It starts with a text message somewhere in the middle of April.
I need a favor from my best friend, is all it says.
There's a smiley face tagged on the end of it and Santana's stomach drops as she glances at the clock. She has to be at work in an hour, and she's already running late, but she answers the text anyway, knowing full well that she might be hopping on the next plane to Ohio because of it.
Sure, Britt, she writes back. What's up?
Brittany doesn't text back straight away and Santana's climbing the stairs at First Avenue station when her phone vibrates a second time. Her heart almost stops at what she reads.
I'm moving to New York, Brittany writes. I got into NYU. Do you think I could stay with you?
Santana stops and stares long enough that the crowds start to push her in the wrong direction. She types her words without thinking as she pushes back through the people.
Of course, she writes… and that's how she ends up living with her ex-girlfriend in New York.
Except that nothing ever goes to plan.
She spends three days planning how she's going to talk to Rachel and Kurt only for them to be waiting up for her one morning at 6am when she gets home from work.
They look nervous and they're whispering conspiratorially together as she wanders in. Their backs straighten when they see her and she looks at them with a half-amused smirk because she's too tired to make fun of them. They look like serial killers and she grabs an empty coffee cup before sitting down at the table in front of them.
Her smile drops when they're still staring at her five minutes later.
"What?" she asks, only half worried.
They share a knowing look before Kurt pours her a cup of coffee as Rachel stirs in the right amount of sugar and cream.
"We need to tell you something," Rachel starts softly. Santana's eyes flick between the pair of them.
"What?" she says because she's too tired for this.
Rachel nods at Kurt, Kurt takes a deep breath and Santana wants to punch them both in the face.
"Blaine's moving in," he says and, just as quickly, Santana's stomach drops.
Except, her brain works fast and words are bubbling from her before she can even realize.
"Oh," she says. "That's okay. I'm moving out."
It takes a while for her to truly convince them that she was planning to move out before. They only barely believe it when she does. When they find out that Brittany wanted to stay with them, they believe it even less.
"Well, no," Santana argues for about the millionth time. "As soon as Britt told me she was moving here, I figured that something would have to change, you know? It was no secret that the Warbler wanted to come to New York and, as hilarious as it might be, watching Kurt's old boyfriend get to know his new boyfriend is not something I want to be around for…" She ignores the way Kurt purses his lips and turns to Rachel. "Plus, I figure that it's only so long before the over-grown man child gets his way and talks himself into your bed again…"
Rachel sighs and Kurt shakes his head.
"I'd rather live with Britt than be here for all your drama," she tells them, hating the way that they instantly look at her dubiously.
"She's your ex," Kurt reminds her.
"Your ex who is dating someone else," Rachel goes on. "Do you really think moving in with her is a good idea? What if Sam visits? What'll happen then?"
She stands up and sighs in irritation. "I'll deal with it because I'm an adult and Brittany's my best friend," she tells them.
Rachel looks at her carefully. "I thought you said it was impossible to be friends with an ex?" she says. "Have you even talked to her since you've been here?"
Santana swallows and puts her coffee cup in the sink.
"Brittany's my best friend," she tells them pointedly. "And that's none of your business."
It may not seem like it but they do talk… more than people might expect.
Santana would be the first to admit that things were kind of weird after their break-up. She didn't know what to say to Brittany or even if she was allowed to. She didn't know how to cope with the shame that she felt every single time she saw her.
But that changed when she got to New York. Brittany text her the morning after she arrived asking her if she got there okay. Santana text back and then Brittany called her a few days later to ask her how she was settling in. That's how they learned to be best friends again: through regular text messages and weekly phone calls on Sunday mornings before Brittany got up for breakfast.
Except, lately, the text messages are a daily thing and the phone calls are more frequent; Brittany texts her when she's in class and, sometimes, when she can't sleep after work, Santana will text Brittany 'good morning'. Sure, Brittany doesn't talk about Sam and Santana doesn't tell Brittany about the girls that slip their numbers into her pockets when she's at the bar, but they talk about school and about New York and that's okay.
It's okay because now those things are coming together.
The next couple of months are a lot of planning and a lot of Kurt and Rachel asking her if she's sure about what she's doing.
She goes back to Ohio to see Brittany's graduation and it makes her nervous about everything because seeing her in person makes it feel real. They talk about the apartment that Santana hasn't found yet and Brittany gives her a piece of paper with her flight details on it.
They hug when they part and Santana kisses Brittany on the cheek and tells her 'congratulations' for about the hundredth time.
It's not awkward; if anything Santana feels nothing but excited and nervous.
She goes back to New York and spends any time she's not at work sleeping, eating or looking for apartments.
Rachel and Kurt look at her like she's crazy but she ignores them because this is the first time she's felt like she's doing the right thing in a long time.
She finds them a two bedroom in Williamsburg a week before Brittany's due to move there.
It's nothing special. There's no elevator, their two views are of the busy street below them and the fire escapes of neighboring buildings, but there's heating and the reassurance of a recent visit from the exterminator.
The might have to listen to the noise of the city at all hours of the day but at least they're allowed pets and have a bathtub.
There's not much more that Santana can ask for. She just has to wait.
Blaine and Brittany arrive in New York early on a Saturday morning.
Rachel and Kurt meet Santana from work and the three of them catch a cab to JFK even though they have hours before their plane even touches down.
They sit in Starbucks and fill themselves with coffee, half asleep until the arrival of their flight is called. Santana stands up slowly and walks towards the gate but they still have to wait a while before she finds a sleepy blond head appearing through the crowd.
Brittany's smile is big and bright and Santana returns it easily no matter how tired she is. She sets her bags at her feet and wraps Santana in a hug. They both laugh and Santana closes her eyes against the wave of reality that rushes through her because Brittany's here.
She's here and she's staying.
They have to pick up Lord Tubbington before they can leave but Santana's honestly never been happier to see that fat ass cat.
They take the subway back to Brooklyn and even though Santana's ready to collapse in exhaustion, she agrees to get breakfast with the others. Brittany sits beside her and they drink coffee and eat pancakes as they catch up.
The nerves only pick up when Rachel remembers she has rehearsal and she, Kurt and Blaine decide to head back to their apartment. They say goodbye outside on street and promise to meet up for dinner soon.
Santana hails her and Brittany a cab once they've gone and doesn't realize how truly nervous she is until she's sitting silently in a still unmoving cab.
"Santana…" Brittany says and Santana looks at her in confusion until she giggles and nods at the driver. "I don't know where we're going," she explains and Santana's cheeks warm. She reels off the address she can only just remember and doesn't look at Brittany until she feels a hand on hers. "Calm down," Brittany smiles. "It's just me."
Santana nods and looks out the window, not sure if that's the problem.
Brittany slows as she walks into the apartment ahead of her and it makes Santana panic.
She closes the door and pushes Brittany's bags against the wall as she steps up behind her. She avoids Brittany's eyes as shame begins to fill her along with the overwhelming need to explain herself.
"Sorry," she mumbles. "I know that it's not the best place in the world but—"
Brittany cuts her off quickly. "It's perfect," she says softly. Santana moves closer to look at her carefully and find truth. Her brow is soft and she's smiling. "It's just how I imagined it."
Brittany's bedroom overlooks the street because she once watched Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window and it freaked her out. Santana takes her to it and keeps her head down, avoiding her reaction to it.
"I didn't paint it yet because I didn't know…"
Santana trails off as she lines Brittany's bags up against the wall. She can feel Brittany's warm eyes turn to her and, suddenly, buying a bed, a desk and a dresser just like the ones in Brittany's old bedroom seem like too much. She hasn't even made as much effort on her own room.
"Anyway…" she says softly. "When you're ready, maybe we could go look for a couch and stuff? You need some curtains and everything…"
She gestures up to the windows and catches Brittany's eye as she does. They're dark and warm and Santana has to fight not to blush or run away. Brittany leans a hand against the wood of her new bed and shrugs her shoulders.
"Well, my classes don't start for like… two months or something…" Brittany shrugs with a soft smile. "So there's no hurry…"
Santana looks up and nods. She thinks that she can see something in Brittany's eyes but it's been so long that she's not sure she knows what it is.
So she just agrees.
"No," she nods. "No hurry."
It takes her a few days to transfer the friendship they've shared over the phone into real life but, once she does, everything's okay. She stops feeling awkward and starts to relax.
Brittany asks her to show her the city and, at first, Santana panics that she's going to do it wrong. She stays up too late gathering together information about the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, she researches the Met to see if there's anything that Brittany might want to see but, when she presents the information to Brittany the next morning, she just smiles and shakes her head.
"That's not New York," she tells Santana softly, still wearing her polka dot covered pajamas and bed head. "I'm not a tourist anymore… I want to see the real stuff."
That should make Santana panic more but it doesn't.
She makes them spend a morning getting lost on the Subway, telling Brittany which stop they need to get off at and letting her loose with a map. By the time they find their way to where they want to be, it's lunchtime and they're laughing so hard that they're crying.
They find a deli with a line out the door and eat the best sandwiches they've ever had. There's a store down the street from it that sells nothing but old records and unwanted DVDs and neither of them speak as they simultaneously decide to step inside. Santana spends an hour watching Brittany as she buys handfuls of movies they've never heard of while telling Santana to buy some records. Santana reminds her that they don't have a record player but Brittany has an answer for everything so they spend the next four hours trailing the city looking for one.
On their way, they manage to find a coffee table (flirting their way to free delivery), some cool art, some photography books, a toaster, and remember to buy coffee cups.
But the best thing they find is the record player, old but in mint condition, at a thrift shop a few stops away from their apartment.
It's the first and only thing in their living room and it's completely useless, but they don't care.
Santana goes back to work the Friday after Brittany arrives. She's exhausted but she doesn't care because she's spent every day of the past week with Brittany, slowly filling up their apartment with everything they need.
She does feel bad leaving her alone, though. She keeps peering out at Brittany in their living room as she gets changed and wonders if she can avoid work another day. They haven't needed her most of the week but she's already missed out on one weekend of tips and she probably shouldn't miss another.
It doesn't make leaving Brittany any easier. Especially because Santana's noticed how tense she's gotten the closer it gets to Santana having to leave. Santana knows that Brittany thinks she hasn't noticed her eyeballing the clock and every lock in the apartment every two minutes, but she has and it's just making her feel worse.
"So where's the bar again?" Brittany calls out to her.
She's already asked seven times. Santana counted. "It's in the East Village. The address is on the fridge."
Brittany nods slowly and looks around, gulping. Lord Tubbington sits in her lap, uncomfortably being over-scratched behind the ears "What time do you work?"
Santana smiles because Brittany can't see. "I'm working from nine until four today, but it changes. Depends how busy we are."
She grabs her jacket and her bag and steps back out into the living room, searching for her keys. Brittany reaches over to the coffee table and grabs them before tossing them at her. Santana smiles in thanks before looking at her carefully.
"Are you gonna be okay?" she asks.
Brittany nods quickly and gives her a wide smile.
"Of course," she says as brightly as she can but she gives herself away in the way that she avoids Santana's eyes and stares down into her lap.
Santana deliberately stalls and waits until the last possible moment before she leaves.
Brittany doesn't say anything and Santana has to talk herself out of going back the whole way to the subway station.
She misses her train and has to take the next one.
Whenever there's a slow moment at work, she texts Brittany.
Brittany continues her charade and tells Santana that she's fine, that she's putting together her furniture and unpacking the boxes of her belongings that arrived two days ago.
Santana doesn't know how to tell her that those are not normal things to be doing at two o'clock in the morning.
When she gets home at six the next morning, she brings breakfast with her, fully expecting Brittany to be awake still.
She's surprised when she's wrong.
Brittany's fast asleep on the couch with Lord Tubbington curled into the curve of her body. The TV is still on and the remote sits on the floor below where Brittany's hand hangs off the edge of the couch.
A smile finds itself onto Santana's face and she covers the pair of them with a blanket before heading off to bed.
From where she lays on her bed, she can see Brittany's hand and foot and the slow rise and fall of her chest.
It lulls her to sleep quicker than normal.
After a few days, Santana still doesn't feel good about leaving Brittany every night.
She changes the locks and gets extra bolts. She buys a TV so that there's something to keep Brittany occupied but it doesn't really work. Every night when she leaves, Brittany still awkwardly watches her leave with a reluctant smile on her face and, every morning when she comes back, Brittany's either fast asleep on the couch or watching marathons of Spanish soap operas.
It really doesn't take long for Santana to come up with a solution—at least one that doesn't involve forcing Blaine to sleep over every night she's at work—and on a Saturday morning, when she comes home to find Brittany's eyes fighting to stay open, she puts it to use.
"Britt?" she asks quietly. Brittany turns to look where Santana rests against the back of the couch and blinks at her in response. Santana sighs. "Do you want to come to the bar with me tonight?" she asks. Brittany frowns and Santana shrugs. "I just… I hate leaving you here and, you know, I think you might like it…"
Brittany sighs and raises her arms above her head. She blinks slowly and looks at Santana for a while before shaking her head. "I don't really have the money to go to a bar, ya know? I mean… I have to buy college books soon and I have to use my savings until school starts and—"
"That's what I meant," Santana interrupts. "One of the girls at work had to go to Texas for the summer because of some family thing and we're one short for the later shifts on weekends. I told my boss that you were a dancer and she said to bring you in for an audition."
Brittany's eyes narrow and brighten at the same time.
"What's dancing got to do with working at a bar?" she asks and Santana blushes.
"Well," she starts. "It's Coyote Ugly, Britt. You've seen that movie, right?" Brittany nods, even as something changes in her expression, something that looks wicked and intrigued. She sits up slowly as Santana says her next words. "We dance and sing on the bar, Britt."
A smirk finds its way onto Brittany's face and Santana finds herself mirroring it before she can stop herself. Brittany sits up a little further and quirks an eyebrow in Santana's direction.
"You dance on the bar?" she repeats. "How did you fail to mention that?" Santana shrugs and just waits for Brittany's answer. When Brittany looks away and bites her lip, Santana knows what it's going to be. It's verified when blue eyes snap back to hers and messy blond hair begins bouncing as Brittany nods. "Sure. I'll do it."
She takes Brittany with her the next night and just walking out the front door with her makes Santana feel better.
Brittany's practically buzzing the whole way on the subway, constantly asking Santana if she looks okay before bouncing her leg nervously.
When they get to the bar, Santana keeps Brittany close to her. The bouncers greet Santana and eye Brittany curiously. Everyone eyes Brittany until they get to the bar and Santana guides Brittany behind it.
Her boss does a double take when she sees Brittany but Santana doesn't comment on it. She stands beside Brittany and lets her speak for herself when her boss starts asking her tons of questions. For some, Brittany looks to her for guidance but she just smiles in reassurance.
She doesn't speak until Brittany tries to play down her dancing talents.
"She's the best I've ever seen," she says, ending the conversation and Brittany just blushes as her boss nods.
"Well then," she says, nodding at Brittany. "Let's see it."
The smirk on Brittany's face as she climbs onto the bar is one of the best things Santana's seen in a long time.
Brittany's a hit.
Santana doesn't sing once her first night but she and the rest of the girls get up on the bar and dance with Brittany a few times. The rest of the time, Brittany works the crowd, lets them get to know her and doesn't stop until she's dragged down.
"You're awesome," Santana tells her after she's been dancing for two hours straight.
She forces a bottle of water into Brittany's hands and urges her to drink it.
"This is fun," she pants breathlessly and Santana nods, pushing hair away from Brittany's face as she attempts to get her breath back. She downs the entirety of the bottle but there's a grin on her face after. She tosses the bottle and grabs both of Santana's hands, pulling her back out into the bar.
"Come dance with me," she chuckles and Santana can't refuse.
Brittany's still panting for her breath at four o'clock that morning, laid out on the bar as the rest of them collect the empty bottles and shot glasses that litter the room.
"You're a natural, Brittany," her boss tells her when they're done. Santana watches as she pushes a wad of cash into Brittany's hands. Her eyes grow wide and their boss taps her on the arm, winking at her proudly. "You earned that. Same time tomorrow night?"
Brittany looks down at the money and then shyly over at Santana. Santana just looks at her with a smile that only grows when their eyes meet and Brittany nods.
"Same time tomorrow," she agrees and Santana already can't wait.
Santana takes her for a celebratory breakfast.
Brittany looks exhausted and practically inhales her first plate of French toast before almost falling asleep in her second. She holds her money in her hands and smiles at Santana across the table.
"I never knew there was so much cash in dancing on bars," she comments around a laugh.
Santana snorts and nods because she didn't either. "I know that it's not exactly a job that you can make your mother proud with but…" she shrugs and pauses. "It's fun, right?"
Brittany takes a bite of her breakfast and looks at Santana with soft, curious eyes. Santana feels safe and completely disarmed at once.
"We're in the biggest city in the world and we're working and we're paying our own bills all on our own," Brittany reminds her softly. "We're doing that and we found our own way. Even if I'm not making my mother proud," she shrugs. "it doesn't matter because I'm proud of myself."
Santana finds herself smiling and remembering how much she missed Brittany all at once. She forgot how smart she was and she doesn't know how because it's the only reason she's here.
"You're right," she laughs.
Brittany grins. "Duh."
Breakfast after work becomes a new tradition.
Brittany only works three nights a week while Santana works five but on Saturday, Sunday and Monday mornings, they get off the subway around the corner from their apartment and head to the diner across the street for breakfast.
Some people look at them like they're crazy but they don't care. They sit there for two hours, until they're too tired to stay, and talk about everything and nothing like they used to. Sure, it's different. They haven't been just friends in so long—and it's not the same as it used to be back then—but Santana likes hearing Brittany's jokes first thing in the morning. She likes watching Brittany fall asleep on her hand after eating too many slices of French toast and bacon. She likes helping her complete the crossword in yesterday's paper.
She likes this new normal that they're slowly finding and hates that in just a few short weeks, everything will change again.
Every Tuesday night, Rachel, Kurt and Blaine come over to their apartment to watch movies.
Santana's not sure why it is that they come here rather than they go over to their place. It's probably got something to do with Brittany and the fact that she can't stand Rachel's collection of musicals. There's only so many times a person can watch Funny Girl without wanting to kill something.
But they watch movies and eat pizza and, sometimes, Santana will pick them up some beer. They bitch about random stuff and a lot of the time they let Rachel relieve herself of whatever Hudson-related issues she has this week. Everything's routine down to the seats they sit in and the toppings they have on their pizza.
Santana kind of hates how one little comment can ruin something that she was actually starting to enjoy.
It happens one Tuesday in the middle of August.
Rachel, Kurt and Blaine are on one of the couches and Santana and Brittany share the other. The pizza is on its way and they've already picked what movies they're going to watch once it arrives. It's one of the rare days that they've got beer and Santana closes her eyes as she sips on her beer.
It's been warm—too warm—and both she and Brittany have been working extra hours at the bar. They've barely been sleeping and Brittany's started to get a jump on her college reading. If they're honest, neither of them really want to be doing this tonight but it's almost a tradition and they can't break it.
When the pizza arrives and they put the movie on, it just gets worse. There's no hunger to keep Santana awake and Kurt always insists that they turn the light off for optimum viewing. Santana looks beside her and finds Brittany fighting her own eyelids. She turns and pokes her with her foot before starting to stretch out her body.
Brittany gets the idea, and puts her book on the table beside her chair before copying Santana's actions. Her feet land in front of Santana and Santana takes one of the pillows from behind her, placing it against them before laying her head atop Brittany's feet. Brittany smiles at her and Santana watches as Brittany reaches a hand behind her to grab Santana's knee and hold herself closer.
They fall asleep a few minutes later and Santana doesn't think anything of it until she's carrying everything out to the kitchen once the movie is over. Kurt follows after her and the minute she sees his face something drops into her stomach.
"What?" she says as Kurt begins to wash their dirty glasses.
Kurt shakes his head without a word so Santana carries on, putting the leftover food into containers. She thinks that's it but then Kurt sighs and shifts to lean against the counter as she moves around the kitchen.
"So… how's it living with Britt?" he asks quietly. Santana doesn't know why. Brittany, Rachel and Blaine are all asleep on the couch.
"Fine," she says wearily.
Kurt nods and folds his arms before pressing a finger to his chin. He looks at her with that look he gets, the one that tells Santana she knows whatever he says next she probably won't like. It's one of the few things she doesn't miss about living with him.
He waggles his finger towards the living room and eyes her. "So, you and Brittany…"
"You're what, exactly?"
Santana stops and looks at him with narrow eyes. "Friends," she says slowly. "Roommates. Why?"
Kurt shrugs. "You looked pretty… snuggly out there."
Santana studies him for a minute, wondering if he's serious or not, before scoffing and shaking her head.
"We're tired," she says even as she feels a weird heat rising in her cheeks that feels nothing like shame or guilt or embarrassment. "You would be too if you did our work."
"If I did your work, I'd look hotter doing it," Kurt comments quickly. "But that's really not the point. I'm worried about you. Brittany's living here and you're getting closer again. You're telling yourself that you're friends but do you really believe that?"
Santana stops what she's doing and holds her hands up in frustration. "Listen," she tells him. "We're friends. That's it. That's all. Friends. Just because you're jumping on the dick of any male who befriends you doesn't mean we're all like that okay. Brittany's my best friend and she always has been."
Kurt ignores most of what she says as graciously as ever. "Exactly," he says, his voice raising in warning. "You have always been best friends and then you were together but how do you know what the difference is?"
"Easy!" Santana hisses. "The difference is that she has a boyfriend and we're not fucking each other. That's how I know."
Kurt looks at her like she's hopeless. He studies her slowly and it makes her want to slap him so she looks away and carries on tidying her kitchen.
"Have you told her about the Quinn thing?" he asks.
Santana stops and her blood runs cold at the words. She feels her defenses go up and she swallows before speaking.
"What does that matter?" she asks lowly. She feels breathless.
Kurt just rolls his eyes and sighs. "It matters because it's the kind of thing that you tell your best friend."
Santana scoffs and shakes her head. "It's the kind of thing you don't tell anyone," she corrects quietly. "You only know because you were dumb enough to walk in on my walk of shame."
Kurt looks at her with a grimace and shakes his head. "So you let people see you like that in public normally?" he asks. "The whole messy hair, sweaty and reeking of sex thing... that's a look for you?"
"Did I pull it off?" Santana asks smugly.
Kurt looks her up and down before shrugging. "Kinda."
Santana smirks. "Well, there you go," she says before pausing and shaking her head. She looks away from Kurt and her face falls. "I'm not telling Brittany about me and Quinn. It was a dumb mistake and it shouldn't have happened."
When Kurt doesn't instantly reply, it makes Santana nervous. She stands still at her place by the sink and washes the same plate over and over again until she feels him move closer to her. He puts them hip-to-hip, her front and his back resting against the counter as he turns to her and studies her quietly.
"Well, think about this," he says softly. "Just because you haven't told anyone, doesn't mean that Quinn hasn't. What if she tells someone and they tell Brittany?" Santana looks down at her hands. "Worse, what if Quinn tells Brittany because she thinks it's something you've told her. You're friends after all, right?" Kurt pauses just long enough to get Santana's brain buzzing "What then?"
Santana has no response, just the buzzing of a million thoughts around her head. What does it mean that she doesn't want Brittany to know about her and Quinn? What would it mean if Brittany found out and it upset her? She doesn't want to ponder that any more than she wants to tell Brittany.
The shake of her head she gives is almost unnoticeable but Kurt still catches it.
He reaches out and squeezes her shoulder.
"I'm just saying," he whispers. "I don't want either of you to get hurt."
Santana nods, if only so it will shut him up. She's still thinking about it, an hour later, when they've left and Brittany's taken herself to bed.
She falls asleep thinking about it and wakes up thinking about it.
She doesn't stop thinking about it… and that's the problem.
There are more than a few times when she actually considers telling Brittany about Quinn.
Most of them are when Kurt, Rachel and Blaine come over for movie night but a lot of them aren't.
She almost told her when they were at work before it was open one day. Brittany was giving one of the girls advice about her best friend, telling her that she and Santana have no secrets from each other, and Santana had to walk out in order not to just blurt out the truth.
One time she almost told her in the form of an apology. Brittany asked her if she knew how Quinn was and Santana thought she knew so the apology was right there and ready. That was until Brittany mentioned that she hadn't spoke to her since the wedding, and then way before that and Santana just shook her head that she hadn't really either. She was glad that she had to go to work shortly after.
A lot of the times, it's been because she's been laid in her bed for hours, trying to sleep but unable to because she can't stop thinking about the secret inside of her. It gets to the point where she's so tired that she convinces herself that she'll be able to sleep if she just crosses the hall and tells Brittany.
She doesn't because she used to do the same thing before everyone found out she was gay. The weight of the information was so heavy some nights that it almost hurt to harbor it. Everyone finding out might have softened that hurt but it taught Santana how volatile people can be. Telling people secrets are like chemical reactions: sometimes it makes something new but most of the time it just makes an explosion and ruins everything.
That's why she decides to go without sleep for a little while longer.
She doesn't mean to tell her when she does.
After, when she looks back, she thinks that she could have perhaps picked a better moment, a better time, but it's too late by then.
She's already told her and everything's already weird again.
Their boss holds Brittany a "You're Going To College" party on the Saturday before Brittany starts her college orientation week.
Brittany and Santana take the afternoon shift for once and while they leave to get changed and meet Rachel, Kurt and Blaine, the rest of the girls put up banners and balloons. They get served booze even though everyone knows they're not old enough and they don't even have to pay for it. As per usual, Drunk-Brittany allows for Stripper-Brittany and she ends up on the bar in her underwear like any other night anyway.
The five of them leave when the bar closes at 4am and forgo breakfast in favor of returning to their apartment to drink the rest of the whiskey their boss slipped them on the way out.
Brittany and Rachel are ridiculously drunk. Kurt and Blaine have already drunkenly made out four times, and spent the whole subway ride being handsy, while Rachel sung a drunk version of It's Not Right, But It's Okay.
Santana keeps cracking up, only drunk enough to be happy rather than emotional. She leads the four of them to their apartment because it's closer and barely argues when Blaine and Kurt wrestle their way into her bedroom while Rachel runs to their bathroom.
Santana watches as Brittany falls to the floor in the middle of their kitchen and kicks off her boots. Her face is relaxed and all her clothes are crooked from their constant removal. She takes off her top as she wordlessly lies down the cold floor tiles. A sigh of relief leaves her mouth and Santana smiles a little wider because it's not the first time she's seen Brittany do this. In this heat, the tiles are the coldest part of the apartment.
Without a word, she lays down to copy her. Her feet sit by Brittany's shoulders and she releases a low groan at the feel of the cold on her back.
"I can't believe I'm starting college tomorrow," Brittany mumbles. Her words slur a little but Santana can tell that she's slipping into sobriety.
Santana's head rolls to the side to look down Brittany's body and find her face. Her hands are pressed to her forehead and her eyes are narrow with exhaustion. She keeps looking at her until she thinks of what to say. It takes a while.
"I can," she says simply. "You need to share that genius with the world."
Brittany barely gives a reaction other than the soft smile that tugs at the corners of her mouth. It falters a second later when a darker expression replaces it on Brittany's face. It's serious, too serious, and Santana's not sure if she likes it.
"I never…" Brittany starts and it's quiet. "Even back in like… Freshman year, I never… If I'm honest, the thought of leaving Lima used to terrify me but then… I never realized that staying would mean I'd end up alone, you know?" Santana doesn't reply she just listens. "It wasn't until, you were gone and Kurt was gone and Rachel was gone… Quinn and Mike and Mercedes…" She laughs a little. "And then I came back and Artie was making his plans and everybody else was too… and I realized that I was just being dumb, you know? If I didn't… do something then I really would be left behind and the only person I could blame would be myself."
The words strike a chord with Santana. She repeats them in her brain and soaks in their meaning. She hears the sad relief and the the almost—maybe—apology for what happened between them when they broke up. There's almost a hint of Brittany blaming herself and it shocks Santana because she doesn't want her to ever feel like that's true. There's never just one person to blame, never one action. Not between them. She doesn't blame Brittany so she definitely doesn't want her to blame herself. They've both done stupid things.
Santana feels the words in her throat before she can stop them, before she can even think them. She doesn't even know what she's doing.
"Britt, I slept with Quinn," she whispers hurriedly, regretting the words before they've even left her mouth because she was right.
The relief is worth nothing when she sees the hurt and then the confusion on Brittany's face.
"What?" Brittany asks and the expression on her face is emotionless, stunned.
Santana swallows and sits up to look down at her. She shrugs her shoulders and laughs awkwardly.
"At Mr. Schue's wedding…" she starts. "I was… angry and lonely and, I don't know, Britt. She practically threw herself at me and I let her." Brittany stares and Santana shrugs, trying to get the words out as quickly as possible. "I think I just wanted to… spite you, or something, you know? I don't know." She shakes her head because she's not so sure of that truth. "I was still mad at you for Sam and I was mad because nothing was working out in New York yet and I don't know… I don't know."
Her eyes find Brittany's knees and stare at them as she shakes her head. Brittany doesn't speak, doesn't move for long, long moments, until she does and it makes Santana jump a little. She sits up until their faces are level, their noses almost touching. It's almost overwhelming and the expression on Brittany's face makes her feel like the worst person in the world.
She still looks confused, still looks hurt, but there are other things there too.
They're things that Santana doesn't want to think about.
Brittany's cheeks flush and she laughs breathlessly as she gets up.
"I don't…" she mutters and then shakes her head. "I don't know why you're telling me this," she admits as she shuffles on the spot.
Santana opens her mouth to speak but Brittany shakes her head.
"Sorry," she says. "I think I'm tired. I want to go to bed."
She leaves before Santana can get up and stop her. Her bedroom door slams a little too loudly and Santana drops back onto the floor, covering her face with her hands as she tries to think clearly.
She's still laid like that four hours later when Kurt finds her.
"I told her," she tells him quietly.
He doesn't say anything, just nods and leaves her alone.
Santana spends most of Sunday sleeping and Brittany's bedroom door is closed when she wakes up.
She goes to work and doesn't text Brittany for fear of upsetting her any more than she already might have done. She spends all night preparing herself for the morning but when she gets home, Brittany's already left. Her books and her backpack are gone.
Santana scratches her head and retrieves the good luck card from her bedroom, along with the NYU pennant and t-shirt she got her especially. She leaves them on the coffee table and heads to bed, not expecting to see Brittany when she gets up.
Sure enough, Brittany's gone when she wakes up and Santana can do nothing but embrace what she knew was always going to happen.
She doesn't see Brittany until the next afternoon.
The front door clicks to alert her arrival and Santana does nothing but lift her head to watch her come in. Her face is mostly expressionless but she offers Santana a smile that makes her sigh in relief.
She swallows and speaks. "How was school?"
Brittany looks up from her place on the couch, unloading all her books and all the extra stuff her teachers have surely given her.
"Good," she says noncommittally. "It's all just like… admin stuff and a ton of people talking to us but I'm still really tired."
"Sure," Santana nods and watches as Brittany heads for the kitchen. She opens their fridge and the pantry before pressing a hand to her stomach.
Santana shifts to see her face more clearly. She looks disappointed. "Hungry?"
Brittany looks shocked by the question and pauses before nodding. "I didn't have breakfast and there wasn't time to get lunch."
Santana's reaching for the phone before she can stop herself. "Pizza or Chinese?" she asks and Brittany's half-smile makes her feel settled.
Still, Brittany eats quickly and excuses herself to her bedroom early. Santana doesn't argue but heads out to the grocery store anyway.
She comes back with tons of snacks that Brittany likes and hides some in her backpack.
If she can't do anything else, at least she can do that.
As orientation week descends into the first week of classes, Brittany spends more time in her bedroom and Santana spends all her time wondering if it's because of her or because of school.
She checks Brittany's backpack every night before work and finds the empty pop tart and granola bar wrappers stuffed into the pockets. Half eaten boxes of Dots sit tucked between books on photographic history and critical studies and it makes Santana smile more than anything else.
Every night, she takes out the empty wrappers and replaces them with new ones. She moves Brittany's bag so that it sits on the kitchen counter and puts Brittany's new lunch box beside it with a post it on the front telling her that her sandwiches are in the fridge with a can of Dr. Pepper and a bottle of water.
Brittany's always left for school by the time that Santana gets in from work, but the food is always gone and that makes Santana feel better.
Whenever Brittany decides to not be in her room, Santana tries to talk to her about school stuff and how she's doing. Brittany doesn't really say much and it kind of makes Santana feel weird that she doesn't know which classes are Brittany's favorites.
(Back at McKinley, it was always History, Art, or her Journalism class that were her favorite. She liked Spanish too, because she was good at it, and hated Geography and Math.)
All she knows now is that she has really long days on Thursdays, that she's home by noon on Tuesdays and that the sandwiches she makes are always eaten.
Sometimes she hears Brittany talking on the phone and she can't handle it. She wonders who it is that she's talking to, if it's her parents or if it's Sam, and hates the thought that people she speaks to once or twice a week know more than she does.
She never tries to overhear. That would be cheating. She always puts on her headphones and falls asleep listening to new songs she'll sing at the bar.
By the end of September, things are still weird but Brittany's talking more. She'll come out of her room to eat dinner at their tiny kitchen table and sometimes she'll wait until Santana goes to work before she goes back to her room.
She stops excusing herself from movie nights with Rachel, Kurt and Blaine but sits with Blaine and doesn't say much. She's usually asleep before the movie's even halfway through too and it makes Santana worry. She can see the black bags under Brittany's eyes and hear her tossing and turning at night when she gets home earlier from work. The pile of books in her bag gets bigger and bigger, and she comes home a little bit later and later from school each day.
Santana never mentions it. She just lets Brittany do what she needs to in order to feel okay.
It's not until Santana comes home from work one morning and Brittany's sprawled out on the couch, asleep in her NYU t-shirt and underwear, that she figures something's up. The TV is still on and there are noticeable dry tear tracks down Brittany's cheeks. There's a mountain of books surrounding her, no blanket covering her, and she's shivering a little from the oncoming chill of Fall. Tubbs is asleep on her feet and Santana gives him a look before he jumps off and heads to Brittany's room to wait for her.
Santana leans down at Brittany's side and brushes messy blond curls from her face without thinking. She tries to ignore the way that Brittany lets out a happy hum when she does, stretching to get closer to the touch. She whispers her name softly until blue eyes flutter open and focus on her.
She sees something in them that makes her return her fingers to Brittany's face, pushing the hair over her ear over and over again even though she doesn't need to. Brittany just stares at her and she smiles gently, hoping it will help.
"You okay?" she asks in a whisper.
Brittany looks at her and nods. Her eyes flicker across Santana's face and Santana lets them quietly. Brittany's the only person who doesn't make her feel like she's being judged and scrutinized when she looks at her. Instead, she makes her feel safe, protected, cared for.
It doesn't make things any easier. Santana busies herself fussing over Brittany like a mother would. She tugs at the short sleeves of her t-shirt like it might make them long enough to cover the length of her arms before feeling her forehead with the back of her hands to make sure she doesn't have a fever. Brittany just lets her and keeps still. Her face is expressionless and that's what makes it hard because Santana just wants to know how she feels.
"Do you want to go to bed?" she asks softly. "I think Tubbs is waiting for you. He seemed kind of mad when I got in."
A twitch of a smile finds the corner of Brittany's mouth. "He's mad at me. He thinks I don't have time for him anymore since I started school."
Santana gets comfier and smiles, resting her hand on Brittany's shoulder and keeping her eyes on her face. She's too aware of the long pale legs that extend behind her, too desperate to see if they're just as cold as Brittany's arms.
"Well, it's Saturday tomorrow," Santana says. "Why don't you take a day off and snuggle with him in bed? You can watch movies and get some rest."
Brittany's face falls and Santana wants to ask what that thing is, there, behind Brittany's expression, deep in her eyes and darkened by panic. She doesn't because she would rather Brittany rest and rid herself of the dark bags, the heavy limbs, and the pale and clammy skin.
"I have school work…" Brittany tries but Santana shakes her head.
She takes Brittany's hand and pulls her up until she's standing. She doesn't speak as she guides Brittany to her bedroom and into her bed, just pulls the curtains closed against the rising sun and tucks the blankets around Brittany's body. Blue eyes look relieved behind their panic.
"You can do school work on Sunday," Santana tells her, kneeling beside her bed.
She receives no argument. Santana doesn't think Brittany has enough energy to because, as Santana presses a warm hand comfortingly to her shoulder, she's already falling asleep.
Things get a little better after that. Brittany spends the next day watching movies with Tubbs while Santana sleeps and, when she gets up, Brittany's already ordered Santana's favorite Chinese.
She invites Santana to watch a movie with her and Santana's almost late for work she enjoys herself so much.
When she gets back, Brittany's in her bedroom with her door open but the covers are falling off of her. Santana steps in and sees the books that surround Brittany on the bed. She smiles and takes them off, saving Brittany's pages and putting them on her desk. She tucks Brittany in and turns off her light, whispering a goodnight that Brittany doesn't hear.
When she wakes up, there's a note on the fridge telling her that Brittany's gone out but she'll get dinner for them on her way back. Santana smiles and doesn't have to wait long because, an hour or so later, Brittany returns with her camera bags over her shoulder and a pizza box held high over her head.
Santana smiles as Brittany puts it down onto the coffee table and turns on the TV before grabbing her book. She flops down onto the couch and, with anyone else, Santana would bitch about how she's left her shoes in the middle of the room but it's so endearing she can't.
She shakes her head with a smile and disappears into her bedroom.
By the time she comes out to leave for work, Brittany's fast asleep on the couch again.
Santana doesn't wake her or try to move her. She just grabs a blanket and covers Brittany with it before putting on a movie.
Brittany's still there when she gets home from work so Santana quietly moves around the kitchen to make her breakfast.
She wakes up to the smell of bacon and eggs and, when Santana shyly hands over her lunchbox, Brittany doesn't even bat an eyelid. She just thanks her and puts it in her bag before swinging out the door.
There's something about the action that makes Santana's heart skip a beat.
By the end of the month, things are okay. They're not as good as they were before but they're okay. They talk every day and Santana knows that Brittany's analog photography class is her favorite.
Every night, her and Brittany make dinner and eat together before Santana goes to work. She still makes Brittany's lunch every day and puts her to bed more nights than not. Every morning she puts on a pot of coffee for Brittany before she goes to bed and gets out the Lucky Charms and a bowl so Brittany won't forget to eat breakfast.
They talk and they have a routine and it works but there's still something awkwardly lingering over them.
There's a million things left unsaid, still too much being worried about, but Santana's so scared that she'll ruin things further that she refuses to mention them.
It's not until Brittany's first real cold night in New York that anything happens.
It's not just cold. The weatherman said there was a possibility of the city being caught on the edges of a tropical storm and, sure enough, the rain floods the sidewalks with muddy water and the wind howls through any gap it can find.
Even though Brittany's usually home by noon on Tuesdays, she comes home early because the subways are starting to flood. She looks shaken by what's going on and Santana doesn't ask her if she wants to go to the market like she'd planned to and goes by herself. Brittany looks nervous as she leaves, just like she did the first time Santana left her alone in the apartment, and still hasn't taken her coat off by the time Santana returns with supplies.
Santana doesn't comment on any of it, just closes the curtains and turns on the TV hoping that it might provide Brittany with a distraction.
It works, but just barely… and only until it's time to go to bed.
Because as soon as Santana says that she's tired, Brittany looks like she doesn't know what she wants to do. The wind is still howling and there's lightning that's bright enough to light their living room through the curtains. The wind beats against the windows and Santana tries to make it look like she's tidying the living room when really she's just waiting for Brittany.
It takes a while but eventually Brittany goes to her room. The loud noise of her TV adds to the mix a few moments later and Santana finally heads to her own room.
She thinks it must be around midnight when there's a knock on her bedroom door. She ignores it at first, thinking it's the storm, but can't when it's joined by the whisper of her name.
She turns around and narrows her eyes through the darkness, always able to make out blue eyes, blond hair and the shape of a familiar face and body. "Britt?"
Santana pauses at the quiet response and reaches for the lamp beside her bed. She clicks it on and turns over to find Brittany lingering at the other side of her bed, fingers playing with the ends of her blankets.
"What's wrong?" Santana asks, even though she's sure she knows.
Brittany doesn't look her in the eye and her cheeks flush as she speaks. "Um, can I stay in here with you?" she asks quietly. Santana just stares at her and lets her go on. "The storm is still really, really loud in my room, even with the TV, and there's like police cars and the fire department driving past every few minutes." She pauses and clears her throat. "And I was just wondering if I can sleep in here."
Santana doesn't say anything, doesn't make a big deal out of it, and just pushes back her blankets so that Brittany can climb in. The relief on Brittany's face is clear and she climbs in quickly, shuffling under the covers as Santana turns off the lamp.
"Goodnight," Santana whispers.
Brittany stops moving beside her and sighs. "Goodnight."
An hour later, Santana's still awake. She's too aware of how tense Brittany is beside her and can feel her jumping every time that the thunder cracks and the lightning strikes. It's starting to worry her and she rolls onto her back to glance beside her.
"Yeah?" The response is too quick for her to have been asleep.
Santana clears her throat and sighs. "Britt, what's wrong? It's late."
A breathy laugh sounds from beside her and Santana stops to listen completely.
"I'm just scared, is all…" she whispers.
Santana's face softens and she studies Brittany quietly for a second. Her hands toy with the sheet beneath her hand, scrunching it in her fist as she fights against the urge to reach out and touch what she shouldn't.
"You're fine here," she tells her rather than saying what she wants to say. "This building is really old and strong and it's only passing through. It'll be fine tomorrow."
Brittany nods and pulls the covers up around her shoulders. She still looks worried, her blue eyes flickering around the room until they finally find Santana. Her cheeks flush instantly and she looks away.
"Sorry," she sighs.
Santana shakes her head. "Don't be," she whispers. Her hand shifts across the bed. "Why don't we just talk until you forget about the storm?"
Brittany nods. "Sure."
Santana doesn't know if it's the fact that she's tired or because Brittany's vulnerable but she somehow manages to ask the one thing that's been bothering her.
They've been sat in silence for a while and it feels like there's nothing left to talk about except the things they don't want to. Brittany lies beside her, staring up at the stars on her ceiling, a still-nervous expression crosses her face as she does.
Santana watches her quietly. Her hand tucks under her chin as she swallows before speaking.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about Quinn sooner," she whispers and there's a part of her that wishes Brittany doesn't hear except the way that her face tenses and her eyes flicker to the other side of the room tells Santana that she did. She swallows down panic. "I'm sorry that it upset you the way that it did."
Even through the half-dark, Santana can still see the blush on Brittany's cheeks. She shakes her head at the words and shrugs her shoulders, lets out a nervous laugh before stopping completely and letting herself relax.
Santana goes on. "Why did it upset you, Britt?"
With a tense jaw, Brittany shrugs her shoulders again and keeps looking away.
"It just felt weird was all," she finally says. Her voice is quiet and timid and a little sweet. "It's Quinn. She's not who I thought you would be sleeping with when I told you to come to New York, you know?" Brittany shakes her head. "You didn't meet her in some bar in Tribeca. She's not…" She cuts off and shakes her head. "I wanted you to come here and be with people like you, Santana. I wanted you to be with someone who you could be yourself with." Blue eyes turn to her and the gaze burns a little. "I know—I know that it sounds bad, and I love Quinn, but she doesn't treat people how she should sometimes. She uses people and I don't ever want you to be used by anyone."
The words make something in Santana's chest throb uncontrollably. She looks at Brittany and doesn't understand how she feels so breathless when she's lying down. Brittany stares back at her so softly and earnestly that she has to look away.
A hand reaches over and covers hers on the covers. "I'm sorry I've been so weird," she says softly. "I just… You're my best friend. I want you to be happy and I thought that you might think I was jealous if I told you the truth."
The urge to ask is uncontrollable. She gives into it easily. "Were you?"
Brittany gives her a look, a mix between a roll of her eyes and a shake of her head. There's an awkward twitch in her expression and her cheeks flush with pink.
"It was just weird," she says and it's not really an answer but Santana ignores that. She just concentrates on the pause that Brittany takes after and the strange expression on her face. "I was just getting used to being your best friend and then you told me that and I just… I remembered who I used to be… who we used to be. It was hard to negotiate the two. It felt like…" She shakes her head to quickly cut herself off. "I don't know what it felt like. It just felt weird."
Santana listens and, despite being as exhausted as she is, she kind of gets what Brittany's saying. It's hard to separate what you were and what you are, to know when one begins and the other ends. Everything between them always started and ended so quickly that it was hard to know the boundaries of what they were. They've never been just one thing, always best friends and lovers for longer than they were anything else. She's suddenly hit with a rush of nostalgia and a yearning for the best friend she met all those years ago before feelings interrupted them. She misses their old Friday sleepovers.
She opens her mouth to speak but a loud crack echoes through the room, making Brittany jump. She flounders into Santana's body, burying her face in her shoulder, and Santana smiles, wrapping her arms around her and laughing a little.
"C'mon," she says and urges Brittany back over onto her side before scooting her body in behind her. She wraps her arms around Brittany's waist and rests her head on the same pillow. "Better?" she asks as the body in front of her curls and relaxes further into the covers. The way it moves feels like a sigh sounds.
Brittany nods slowly. "Just like old times," she breathes.
Santana lets herself feel Brittany's body relax into her arms, softening as she relaxes and the sudden need to sleep takes over. Her nose brushes against Brittany's hair and she swallows thickly for no reason whatsoever.
"Yeah," she agrees. "Just like old times."
When they wake, the sun is shining and Santana remembers where she is a second before she makes a fool of herself.
Her arms are still wrapped around Brittany's waist and Brittany's fingers are wrapped around her wrist, thumb against her pulse. It feels comfortable, warm, and she lays there for too long before getting up.
She feels just as comfortable and warm when Brittany bounces out the bedroom a little while later and helps her make a late breakfast.
They stay at home watching movies together on the couch and there's no weirdness anymore.
All that remains is the same comfort that Santana's felt since the moment they met, the same comfort that reminds her who she is.
The days that follow don't feel as awkward as the ones that have passed.
Santana feels like the storm came and washed away all the bad stuff between her and Brittany because things finally feel how they should. Brittany's hardly ever in her room and they talk more, just like they used to. On Sunday mornings, Brittany meets her at the Subway station after work and they go for breakfast together like they used to. Some nights, Brittany even comes to the bar and spends the night dancing on it just because.
Some things stay the same, though. She still ends up putting Brittany to bed when she gets home from work and she still makes her lunch every night before she leaves for work. They still make dinner together every single night, do their laundry together at the laundromat across the street every Monday afternoon, and forget whose turn it is to buy toilet paper.
The amount of photographs Brittany has of them being total idiots across the city is ridiculous. They cover their apartment in mismatched frames, dotted between pictures of their friends and family, and Santana loves it because it makes her feel more at home.
It just feels better and even though Kurt still looks at her wearily, like he can see things that she can't, she wouldn't have it any other way.
She meets Kurt for lunch on a Tuesday in October while Brittany's at the library.
They order and get their drinks, sitting there in comfortable silence until Kurt toys with the collar of his shirt before looking at her curiously.
"You look happy," he comments.
Santana looks up and him and narrows her eyes. "Am I not supposed to?"
He shakes his head and sips his iced tea quietly for a moment before—
"It's just that I thought things were rough with you and Britt," he says and shakes his head. "Is that all good now?"
The expression on his face tells Santana that there are too many things that he wants to say, that he already knows more than he's probably letting on. She sighs and puts down her drink. He must guess that she knows because his expression changes and he leans back a little to get away from whatever pain she has for him.
"Just say what you need to say, Hummel," she sighs, her mouth pursing together. "I don't have time for this."
Kurt leans back in until he's close enough to whisper. His hands clutch at either side of the table and his eyes are wide and worried.
"I'm worried about you, okay?" he says. "I'm scared that you're getting yourself back into an old rhythm."
Her face screws up in confusion. "Rhythm? What rhythm?"
Kurt looks at her like she's hopeless. His elbows rest on the table and he locks his fingers together before resting his chin on his fist. "The rhythm of you and Britt," he tells her. "You get close, you start sleeping together, you're fine for a while and then something happens that forces you apart and then you repeat. If you think nobody noticed then you're a dumbass."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Santana says, putting her napkin on her lap. "Britt and I are just friends. We're good right now and nothing like that is happening. Nothing like that even looks like it's going to happen and I'd stop it if it did."
Kurt narrows his eyes. Santana has to look away because the expression on his face is so full of understanding that it's almost like looking in a mirror.
"Do you even know what it looks like, Santana?" he asks. "Can you even tell when something is happening between you and Brittany?" He doesn't wait for an answer and moves on quickly. "Because I think that, for you, it's as unnoticeable as breathing: you only realize what you're doing when you're desperate and you think it's being taken away from you." He pauses like he's waiting for something. "You do know that Blaine and I have been living together as long as you and Brittany have, right? And you do know that we're still as uncomfortable now as we were when I had to show him where to put his toothbrush?" Santana gives a shrug that is not an answer but an acknowledgement. "We still blush when we know the other is in the bathroom but Brittany sits around your apartment in her underwear and you're fine. You let her walk in on you when you're showering. You do laundry together and cook together and I know that you're going to say that it's because you're comfortable being friends but it's not true."
When he doesn't continue, it infuriates Santana. She smirks at him bitterly and shrugs her shoulders. "Then what is true, Kurt?" she says. "Why don't you tell me since you seem to know us so well?"
"It's because you were made for each other," Kurt says, gracefully ignoring the way that Santana's body almost buckles in the middle at the words. "It's because you don't know any other way to exist around each other than the totally-in-love-way that you were made to but I think Brittany is fighting that and I'm worried you're going to get hurt because of it."
Silence follows and Santana's glad for a reprieve. She doesn't look at Kurt but she does nervously sip at her drink and toy with her napkin. She can feel Kurt's eyes on her and she doesn't look at him, not even when she finally speaks.
"Uh, you're wrong," she tells him calmly, her words fuelled by the nameless feeling inside of her that tells her what he says is true. It forces her to her feet and she finishes her drink before she reaches into her bag and tosses down a few bills. She shoots Kurt one last look. "But thanks for your concern."
She's proved right a few days later when she overhears a conversation between Brittany and Sam.
She thinks that Brittany must think that she's still asleep because she talks freely, whispering that she misses him, that she wishes he was here.
The words make Santana pull the covers over her head as she pushes her face into the pillow.
Still, she thinks that she can hear more things than she wants to. She's sure that she hears desperate words and heavy breathing, uncomfortable shifting and hushed whimpers.
She doesn't want to know what it is.
It's none of her business.
The days seem to get colder and colder with each morning.
They finally give in and put the heating on just before Halloween but it's still cold as they open the door to red-nosed zombies and witches.
Brittany dresses up as Marilyn Monroe but gives up with her costume within a few hours and switches to her pajamas. It's cold and Santana reluctantly leaves for work in her too-small outfit just as Brittany's dragging her covers to the couch and snuggling in.
"Okay, I'll see you later," Santana says as she tries to find more things to wear over her outfit. Whoever thought it was a good idea to have a Moulin Rouge theme at work is an asshole. "I'll be back around six."
Brittany looks at her and her expression is strange.
"What?" Santana asks.
Brittany sighs. "I don't like the idea of you being out in Manhattan, in the cold, dressed like that tonight," she says quietly. Santana feels her cheeks pink even as Brittany's face hardens and she goes on regardless of what is stopping her. "I don't think I like the idea of you being in Manhattan that late any night, actually."
"Britt…" Santana whispers.
Brittany shakes her head. "Santana, the bar is great but—" she tries except Santana cuts her off by bending down over the back of the couch and kissing her on the forehead.
"Don't worry about me," she whispers, stroking back Brittany's hair.
Brittany groans in frustration and looks up at Santana sternly. "But I do…" she breathes. "It isn't safe. And you're better than…"
Santana shakes her head and sighs. Her smile almost feels grateful.
"It's only temporary," she whispers, watching how quickly her words calm Brittany.
"Stay safe," Brittany whispers.
Santana smiles despite the feeling of something slipping and hurting in her chest. "I will," she says and her voice is a breath.
Big, blue eyes look up at her nervously. "Promise?"
She's preoccupied the whole night at work. Her boss has to snap at her a few times but she eventually snaps herself out of it just as things are winding down. Her boss gives her a look as she hands her that night's tips and Santana doesn't pay any attention to it before flying out of the door.
On her way back, she stops at the grocery store to get stuff to make breakfast and picks up a ton of newspapers too.
Brittany's still asleep when she gets in and starts making eggs, but when she wakes up and finds Santana armed with a marker circling job ads, she just grins and picks up the next paper in the pile before helping her.
Bare legs brush Santana's clothed ones as they spend the morning going through the mountain of papers. Brittany doesn't have a class until the afternoon and Santana almost falls out of her chair laughing at some of the ads Brittany circles.
Santana didn't know that there are beekeepers in Queens, or that there was such a thing as a sex surrogate, but it doesn't matter. She doesn't want to do either. She just wants to laugh with Brittany.
Their routine changes.
Along Brittany going to school and Santana going to work, Santana also starts going to job interviews in the city.
She goes for anything and everything she can find, applying for anything that sounds like it could be fun, hoping that she finds out what she wants to do next while she's doing it.
Each day, she wakes up to a pile of job ads that Brittany's found, mixed in with random scraps of paper with numbers written on them on their kitchen table. It's hilarious because only seventy percent of the time Brittany remembers to write down what the number is for. Santana calls the numbers anyway and laughs when Brittany's slipped in a random number to trick her.
She's called four prostitutes, three male gigolos and a birthday party clown in the space of a week but she doesn't care when she can hear Brittany laughing her ass off in her bedroom.
She doesn't care at all.
Santana's sure that everything's going to be weird again when Quinn decides to visit at Thanksgiving.
She's already had a pretty rough day. She barely slept after work because she had two interviews and then she woke up late. Then she made a complete fool of herself at her first interview—for a job that she would have actually enjoyed doing—and then the second was run by a bunch of old guys who kept trying to look down her shirt. Plus, she told Brittany not to worry about the stuff for Thanksgiving and that she would get it on her way home.
The last thing she wants is for her phone to start ringing and to see Quinn's name on the screen.
She manages to ignore it the first three times but picks up on the fourth, if only to tell her she's busy.
She doesn't expect to hear the words Quinn says.
"I'm coming for Thanksgiving."
Brittany's eyes go wide when she tells her.
She's already on her way to the library for some last minute reading before it closes, and she stumbles just barely before she nods quickly and gives Santana a smile.
It's about the only reaction she gets.
Kurt's is worse.
"Why couldn't you just tell Quinn no, Santana?" he says and Rachel stares between the pair of them in confusion before Kurt scoffs and points at Santana like a petulant child. "Santana had sex with Quinn at Mr. Schue's wedding!" he squawks. Santana gasps at him and then slaps at him as hard as she can. He ducks out of the way. Asshole. "And Brittany reacted weirdly when she told her and now Santana's invited Quinn for Thanksgiving at the apartment that they share!"
Rachel just stares with her jaw almost touching the table top. Blaine looks at them over the top of his book and Santana has the sneaking suspicion that he already probably knew. She groans and pushes away from the table to get up.
"Santana…" Rachel says awkwardly. "That's… that's really bad."
Santana spins around and shakes her head. "I didn't invite her," she says. "She invited herself. She said that she was originally supposed to be eating here but now we're not and I couldn't just say that she couldn't come because it might be weird for Brittany. That would just make Britt feel worse!"
She knows she's right. When she looks up at Kurt and Rachel, they look like they know she's right too. She sighs and flops down onto their couch.
"Fuck," she breathes. Her hands fly to clutch at her face and she shakes her head. "What am I going to do?"
Their small apartment feels tiny with all of them there.
Santana and Brittany wake up early and get the turkey ready in their pajamas, laughing and shrieking at how gross it is. They chop vegetables and watch the news ready for the parade later on. The radio plays quietly in the kitchen and Santana watches Brittany quietly to see if she can notice anything off.
Except Brittany seems fine.
She smiles when Kurt, Rachel and Blaine arrive, presenting the pumpkin pie, vegan alternative and refreshments that Santana had asked them to bring. They comment on how she's still in her pajamas and she rolls her eyes at them before disappearing to get changed.
When she reappears, Brittany's in the dress that she'd showed Santana last week, a dark blue fifties thing that makes her look beautiful. It makes Santana feel underdressed in her new jeans and shirt but she doesn't really care when she leaves her bedroom and Quinn is stood there taking off her coat.
They haven't seen each other since Santana snuck out that morning but Quinn is grinning at her as she kisses everyone's cheeks.
She tries to kiss Brittany's cheek before Santana's but Brittany just excuses herself to the kitchen before she can. There's nothing rude about it. She does need to check the turkey, but everyone bar Quinn looks at Santana knowingly. She ignores them quickly.
"Good to see you, Santana," Quinn whispers as she leans in to kiss her cheek. Santana stiffens and doesn't miss how Quinn's lips hit the corner of her mouth and how she lingers too long.
She springs back before Quinn does and looks straight to the kitchen before walking towards it.
"Drinks," she whispers. "I'll get drinks."
Dinner goes fine. For someone who says she can't cook, Brittany's a perfect Martha Stewart throughout dinner, taking on all the responsibilities of getting everything ready and spending most of her time in the kitchen.
Santana sits beside her at dinner and is glad that Quinn is sandwiched between Kurt and Rachel on their borrowed for the day dining table. It makes it easier to avoid any unwanted touching and whenever Brittany is at the table, Santana insists on talking to her, asking her if she needs any help or if she's okay.
Brittany just nods and Santana knows that she isn't.
She knows it because Brittany barely looks at her, and doesn't seem excited as she watches the parade. She knows it because Brittany's hands clench into the bottom of her dress through the apron she wears and the tight smile she's worn all day. She only has a small piece of dessert and maybe some of her weirdness is because this is her first Thanksgiving away from her family, but Santana doesn't see it when Brittany pulls Tubbs onto her lap to call them after dinner.
She sees it when Rachel, Kurt and Blaine are invited to a party later that evening. It's dark and starting to snow, but they pull on their coats anyway. Brittany shakes her head at going, so Santana does too. She doesn't expect Quinn to follow her lead but they can't exactly tell her she has to go.
For what it's worth, Kurt tries valiantly to get Quinn to come with them.
She refuses adamantly and they leave reluctantly.
It must take ten minutes before it gets awkward sitting there in silence. Santana winces when Brittany jumps up and pulls Tubbs into her arms protectively.
"I'm tired," she says around a laugh. "It's been a long day, so I'll—uh—leave you guys alone."
Santana winces at the words and doesn't get up. If Quinn notices anything out of the ordinary she doesn't mention it and gets up to kiss Brittany on the cheek. Her bedroom door closes a few moments later and Santana wonders what happens next, working out each reaction to every possible scenario and not even really paying attention as Quinn takes her by the hand and pulls her up.
"I was thinking we could catch up," she says as she pulls Santana towards the other side of the apartment. "We didn't really get to talk after Mr. Schue's wedding…"
She's in her bedroom before she realizes what's happening. They stand there unmoving for a moment before Quinn grins and moves in steadily towards her. Santana balls her fists awkwardly at her sides, not knowing what to do for a second before she jumps back. She shakes her head before Quinn can get close enough again.
"I think you should go," she says and Quinn smirks at her before trying to reach for her. It makes Santana feel weird and she takes another step back before she shakes her head more forcefully a second time. "No, Quinn," she mutters. "I don't… I don't want this…"
She trails off and Quinn's face drops into acknowledgement. She straightens her back and, strangely, she smiles. She smiles and it's full of understanding. Her eyes glance to the side, back out towards the living room before she nods.
"Oh," she says and she doesn't sound sad or confused or upset at all. She doesn't even sound like she has some lunatic plan for revenge. She just sounds like she understands. "I see," she whispers and then steps back into the living room to grab her coat. She puts it on quietly before grabbing her bag and nodding. She almost seems amused by everything. "About time," she says before opening the door. "Bye, Santana," she winks. "Keep in touch."
The door closes and Santana stares after her, wondering if that really happened.
She waits a few minutes before knocking on Brittany's door. Her TV is on loud and Santana knocks just as loudly to get her attention.
The door cracks open a few seconds later and Brittany looks at her confused before staring back into her room like it might have the answers.
"Are you… Are you okay?" she asks quietly. Santana watches as she gulps visibly, eying her with nervous suspicion. "Do you need a dental dam or something?"
Santana's first instinct is to snort. She beams at Brittany's words, even while nerves bubble in her gut. She shakes her head and smiles.
"Quinn's gone," she says carefully. "I sent her home and I was wondering if you wanted to watch a movie, maybe?"
Something in Brittany's face softens and her eyes light up. She looks past Santana to see if she's telling the truth, if it's really just them. All she finds is snacks sitting out on the table, a pile of blankets and The Wizard of Oz playing quietly on the TV.
The moment when Brittany nods gently and opens her door wider, is Santana's favorite part of the whole day.
The next morning, she wakes up on their couch with Brittany's head in her lap and the TV still playing in the background.
Brittany's quilt covers them and Santana doesn't get up when she realizes where she is. She doesn't move and she doesn't make a sound to wake Brittany up, regardless of how uncomfortable it should feel.
She just sighs and lets her eyes close again.
They're still lying like that later on when Brittany asks her about Quinn.
She's eating the leftover turkey sandwich Santana just made her and she's paying more attention to that and the TV than to Santana.
"So, how come Quinn left last night?" she mumbles, tearing off the crusts on her sandwich like always. "I thought there was something going on between you two?"
At first, Santana's too shocked to answer. Instead, she stares down at Brittany in her lap until blue eyes look up at her. Slim shoulders shrug against her thighs and Brittany slips some crust into her mouth.
"I wouldn't have minded," Brittany says. "I mean, it was major awkward for a while because I had no idea how to act around you guys now. But I could have like… turned the TV up loud—really loud—or worn headphones or something to block out the n—"
Brittany's eyes narrow and she puts down the crust she was about to eat. Santana breathes out heavily and almost laughs at her own discomfort.
"There's nothing going on between me and Quinn," she says plainly, looking at the TV. "We slept together at Mr. Schue's wedding and maybe Quinn was hoping there would be a repeat performance, but I didn't want that. It was weird enough the first time. And the second."
Her eyes dart down to Brittany's quickly because she didn't mean to admit that. She's shocked when she finds blue eyes wide with shock and amusement.
"Oh, really?" Brittany asks lowly, reaching above her to poke Santana in the stomach. "What was that like?"
It makes Santana blush and she pushes away Brittany's hand with a laugh.
"A lady doesn't kiss and tell," she mutters and Brittany giggles, even as her own cheeks pink with something else.
"Whatever," Brittany mumbles, her eyes turning back to the TV. She sits in silence for a while and Santana watches her the whole time, until her smile drops. She swallows heavily and when the commercials come on, she looks up at Santana with clear eyes and warm cheeks. "I'm really glad we're friends again, Santana," she says.
Santana's hand moves without thinking. It pushes Brittany's hair from her face and behind her ear.
"Me too," she whispers but it feels like she should say more.
Santana's job search is still going on in December.
She still works five nights a week and she's exhausted because she barely sleeps anymore. She's going to fewer interviews because of that and is being more particular about which jobs she applies for. Money becomes more important than her dreams for a while, what with needing to buy Christmas presents and her plane ticket back to Ohio for the holidays.
Brittany understands completely and even asks to work a few weekends just so that she doesn't have to dip into her savings. Their boss accepts without discussion. Brittany's hot and she's talented and it's the holiday season. They need to be at their best for the rush of business that always comes with the festivities.
And it's really fun having Britt back because, as much as Santana loves the girls she works with, none of them are like Britt. There's no one to wind down with after work and there's no one who knows Santana all that well.
Santana sings songs that make Brittany jump up onto the bar and pull out her best moves. They reenact Glee club numbers, knowing the moves without thinking. The other girls can't keep up and, at the end of the night, their boss slips them extra cash because they work the hardest.
It makes Santana more aware of how comfortable they've both become, especially when Santana's pouring a beer for a customer and Brittany steps up behind her, taps her on the ass and whispers "hottie at eleven o'clock is checking you out."
Santana glances up and then shoots Brittany a look. "What?" she asks over the noise of the music.
Brittany grins and steps in close. "There's a girl standing by the stairs with red hair and she's been checking you out for about half an hour now."
Santana looks up and, sure enough, there's a kind of cute girl standing there watching her. The girl grins when she sees her looking and Santana turns away, looking over at Brittany. "So?" she says.
Brittany just shrugs and grins, grabbing her cowboy hat as the song changes.
"She's cute," she comments before climbing onto the bar.
For a minute, Santana doesn't know where to look. Both the redhead and Brittany make her feel equally confused.
Kurt and Rachel come over to arrange their flights back to Ohio on a Tuesday afternoon.
Santana makes them lunch while still wearing her pajamas. She ignores the judgmental looks from Kurt, not caring that it's past noon or that she's wearing footie pajamas and a cardigan, and listens to Rachel.
"I found five flights to Columbus on the twenty-second for really cheap," Rachel says, looking through a piece of paper in front of her.
Santana shakes her head instantly. "I can't fly until the twenty-third," she says. "Neither can Britt. We're both working."
"And we can't leave any later than the twenty-second," Rachel mumbles before tapping her pen against the page. "I can get two flights on the afternoon of the twenty-third?"
Santana nods and opens her mouth to speak when the front door opens. She turns to watch as Brittany wanders in, the bags over her shoulder instantly dumped at the bottom of their coat stand. Santana instantly notices how Brittany's face is pale and how she walks with a wince. She watches as Brittany doesn't speak, just heads over to the couch before collapsing down on it wordlessly. She curls into the fetal position and rubs her face into one of the cushions, as a hand lingers on her stomach.
Santana's eyes flash to the calendar on their fridge, sighing knowingly when she sees the date before jumping up and heading for the kitchen cupboards.
Kurt and Rachel watch as she grabs some painkillers and starts boiling the kettle before grabbing a hot water bottle from under the sink. She says nothing to them, just continues finding Brittany's favorite tea and putting it in her favorite cup.
Without a word, she crosses the room and crouches down beside Brittany, rubbing over her back until she turns over. There are tears running down Brittany's cheeks and Santana clicks her tongue before pulling her into a hug.
"Hurts," Brittany mumbles, just like she always does at the familiar pain.
Santana nods and rubs the place at Brittany's back that always makes her feel a little better. "I know," she soothes. "Go wash up and put your pajamas on and I'll get everything ready, okay?"
Brittany nods and accepts the help to pull herself upright on the chair. Santana brushes her hair from Brittany's face and watches her sigh before getting up. She shoots a smile at Kurt and Rachel through her discomfort before disappearing into her bedroom, only to reemerge a second later and head to the bathroom.
Two sets of eyes are staring at Santana when she returns to the kitchen. Kurt looks bewildered and Rachel looks curious. Santana ignores them both and fills up a hot water bottle and Brittany's tea. She takes both to the coffee table before she finds Up and Finding Nemo and puts them by the TV. Beady eyes watch her as she rifles through the hall closet to find a clean towel and Brittany's spare blankets. They watch as she lays the towel over Brittany's usual seat in bewildered confusion, narrow their eyes at her as she arranges the blankets ready for her to crawl underneath.
"Santana…" Rachel starts but cuts off when the bathroom door opens and Brittany walks out.
Santana's waiting for her and she climbs onto the couch without argument, taking the hot water bottle and pressing it against her stomach as she snuggles under the covers when they're pulled up around her.
"Up or Nemo?" Santana asks.
Brittany wipes away the tears still drying on her face. "Nemo," she says and Santana's not sure why she even asked.
Her face contorts in pain and her body curls into itself. A squeak of a groan leaves her almost silently and Santana steps over to rub her back without even needing to be asked. Brittany's eyes flutter and she reaches for Santana's other hand, holding it tightly.
"You okay?" she asks softly, sweeping Brittany's sweaty hair from her face.
Brittany shakes her head and tugs on Santana's hand. "Cuddle," she whimpers and Santana barely gives Kurt and Rachel a second glance before she's climbing in behind her and holding her tight. Her hand finds Brittany's stomach on instinct and she doesn't think twice before it's slipping beneath Brittany's t-shirt and just under the waistband of her bottoms. Her fingers press in knowingly and Brittany's body relaxes in her arms as she flattens her palm against the skin.
She props herself up on her other arm and looks down at Brittany.
"Better?" she asks and Brittany nods, pulling the covers up over their shoulders. A smile pulls at her mouth as Brittany's body softens more and more. "Good," she breathes and carries on watching her.
She watches her until she hears the squeak of chairs and the rustle of papers. Kurt and Rachel come to sit on the adjacent couch and their eyes say more than the rest of them. Kurt keeps his eyes on Santana's face while Rachel darts her eyes everywhere else, but Santana ignores them and looks down at Brittany.
"So, the twenty-third?" Rachel stutters. Santana nods silently. "I'll email you the confirmation later on." She turns to Kurt awkwardly. "Maybe we should go?"
Santana glances up at Kurt and sees his expression, notices how it looks worried and knowing at the same time. He glares at Santana when their eyes catch and nods before getting up.
"We'll talk to you later, Santana," he says and it's not an empty promise. "Bye, Britt."
Britt hums her goodbyes and the door closes after them a few moments later. Santana keeps still behind Brittany for a long time after they've gone. It's not until Nemo's gone missing and Marlin's met Dory and Bruce that she moves. Brittany shifts and tugs Santana's arm underneath her until it can wrap around her shoulders. Her head drops to the pillow beside Brittany's and, wordlessly, she shifts until she can bury her hand in the hair atop Brittany's head.
Brittany hums and Santana scratches softly. Her nose presses against the back of Brittany's neck and she breathes in steadily, drawing in the smell of Brittany's skin and her sweat.
"Better?" she asks again.
Brittany doesn't say anything but Santana's answer is given to her when Brittany whimpers and her body curls into itself again. Her hand slips from Brittany's hair to under her chest. Brittany clutches it to her as Santana's hand slips further down her bottoms, grazing the waistband of her underwear. She whimpers and Santana doesn't think before she kisses the back of Brittany's neck.
Her fingers rub between the protrusions of Brittany's hips, easing out the pain and pressing against the skin until whimpers become low hums of appreciation.
She doesn't stop, not even when she hears the soft murmur of Brittany sleeping.
But that's when she starts wondering, starts thinking about all the things she should be. She thinks about best friends, choir rooms and boys with blonde hair. She thinks about blue sapphires and promises made that she never got to keep.
She thinks about who she was and who she is now and all things stopping her from being who she wants to be.
She thought that she knew what she wanted but, with her arms around Brittany's body, she realizes she doesn't know anything at all.
At some point she must fall asleep because the next thing she knows, Brittany's stirring and waking her up. She jolts awake, staring around in confusion until she remembers where she is.
She instantly feels like she's crossed a line.
Before she can let go, Brittany's arm wraps her own tighter around her and pulls her closer. Warm hands clutch at Santana's to keep them where they are and a body shuffles back into her to eliminate all space between them. Santana holds in a breath and lets Brittany do what she wants to before she speaks.
"I fell asleep," she comments against Brittany's hair.
Brittany hums at her words and presses against the back of Santana's fingers so they push into the ache in her pelvis. Santana's too busy remembering how soft her skin is to realize what she wants. When she does, her cheeks pink and a gasp gets caught in her throat.
Brittany groans at the feeling and relaxes further into her. Her head rests on Santana's shoulder and Santana can feel her breath tickling the underside of her jaw. It's foreign at the same time it's unbelievably familiar.
"You hungry?" she asks in a whisper. She just wants a reason to get up.
Brittany shakes her head. "Feel sick," she whispers.
Santana shifts to get away. "I'll get you some painkillers."
Arms catch hers and hold on tightly. Brittany pushes back until Santana's stuck against the back of the couch. Their legs tangle together and Santana swallows at how warm it is beneath the covers, blinks at the overwhelming urge to just let instinct run free.
"Please don't move," Brittany whispers. Fingers stroke over Santana's and make her feel a million things. "Can't I just lay here with you a little longer?"
For some reason, a lump catches in Santana's throat. She turns to bury her face in Brittany's hair and clutches her closer until their bodies are locked together. It causes a sigh to leave Brittany's mouth and the sound is soft, relieved. It makes Santana stop caring that Brittany's shirt has risen up, that she can feel the skin of Brittany's torso against her arm or that her hand is dangerously low on Brittany's pelvis with no fabric to protect her.
"Sure," she whispers, not prepared for how Brittany shifts and pushes her further.
She just takes a deep breath against her instincts and only lets the appropriate ones win out. She holds Brittany as tight as possible and closes her eyes, trying not to realize that all her dreams are coming true, just not how she expected.
They wake up there on the couch the next morning, Brittany's alarm on her phone waking them up with a jolt.
Santana groans—more used to going to bed at 6am than waking up—and turns onto her back as Brittany forces herself to sit up. Her hand reaches to clutch at her still aching stomach and Santana reaches over to rub her back as she does.
"Still hurting?" she asks sleepily. Brittany nods slowly and winces. "Why don't you stay home?"
Blonde hair shakes itself free from tangles as Brittany refuses. "Can't," she says quietly. "I have an assignment due on Friday and I have to use the lab."
She gets up and Santana just lays there listening as Brittany showers and then dresses herself. She returns forty-five minutes later and Santana's confused when she sits back down in the same spot. She doesn't say anything, just rubs Brittany's back again until blue eyes turn and look down at her. Santana feels her body rush with something as Brittany's hand covers the one not rubbing her back.
"You'll be asleep when I get back, right?" she asks. Santana just nods. "Then I'll see when you wake up?" Santana nods again and only stops her hand moving across Brittany's back when she bends down and kisses her softly on the forehead. "Bye, Santana."
She makes to move away but, without thinking, Santana pulls her back. Brittany looks at her in confusion but Santana just sits up and wraps her arms around her. She squeezes her tightly and buries her face into the smell of Brittany's clean hair.
"Have a good day, okay?" she whispers. "Make sure you eat something."
Brittany's lips press against her the hinge of her jaw. She squeezes back just as tightly.
"I will," she breathes and Santana winces as something deep inside of her begins to ache. She pushes Brittany away quickly and flops back down onto the couch.
It doesn't help the pain when Brittany pushes hair behind her ear and leans back down to kiss her on the forehead. She looks at her strangely when she pulls back.
"I'll see you later," she says again.
Santana nods and swallows. "Bye, Britt," she whispers and, for the first time in months, it feels like she's forgotten to say something.
Brittany's cuddled up on the couch again when Santana wakes up. She doesn't say anything, just makes her tea and a fresh hot water bottle before heading to the kitchen to make dinner. She leaves Brittany a plate and gets ready for work quicker than normal. She bends down beside Brittany when she's done and finds her head buried under the covers.
"You gonna be okay?" she asks quietly. Brittany nods and takes her hand, pulling her in for a hug that Santana gladly accepts. "Text me if you need anything," she instructs. Brittany chuckles but Santana nudges her reproachfully with the side of her head. "I mean it."
Brittany's cheeks are pink when she pulls back. "I will," she says, then does the same thing she did that morning, and kisses her carefully on the forehead. "Stay safe."
Santana nods weakly and leaves without another word.
She feels weird once she gets to work. It's what they'd call a slow night: they don't have as many customers as normal and the girls have barely got up onto the bar to do anything. Santana's been singing ballads all night because she can without the frantic rush of crowds at the bar. It's a nice change and she's kind of enjoying it.
That's until she sees a woman staring at her.
She blushes because the girl isn't looking at her like the other patrons do. It's not particularly lustful or wanting. It's just a curious stare that makes Santana feel like she's completely naked.
The girl notices because she begins moving through the thin crowd to where Santana stands behind the bar. As soon as she gets close enough, there's something familiar about her and Santana's stomach drops when she realizes that she's the same girl Brittany pointed out the week before. Her cheeks burn a little more and she clears her throat before smiling.
"What can I get you?" she asks as nonchalantly as she can.
The woman doesn't say anything, just taps the beer tap with her finger. Santana pours the drink and eyes her carefully.
"You've been here before," Santana says and the woman smiles as she nods.
"I'm Carolyn," she says brightly. "And you're Rosario."
Santana smirks and takes the hand the woman reaches out for her to shake. "Yes, but only within these walls." The woman frowns and Santana laughs. "My name's Santana."
The woman's face falls in understanding before her smile grows. "I like that better," she says.
Carolyn barely leaves the bar and stays beside Santana most of the night. They talk about random things but Santana never reveals anything personal. All she knows is that Carolyn's 24, a stockbroker and has only just moved to New York.
When she starts telling Santana about her ex-boyfriend, Santana doesn't know what she feels but listens anyway. She makes a note to mention it to Brittany in the morning but carries on talking to Carolyn, singing her songs between random conversations.
Carolyn leaves at 2am when her boss decides to close early and Santana is a little confused when she finds her sat on the hood of her car outside the exit when she leaves an hour later.
"Uh… hi?" Santana says stepping over to her. "Did you need directions or something?"
Carolyn shakes her head and clears her throat. "I didn't see any other cars out here," she says. "And I hated the thought of you getting the subway or a cab home at this time of night."
Santana's eyes narrows. "Did you ever think that maybe I live close?" she asks.
Carolyn laughs and Santana has to admit that she's kind of pretty. "Do you?"
Santana shakes her head. "Brooklyn."
It makes Carolyn's face light up and she jumps off the hood of her car to walk around to the passenger door. "Well, now I have to give you a ride home," she shrugs. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I came back on Friday and you'd been murdered."
Something akin to discomfort or dread seeps into Santana's awareness. She clutches her coat around her tightly and pulls her bag more comfortably over her shoulder. "It's okay," she explains. "I take it every night and every morning and I've been okay so far."
Carolyn doesn't look fazed and laughs again. "Well, then, for me, could you just get in the car this once so that I can sleep tonight?" she asks. "I live in Queens, so… it's not out of my way."
Santana laughs awkwardly. "It's completely out of your way."
"Not compared to if I lived in the Bronx," she comments with a laugh. "Come on."
Santana stops and thinks about it for a second. Her head fills of images of Brittany, wondering if she's still hurting or if she's eaten. She breathes out because she would rather take the fifteen minute car journey over the half an hour ride on the subway to get back to her. Brittany might even be awake and, with that thought, she nods quickly before stepping closer.
They make the journey in complete silence apart from the few instructions Santana gives to Carolyn once they get into Williamsburg. Santana feels awkward once they pull up outside her building and sits there uncomfortably for a second before moving to open the door.
"Wait!" Carolyn says a little too quickly. Santana stops and turns to her, a rush of nerves filling her stomach when she finds a smile staring back at her. "I know I'm totally being rude right now but I completely underestimated how far away you lived from Queens and I'm about ten minutes away from crashing, so—do you think I could come up for some coffee?"
Santana's first thought is what a line, but then she remembers Carolyn telling her all about her ex-boyfriend and her ex-boyfriend before that and wonders if it can be. Maybe Carolyn just needs a friend. And Santana's a bitch but she really doesn't want a woman's death and a head-on collision on her conscience.
"Sure," she nods. "Of course."
She regrets it the instant that Carolyn's body presses up against her at her front door.
Hands reach for her hips and Santana freezes as she tries to get the key into the lock. Carolyn's nose buries into her hair and Santana turns her head to try and find a way out.
"You know," Carolyn whispers into her ear. It makes her skin crawl as her eyes dart down to the lock in panic. "This is one of the best things about being in New York and not some shitty little hick town anymore… I can go home with girls and no one gives a shit."
Santana gasps and scrambles to get the door open. Carolyn must take it as an act of desperation because her hands graze Santana's body, moving too close and too low into places that Santana doesn't want them to be. The door flies open a few seconds later and Santana breaks free from her grasp into the apartment, stepping as far away as possible. Carolyn just grins at her and reaches for the buttons on her coat before eyeing the couch.
"I'm gonna—I'm gonna go put some coffee on," Santana says quietly. She wants to scream at the woman to get the fuck out but she doesn't want to wake up Britt or any of their neighbors. She doesn't want anyone to know that she accidentally brought a woman home.
That goes out of the window thirty seconds later when she wanders into the kitchen and finds Brittany asleep at their table in an oversized t-shirt, short shorts and thick wool socks. She stirs awake as Santana steps in and narrows her eyes at whatever expression has found its way onto her face.
"What's wrong?" she asks quietly.
"Santana?" Carolyn calls from the couch.
Brittany's face screws up in confusion. "Who's that?" she says sleepily.
Santana does the first thing she can think of and slaps her hand over Brittany's mouth while a finger presses over the lips of her own. She reaches over to the counter to turn on the radio and drown out any sound.
"Do you remember redhead from the bar?" she whispers as quietly as she can.
Brittany's eyes widen and she nods her head in confusion, fighting away Santana's hand. "Did you bring her home?" she asks and there's a half-smirk on her lips. "Already?!"
Santana swats at Brittany and shakes her head quickly, pushing her further out of sight in case Carolyn is looking. "Listen. I think she's crazy," she breathes. "She gave me a ride home and talked her way up here for coffee and now she's trying to get into my pants and I do not want that, Britt." She grabs Brittany by the biceps and looks at her desperately. "I need you to help me."
What Santana doesn't expect is for Brittany's lips to purse in amusement, her nostrils flaring as she tries to bite back a burst of laughter. Santana slaps a hand back over her mouth and shushes her as quietly as she can, trying to fight off her own smile.
"Did you tell her that?" she asks quietly once she's controlled herself.
Santana just looks at her. "I didn't tell her anything," she hisses. "I spent all night talking to her about herself and now she just pounced on me like some fucking cougar and I have no idea what I'm going to do. Help me."
"Tell her to leave," Brittany says plainly.
Santana scoffs. "I can't do that," she says. "She might turn into a lunatic and try to kill me."
The words earn her a roll of the eyes and the sight of Brittany folding her arms across her chest as she looks at her fondly. There's a few moments of silence before—
"Put the coffee on," Brittany tells her. Santana does so without argument before Brittany nods out into the living room. "You're gonna go out there and ask her how she takes it, okay? Her coffee that is…"
Santana shakes her head. "Britt—"
Brittany grabs her by the waist and it cuts off anything she was going to say. "You're gonna do that, and then I'll come out and join you, okay? I'm going to be your girlfriend for a minute and all you have to do is go along with everything I do and I promise you she'll be gone in a heartbeat. Trust me?"
Santana nods. "Duh," she breathes.
Brittany spins her around and taps her on the ass to make her leave. "You can do it!"
Carolyn's taken off her jacket and a few of the buttons on her shirt have been popped open by the time Santana gets back. She's lounging on the couch, smirking and slowly teasing her fingers beneath the collar of her shirt.
"How do you take your coffee?" Santana asks as nonchalantly as she can. Carolyn grins and reaches a hand out for her. Santana has no idea what to do until the sound of something clattering to floor breaks through the silence.
"Uh, who's that?" Carolyn asks, her face falling.
Santana doesn't get to answer because Brittany's voice breaks through the awkward silence. "Babe? Where did you put the whipped cream?" Carolyn's face falls into confusion. Santana tries not to grin. "Oh, don't worry! I found it!"
Any words that were planning to come from Carolyn's mouth cease to when Brittany steps out into the living room. She catches them both off guard, colliding into the back of Santana as her arms wrap tightly around her body. Santana's struck with how different it felt to have Carolyn's hands on her because Brittany holds her in a way that makes her gasp in for a multitude of reasons. She pushes back into Brittany's embrace and does as she's told, going with it as Brittany starts to touch her in ways she hasn't for a long time.
"Britt…" she gasps and it works. She finds Brittany's hand around her waist with her own and clutches it to her, trying to desperately ignore how the other cups under her breast in a tease.
A nose nuzzles into Santana's neck and breathes against her skin. "You smell good," Brittany says and Santana watches as Carolyn's face falls even further. "I missed you tonight. I hate being all alone."
"Britt…" Santana says breathlessly, disbelief trying to fight its way into her words in shock. "Wait, I have company…" Brittany pulls away to look up and Santana turns in her arms to look Brittany in the eye. There's a dark mischief in her expression and her cheeks are pink with mirth. "This is Carolyn," Santana eventually manages to say. "She gave me a ride home. I was just making her some coffee."
Brittany barely gives Carolyn a proper glance. "Oh, hi," she says before she buries her face in Santana's neck. "Come to bed," she breathes before kisses litter against Santana's skin.
It isn't hard to fake a reaction to that. Santana's eyes roll back into her head and her nails dig themselves into the skin of Brittany's hands. Brittany smiles against her and Santana's sure she feels a laugh hidden against her hair. She eyes Carolyn carefully and watches how her expression shrouds itself with embarrassment but nothing else. Desperate, Santana reaches her hand to bury her fingers in Brittany's hair and turns her face so that she can press a kiss to the side of Brittany's face.
It's enough. Carolyn reaches for her coat as Brittany urges Santana forward until her knees hit the arm of the couch. Fingers pinch Santana under the arm and Brittany hisses a c'mon before she spins her around and pushes her down onto the couch. She grunts as her back hits the cushions and a rush of excitement flows through her at the sight of Brittany climbing on after her as Carolyn gets up.
"Where—where are you going?" she manages to ask as Brittany crawls up her body and buries her face back into her neck. Santana's hands wrap around Brittany's shoulders to draw her in and keep her close.
Carolyn pulls on her coat and shrugs awkwardly. "I should go," she nods.
"You're so sexy," Brittany mutters into Santana's chest as her kisses move lower.
Santana bites her lip to stop her natural reaction. "What about your coffee?" she asks and her voice sounds thicker than usual.
Carolyn shakes her head. "I completely forgot that I have an early meeting tomorrow and I should have been home hours ago and I just—"
She trails off as Brittany lifts her head level with Santana's. Brittany kisses Santana's chin but from Carolyn's angle it must look like she's kissing her deeply. Santana grimaces and tries not to burst out laughing at Brittany's fake moans. She feels ridiculous, completely and wonderfully ridiculous.
"I'm just gonna let myself out," she hears Carolyn say as Brittany groans at the over-enthusiastic kisses she presses to Santana's nose.
"Wait!" Santana calls, even as she hears the door open. "Carolyn… your coffee—"
The door slams shut and just as suddenly, Brittany sits up and looks behind her. Santana watches her and can't control the laughter that bubbles up her throat. Brittany's hand covers her mouth, muffling the sounds before they can be heard.
"Wait, wait, wait…" she whispers, listening carefully.
Santana holds her breath, her laughs still erupting beneath Brittany's hand. She vaguely hears the sounds of footsteps disappearing down the stairwell, watches as Brittany's head snaps to face the window looking out onto the street, waiting for the sound of the front door opening a few seconds later.
"Success," she whispers and that just makes Santana's laughs come quicker. Brittany giggles with her and brushes the hair from back from Santana's face. "I told you."
Santana's stomach starts to hurt from laughing too much and her smile feels too wide for her face. "That was the best thing I've ever seen," she chuckles uncontrollably. "I mean… I mean… did you see her face…?"
Brittany's giggles aren't as loud as her own and that fact alone makes Santana open her eyes and look up at her.
And just like that, quicker than a speeding bullet, nothing's funny anymore. Bright blue eyes stare down at her and Santana remembers where they are, what Brittany's dressed like. Suddenly, it doesn't feel funny that Brittany's on all fours above her dressed in just a t-shirt, shorts and socks. The blonde hair falling around her face doesn't make her want to laugh. Her expression isn't amusing.
In fact, it's dark and serious. It's full of more things than Santana can name and panic rises inside of her, burning her with regret she doesn't really understand.
When Brittany's eyes flutter closed, her lips part and she leans in, Santana does exactly what her gut tells her to and turns her face.
Brittany's kiss lands wetly against her cheek and when she pulls back quickly to see why, Santana sees her wake up.
Her eyes grow wide and then narrow just as quickly. She doesn't move at first, just looks. Santana doesn't push her away and watches her carefully. When Brittany sits up and shakes her head, Santana knows in an instant that things are going to be different. She already has a million questions she can't speak because Brittany's still atop her.
"I'm—I'm sorry…" Brittany stutters as she pulls herself back until she's sitting on Santana's thighs. Santana reaches for her but Brittany shakes her head and clears her throat. "I'm so sorry…" she whispers as she gets up off of her. Santana watches as her expression hardens adamantly. "I'm sorry," she says when she gets to her bedroom door. "I shouldn't have done that. I shouldn't have… I shouldn't…"
Her words trail off behind Brittany's closed door. Too stunned to move, Santana doesn't call after her, doesn't follow her. She just lays there and stares at the wood. Her hand reaches up to press against the still wet spot against her cheek and her brain rushes to think a million different thoughts at once.
They move to fast for her to understand them clearly and, instead of figuring them out, she lays her head back and sighs, wondering what happens next.
She knows she won't like it.
In the days that follow, Brittany barely talks to her and Santana really doesn't mind because she doesn't want to confront what it meant.
She'd got used to what they were. She was starting to like it. It pisses her off that whenever they settle, something always happens.
But, at the same time, she wants to know what it meant. She wants to know why Brittany chose to lean in and try to kiss her. She wants to know if it's something or nothing but at the same time, she doesn't know what she'll do if it's either.
She wants to know what Brittany's thinking but doesn't even know what she's thinking herself.
She thinks it's a good thing that she barely sees Brittany over the next couple of weeks. She spends a lot of time at school finishing off projects and papers and doing exams. Santana's usually at work by the time that she gets in from school and Brittany's usually gone when she gets home.
Brittany works during the weekends but they barely talk as they leave together. Brittany buries herself into her coat as soon as they get on the subway and listens to her iPod. Santana sits and wonders if it'll be snowing this much in Lima next week. Once they get to the bar, Brittany talks to the other girls while Santana gets straight to work. They barely interact until it's time to head home.
On the last Sunday they have at work, Santana feels weirder than normal. They're leaving for Lima tomorrow and she still hasn't packed. She doesn't know what happens once they get there, if she'll see Brittany or if everything will be different by the time they get back. She hopes that the break will be good for them, that things will stop being awkward, but a dark part of her brain wonders if they'll come back worse.
She watches Brittany from across the bar and debates just going up to her and telling her that she doesn't care about should or shouldn't. She doesn't even want to know why. She just wants what they had back. She wants to be where they were last week: happy and content best friends. She can pretend it never happened if Brittany wants to.
She just hates how Brittany's so distant and present at the same time that she almost wishes that she weren't there at all.
It's a thought that she regrets a few hours later.
They try to leave the bar at five o'clock and it's snowing harder than ever. Santana can barely see in front of her face and she looks to Brittany in panic, knowing they're both thinking the same thing. They have a flight to catch in nine hours and it's their only chance to get home for Christmas.
They make their way to the subway station but it's closed. There's a cop by the entrance guiding people away, giving them directions and he explains to Santana that it's not safe for the trains to go anywhere. He asks them where they live and when they tell him, he tells them to hurry home before they close all the bridges.
There are no cabs, so they have to walk. It takes them over an hour and they're exhausted when they get back. The sun is just starting to come up and Brittany flops down onto the couch to put on the TV, but Santana disappears into her bedroom to pack.
She's confused when Brittany calls her name a few moments later.
"Yeah?" she calls back.
"You're gonna wanna see this," Brittany calls back.
Santana steps back into the living room and her eyes narrow when she finds Brittany watching the news.
"…and for those just joining us, good morning and here it is again, New York City is on lockdown. All major routes in an out of the city are blocked. All bridges and tunnels will be closed as of 9am. All bus terminals and other public transit services have already been suspended and, this just in, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has just confirmed that all flights from its airports are suspended until further notice. New York City is on lockdown."
Santana feels a pounding in her chest. "Shit…" she mumbles. "What are we going to do?"
She feels Brittany's eyes on her but they turn away when Santana meets them with her own. She shrugs her shoulders and taps the remote against her knee.
"They say it's going to get worse," she mumbles. "That we should get supplies and wait it out."
"For how long?"
Brittany shrugs. "They didn't say," she says. "But we're going to miss our flight."
Santana watches her carefully, nervously, and sees Brittany gulp visibly at what she's saying.
"Kurt, Blaine and Rachel have already left so we'll have to spend Christmas here," Brittany explains in a whisper. "Just the two of us."
Brittany looks up at her and when their eyes meet, it's different. Weird.
The expression on Brittany's face makes her shift uncomfortably and there's something about it that's familiar. It's dark and serious and it makes her breath catch in her throat. Brittany looks at her for longer than she's looked at her in days and, for a moment, Santana's sure she understands and knows everything she wants to. She gulps because she doesn't know what to expect.
She feels nervous and excited and worried.
The next few days are going to make them or break them. She can feel it.
"Just the two of us," she whispers and, just as nervously, Brittany nods.
"Just the two of us."