's true, okay? I was made for you."
Brittany smiles and moves to sit on her feet. She pulls Santana with her until Santana's limbs are wrapped around her, keeping her warm.
"I didn't want to assume," Brittany whispers. Santana smiles and then laughs when Brittany takes the ring from the box and tosses it aside. She slips it unceremoniously onto Santana's finger and then guides the hand back into her hair. The song and dance she'd expected never happens and it's kind of anticlimactic but perfect at the same time. From the way that Santana's eyes become dark and glassy as soon as she does it, she knows that neither of them would have wanted it to happen any other way.
She squashes their noses together and sighs, her eyes fluttering closed. "I love you so much," she whispers. Brittany grins and leans to press a kiss to her nose. It just makes her eyes flutter cutely. "I'm so glad you're here."
"Me too," Brittany whispers, and she smiles so brightly into the kiss that Santana gives her, that she feels like the sun.
When they're lying in bed later that morning, naked and sweaty, and wrapped so tightly around each other that they could be one person, Brittany brushes the hair from Santana's neck and watches the expression on her face change from happiness to disbelief.
Her fingers stroke up and down Brittany's back and Brittany smiles a soft, lazy smile.
"Did it ever scare you?" Santana asks after a while.
Brittany turns onto her front so that Santana can touch more of her skin and sighs when Santana pushes the hair from the back of her neck and kisses there gently. She turns into her more, until her nose is pressed against Santana's shoulder, and kisses the freckle she finds there in return.
"Did what ever scare me?" she asks sleepily.
Santana draws patterns and writes words on Brittany's skin with the soft tips of her fingers. Brittany starts to feel the first few tell-tale signs of sleep as she dips her fingers low into the base of her back and around her waist.
"That it doesn't feel like this with anyone else," Santana whispers and Brittany's breath hitches at the words.
The patterns stop and Santana moves closer to see Brittany's face.
"It still scares me," Brittany whispers. "Every single day."
She half expects to be asked to explain herself, for Santana to be hurt for some unknown reason, but Santana just leans in and kisses her slow and quick at the same time before pulling back and wrapping her arms and her legs around Brittany's sleepy body. As she does, Brittany knows that, if Santana did want her to explain, then she'd know exactly what she'd say: that no blanket has ever made her feel warmer than when Santana's body is around hers, that she's never felt less alone, and more loved, than when Santana's by her side, that nothing has ever made her happier or more proud, than being the cause for Santana's smile… that being without her makes Brittany feel like she's lost in the dark.
That's what she'd say, but she doesn't need to.
Santana turns her until their bodies are pressed together, their bellies and their chests squashed together so that Brittany can feel every single sure thump of Santana's heart. She pulls the covers up over them and Brittany loses herself in the feel of it for a second, of their own little world, beneath these sheets.
Santana presses a kiss to each of her eyelids, then her nose and her chin, then her mouth. She's so gentle it feels like it should hurt but it doesn't.
"Me too," she whispers into Brittany's lips. "Me too."