A/N: This is not strictly S3-era canon but I've tried to keep the characterisation intact and there are some canon plots thrown in there.

I'm sure there are errors but it's 3.30am and my eyesight is now fuzzy so yeah...enjoy...

[EDIT- I also forgot to mention that in this fic the whole Quinn getting pregnant and having Puck's baby thing never happened]

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Santana lifts her hand slowly and ever so gently runs her fingers along the contours of Brittany's face, knowing that her ghostly touch isn't enough to wake the blonde. Brittany could sleep through a nuclear explosion.

The brunette's fingers trace the girl's jaw and across her lips, then across her brow and slide down her nose. She's perfect, Santana thinks to herself. She's never happier than on mornings like this, where she wakes before Brittany and the blonde's arm is wrapped around her and their legs are tangled together and Santana can just breathe and just be. Just enjoy being in love with the most perfect girl in the world, instead of wishing for it to go away so she can be normal. She cherishes these peaceful moments when being in love with a girl isn't a problem. When it isn't the best and worst thing that could have possibly happened to her.

She sighs, wondering how many more of these mornings they'll have.

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Just three, as it turns out.

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On a Tuesday she and Brittany argue because Brittany wants to loop her arm around Santana's at the mall.

Santana can't.

Part of her knows that most people wouldn't think twice about two best friends walking arm in arm, but another part of her, darker and fearful and raised on bible verses and her abuela's voice in her head, is terrified that people will just know. Just know by looking at her that Santana does much more with Brittany than loop arms or hold hands.

Brittany normally brushes Santana's rejections off but not this day. On this Tuesday she grows quiet and sets her jaw and Santana can feel how much she hurts her. How much her fears and conflicts are hurting Brittany.

She knows Brittany has been so patient with her, so so patient, but she knows even Brittany has her limits. But fighting with Brittany isn't the type of fight Santana likes, the ones involving fists and threats and poisoned words and Santana winning because she always knows what to say to hurt someone before they hurt her. No, fighting with Brittany is all whispered words and tears slowly rolling down cheeks. It's painful and Santana hates it.

She doesn't want to hurt Brittany anymore.

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Santana breaks up with Brittany on a Friday after school.

Although she's not sure if it's technically a break up because they were never actually a couple.

The devastated and confused look on Brittany's face makes that distinction irrelevant.

She tells Brittany that they can't fool around anymore because they're not gay and should just be normal best friends and she's such a coward that she can barely look Brittany in the eye.

She doesn't cry though.

Brittany cries.

Brittany cries and Santana hates herself when she tells Brittany that she's not in love with her.

She's been lying her whole life and this is just another lie.

Except it's not just another lie.

Brittany cries and Santana hates herself even more than she already did.

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Santana stays wrapped up in bed all weekend with her phone turned off.

Her abuela is too busy crying and going to church to notice.

She can't help wondering whether any of this would be happening if her parents were still alive.

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On Sunday night Santana turns her phone back on and when it flashes with 11 calls and 16 messages from Brittany and Quinn and Puck she turns it back off and throws it in the bottom drawer of her desk.

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She told Brittany that she wanted to stay friends but it's difficult and in all honesty she didn't think that could happen. Not this time. Brittany knows that she's lying and keeps pushing her for the truth but Santana just can't. Brittany deserves to be with someone who makes her happy and Santana knows that she can't be that person. Not anymore. Not with how her life has to be now.

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For the first time in a long time she sleeps with Puck. She has to get drunk but even that's not enough to make it okay, to make fucking Puck anywhere near the same as making love to Brittany. She feels like she can't breathe. She pushes him off her and collects her clothes and practically runs out of there. It's not Puck's fault, he's a stupid and horny teenage boy.

He's not Brittany.

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Brittany stops asking why.

Part of Santana is relieved because it means that Brittany is finally accepting that it has to be this way.

The other part of her is terrified because it means that Brittany is finally accepting that it has to be this way.

Sometimes Santana doesn't know if making this decision means she's being strong or weak.

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Santana starts avoiding her.

She would put up with the pain of seeing Brittany if it was just her pain, but the longing and sorrow in blue eyes whenever they're near each other is too much and she just can't. She doesn't want to make this any harder for either of them than it has to be.

She feels like such a coward.

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At night Santana can still hear her abuela crying and praying to God.

Santana cries into her own pillow silently and whispers her own prayers.

It feels so wrong and awful to pray to be normal but it's all she can do now.

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By the second week she's pretty sure Brittany is avoiding her too. She can't blame her.

Puck is a stupid teenage boy and he's telling everyone that they're hooking up again.

It was only that one horrible time but Santana doesn't correct anyone. People talking about her being a slut is better than talking about her being something else.

Now the longing and sorrow that had been clouding blue eyes has hardened into anger and frustration.

Brittany doesn't smile as much as she used to.

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She doesn't officially quit glee; she just keeps coming up with excuses for not being there. The other kids are annoyed but fear the wrath of Snix so they keep their frustrations to themselves. Mr Schue tries to speak to her about it but she rants at him in Spanish and she knows he's so embarrassed that he doesn't understand that he leaves her alone.

But she can't quit the Cheerios because she needs more than just her grades to get into college. She needs to get into college because it's the only thing she has left.

So four times a week she spends two hours avoiding Brittany as much as possible.

It hurts.

Although it's easier to focus when Coach Sue or Quinn are yelling at her about staying in formation or her kicks, however annoying they are.

But when Brittany pulls off an awesome flip or tumble sequence and smiles proudly while high fiving the other girls Santana's world is just a little brighter.

Brittany's smile is like sunshine.

For those few moments, Santana can smile too.

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Quinn notices.

Everybody notices the distance between her and Brittany, even Rachel who is usually too wrapped up in her own little world to pay attention anyone else, but Quinn sees more of the truth than anybody. She knows that this isn't just one of the stupid fights that they've had before. This isn't like when Santana refused to sing with Brittany or when Santana went with Karofsky to junior prom.

Santana knows that Quinn's been talking to Brittany and she's glad that someone is there for her.

Quinn tries to be there for Santana too but she won't let her.

The worst part is that Santana knows that Quinn would understand. Quinn who has the family that she has.

But Santana has never been any good at asking for help.

She doesn't think it would do any good anyway.

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A letter comes from Santana's brother but her abuela won't even open it and throws it in the bin.

She just mutters prayers in Spanish under her breath.

He calls and leaves messages but Santana is too angry to speak to him.

She knows it's not fair but right now she hates him.

He's taken away her chance to be happy.

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Suddenly Sam is everywhere Brittany is and Santana hates it.

He's sitting next to Brittany at lunch and he's carrying her books down the hall and he's waving to her at football games. Santana hates it.

But she can't hate Sam because that would be like hating a retarded puppy. A retarded puppy with massive lips.

It's not his fault that he doesn't know about her and Brittany being together. That's Santana's fault.

She tries to remind herself that this is what she wanted. She wanted Brittany to find someone to make her happy, and sure, Brittany still looks sad a lot of the time, but sometimes Sam makes her laugh and that should be a good thing.

Santana hates it.

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She places flowers on each of her parent's graves and then kneels in front of them. She can still remember standing here the day they were buried, eight year old Brittany by her side and holding her hand so tight like she was scared Santana was going to float away. Santana thinks that's a fear Brittany's had ever since that day.

She wonders what her parents would think of her now.

Her abuela always tells her what her parents wanted for her, expected of her life, but Santana can't remember anything about that stuff. She remembers kicking a soccer ball with her brother and her dad and she remembers her mum sewing her a pretty dress and reading to her. She remembers the policeman standing at the door saying words like car accident and drunk driver to her abuela and not understanding why her parents weren't there to tuck her in that night. Or any night after that.

She wonders what they would think of her now and that thought haunts her.

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The daggers she's throwing at Sam with her eyes must not be as subtle as she thinks because one afternoon Quinn sidles up next to her after cheer and says, "They're not dating, you know. I thought I'd put you out of your misery."

"The fuck you talking about Fabray?" she spits out as her heart starts beating double time.

"Brittany and Sam. They're not dating. He keeps asking her out but Brittany says she just wants to be friends."

Santana has never been so relieved to hear anything in her life, but like hell she'll ever show that to Quinn. They might be friends but both of them know better than to reveal a weakness to the other.

"Whatever," Santana mutters, knowing that Quinn can see right through her but keeping up the charade anyway. That's her life now.

She's started walking back across the field when she hears Quinn yell from behind her.

"She's not going to wait for you forever, Santana."

That's one of a million things Santana is terrified of.

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New Directions win their place at nationals next month and Santana finds herself longing to join them. She wants to stand on stage with those losers and sing a lame song.

She wants to sing with Brittany.

She knows they don't want her though. Why would they? She's caused them nothing but trouble. They've stopped asking her to come back and they got through to nationals without her so obviously they don't need her.

But she wants to dance with Brittany again.

Ever since they were little they would put on music and dance around Brittany's lounge. Santana was never all that graceful, flinging her arms and legs around manically, but Brittany was always something special. So graceful and strong and fluid and beautiful.

Santana misses dancing with her best friend.

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Mr Schue must ask Miss Pillsbury to talk to her because she calls Santana into her office and asks her about being withdrawn and anti-social and Santana tells her what she needs to to get out of there.

All she can think is that she only has a few more months. A few more months of this and then soon she'll be at college and this can all be forgotten.

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Puck tries to kiss her again when they're hanging out one day after school. He has good weed and doesn't ask questions so he's kind of perfect to hangout with. She almost feels guilty pushing him away when he leans in to kiss her, like she owes him for being the only one willing to stick around no matter how many times she pushes him away, and she wishes she could want to kiss him, but she doesn't.

She wonders if she'll ever want to kiss anyone who isn't Brittany.

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Her brother calls and she answers. She's still angry with him but not in the way that she was. She can't hate him for what he's doing. He's just braver than her.

He tells her that she can be brave to.

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She tells Quinn one night when they both drink too much at a party. They take their half-empty bottle of vodka with them to the upstairs bathroom and sit in the tub, taking swigs and then passing it back and forth between them.

Quinn cries and tells Santana that she got pregnant with Finn's baby and had an abortion.

Santana cries and tells Quinn that she's gay.

It's the first time she's ever said it aloud.

Quinn hugs her and promises her that they'll be okay.

Finally telling someone her truth is terrifying and freeing and makes Santana feel a little bit brave.

Brave enough to do something she should have done a long time ago.

Quinn shouldn't have been the first person she told.

She gets out her phone and sends Brittany a text: I just told Quinn that I'm gay but you should have been the first person I told. I miss you.

She knows it's stupid and incredibly unfair to Brittany but she's told so many lies and she just needs to tell this one truth to the one person she never wanted to lie to.

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The last thing she expects to see the next morning when Quinn drops her home is Brittany and her abuela sitting at the kitchen table having coffee.

"Britt?"

Santana stands at the threshold of the kitchen, trying to hide her fear and hesitation even though she knows Brittany can see right through it.

"Hi," Brittany says calmly, like Santana's a wild animal and she's afraid of spooking her. "You weren't home so your abuela invited me in."

Santana nods and walks over to the table, taking a seat and trying not to read too much into the light that's back in Brittany's eyes.

Her abuela is none the wiser though, asking Santana how her bible study sleepover at Quinn's was. She can feel Brittany eyeing her but Santana flawlessly reels off a bunch of plausible lies and steers the conversation to safer territory until her abuela is off and ranting about the lady across the street who doesn't go to church.

"How's Tino doing at Stanford?" Brittany asks a little later around a mouthful of biscotti.

Santana feels every muscle in her body tense at the mention of her brother, her eyes sliding across to her abuela.

The old woman is shaking her head and muttering in Spanish while crossing herself.

"That boy...running off and ruining his life. Ruining this family. After everything his parents and I sacrificed. He is dead to us. I will not have his name spoken in my house."

Santana watches Brittany's eyes widen in shock because as far as she knows Tino is the perfect grandson. Santana was always the naughty one. Always the one who didn't want to go to church and always the one getting into fights and always the one most likely to bring shame on the family.

Her abuela stands behind Santana and kisses the back of her head.

"Now it's up to Santana here to carry on our proud family name. Soon she'll be off to college and become a doctor like her Papi and then she'll find a nice Catholic boy to marry. Everything her parents always dreamed for her. Now, all this talk has gotten me worked up. I'm going to the store."

Her abuela pats her shoulder before walking out of the kitchen and Santana can feel the pressure of all the expectations and responsibility weighing down on her. It's suffocating.

"What happened with Tino?"

Her eyes dart up to Brittany's before she swivels herself around slightly just to make sure her abuela really has gone. She doesn't know why Brittany's here or what she's going to say and she doesn't want her abuela discovering those answers at the same time she does.

"What are you doing here Brittany?"

Brittany shrugs, almost bashful. "I miss you too."

Santana just blinks. Her stomach is doing summersaults and her heart is hammering like crazy. She doesn't know what to say. She can't say what she wants to.

"What happened to Tino?" Brittany asks again, a little more insistently, sensing that their two situations are linked. "Your abuela treated him like he was Jesus or something. And now we can't say his name?"

Santana sighs, running her hands through her hair.

She's so tired of lying. She didn't do this. This isn't her secret to keep.

"Take your pick. She found out he smokes pot. He dropped out of Stanford to become a photographer and moved to New York where he's waiting tables until his big break. He knocked up his non-Catholic girlfriend and they're not getting married and the baby probably won't be baptised. Any one of those things would have given my Abuela a heart attack. He did them all."

"Oh gosh."

Santana laughs mirthlessly.

"Oh gosh? Oh gosh, Brittany? Try oh motherfucking fuck fuck."

She's careful not to raise her voice but Brittany still looks down as if she's been scolded.

"He says I should go with him. To New York. Next year."

It's barely a whisper but she doesn't know why she even said it. Maybe she just wants to make that frown disappear from Brittany's face. Maybe the truth is just flowing out of her now that she started it.

"Isn't that what you've always wanted?" Brittany asks gingerly, obviously trying not to get too excited at the prospect. "We used to talk about me going there to dance and you going to NYU. We were going to live together and it was going to be perfect."

That would be perfect. That's exactly what Santana wants to happen. It's all Santana has ever wanted. Her and Brittany living in New York, out of this backwards town and pursuing their dreams together. Together is the important part. In New York they could be a couple and no one would care. She's had daydreams about the two of them going for brunch on weekends and touching and kissing like it's the most natural thing in the world and not fearing small town narrow minded bigotry or her abuela cursing them to hell.

But Santana knows that's not going to happen. Not for her.

"Don't you get it? It doesn't matter what I want anymore. When my parents died it broke mi abuela's heart. Then Tino runs off and does this. She has no one left. I'm all she has. If she finds out that I'm...that I'm gay..." She shakes her head. "I can't do that to her. She's all I have left and I can't make her hate me."

Brittany covers her hand with her own.

"She's not all you have, Santana. You have the kid's in glee club, they love you, even though you think they don't."

Santana doesn't think they love her at all but she also knows that Brittany would never lie to her.

"Yeah well who says I want them?"

"I know you love them."

Santana huffs because she doesn't want to argue about those idiots. Maybe she does love some of them. Maybe. Definitely not Tina though.

Brittany manoeuvres their hands so that their fingers are laced together and Santana can't help but worry that her abuela is going to reappear any moment like a ninja. But then Brittany's thumb brushes over the back of her hand and she feels her heart calm.

"And you have me."

Santana really wants to believe that but it's been so long and she's treated Brittany so badly.

"It hasn't felt that way in a long time. Not since I ruined it."

"You've always had me. Ever since you pushed Finn over for stealing my crayon in kindergarten."

"That tubby little shit deserved it."

"You have me, Santana. I knew you needed some space to figure some things out, so I gave you that. It hurt but I have faith that we're meant to be. And when you texted me last night I knew that you were ready."

Brittany doesn't give her a chance to respond, leaning over the corner of the table and pressing a lingering kiss to Santana's lips. Santana feels the weight lifting from her shoulders and the fight draining out of her.

She doesn't know how she can argue against a kiss like that, but she gives it one more pathetic try.

"Britt...those reasons we can't be together...they're still there. There are more of them now."

"You love me," the blonde whispers against her lips, not even a question.

Santana nods. "So much."

"And you're not running from who you are anymore."

"No. I…I'm gay."

She can't help but smile when Brittany grins proudly at her declaration.

"So you're not going to keep kissing boys to pretend that you're straight?"

Santana shakes her head. She tried that and it didn't work.

"We can be together in New York or wherever you want and your Abuela doesn't have to know. We're in love and the rest we can figure out."

Brittany kisses her again and Santana feels her chest fill so full with hope and love. She's still scared as hell though.

"Britt, I don't want to hurt you again. I want you to be happy."

"You make me happy. We belong together and I'm a big girl Santana, I can take care of myself."

Brittany sweeps away Santana's bangs, tucking them behind her ear and then cupping her cheek.

"Now let me take care of you."

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Santana is up on stage dancing and singing with the rest of those idiots helping them win nationals. They are handed a big-ass trophy while confetti rains down and all she wants is to jump into Brittany's arms and kiss her like crazy but her abuela is in the audience. Brittany understands and hugs her tightly before they both run around hugging everyone else and jumping around.

Berry hugs her and tells Santana that she's glad she came back to glee.

Santana doesn't say anything insulting in return so Rachel counts that as progress in their friendship.

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Nobody outside of the glee club knows about Santana and Brittany being together and that's okay for now. Santana asked Brittany to let them know about the situation with her abuela and it was scary but Brittany told her she could trust them to keep it to themselves and they have.

They can hold hands and kiss and just be together at glee or at glee parties and that's okay for now.

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Things aren't perfect yet but Santana's working on it.

She's learning how to ask for help.

She's learning how to trust people.

She's learning how to love and how to accept love.

She's learning to be okay with who she is.

She's learning not to be so afraid with Brittany by her side.

Things aren't perfect yet but Santana's working on it.

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