Author's Note: I'm hoping to get one more update out before I'm away for a week and have no idea what my writing time/wifi situation will be like, so fingers crossed. This basically took me forever to write, since there's a lot going on, but I hope you enjoy! Thanks to ishiheard2day, Lynniepops, Gleek114, Chuckleshan, FannamedSam, holip, naynay1963, LoneGambit, AlabamaMiles, lg4az, ichigo111981, mocblue and the guest reviewers. Also, I have broken my solemn vow not to be on social media, and made a tumblr, so if you feel like checking out me basically dying over Brittana, my username is Leigh-Kelly
During the first week after Annie got hurt, I'd basically dropped just about everything to dote on her. She didn't really need any physical care, since really, it was a small cut and after a few weeks of healing, she'd probably only have a barely noticeable scar, but emotionally, I knew she needed (or maybe I was projecting, and I needed) extra cuddles, extra reassurances and just overall extra love. It was another one of those times that I was truly grateful that I worked at my own pace, and grateful that Brittany's schedule was so flexible, because it seemed that more often than not, she was popping in to see us in the middle of the day, and coming home early so we'd have extra hours of family time at night. Carefully, we both watched our daughter behave even more cautiously than usual, her eyes turning fearful if she moved too quickly, tears spilling over when the tug of medical thread against broken skin surprised her (Brittany and I both knew that feeling all too well), and we'd capture her in our arms with tighter hugs, longer kisses and bigger praises.
Because I was spending so much time in the house, or maybe because I really was becoming gigantic pregnant and didn't have the energy to do much else (I'd finally reached a normal weight, and with a cantaloupe sized baby inside of me, I felt huge), I'd fallen into some strange sort of nesting phase. The nursery was still empty and unplanned, except for the grey glider that I'd stumbled upon and fell in love with when I'd needed to sit down for a minute while buying Annie new sheets at Pottery Barn Kids a few weeks earlier. I'd called Brittany close to a dozen times, sitting in that chair in the middle of the store and not really wanting to get up, feeling bad about buying baby things without her, not even really ready to buy baby things at all, before she'd insisted that if I didn't just order it, they were probably going to carry me out of the store in it anyway. Once they'd delivered the chair a few days later, it had kind of become my sanctuary. Whenever Annie was napping. I'd sit there and rock, cradling my belly and singing, or I'd sort through some of the baby clothes Brittany had dragged down from the attic (which took an obscene amount of time, because I'd get nostalgic even over clothes Annie had never fit properly into), pulling out gender neutral things for the time being and tossing them into a hamper to be washed, folded and tucked away when the room was painted and the rest of the furniture came down from the attic.
On the first Friday after the emergency room trip, I tucked Annie in for her nap, and stood over the bed for a while, watching her curled up like a potato bug, her fist pressed up against her cheek, and the covers tucked under her bandaged chin, snuffling softly. The baby kicked hard under my ribs and I winced a little bit before kissing my sleeping daughter once more, and partially closing the door behind me. Instead of returning to the clothes sorting, I carefully lifted a purple box from the bottom of our bookshelf and carried it with me into the nursery. After settling into my spot, with my swollen feet up on the ottoman, I lifted up the lid and peered inside at the hoarder-esque collection of our baby Annie things. I couldn't even blame the pregnancy hormones for my emotional reaction to what was inside. Even nearly five years later, my heart still quickened when I thought of that tiny, incredible baby I'd first set eyes on. Swallowing away the tears, I took out the album that contained pictures of pregnant Brittany, and Annie on the ultrasound and set the box beside me on the floor as I slowly flipped through the pages. Apparently, I really got lost in my own head, because just as I reached my favorite picture that had ever been taken of Britt and me, standing outside Gramercy Park, me on my tiptoes behind Brittany with my chin resting on her shoulder, her head tilted back to look in my eyes, wedding dresses on, big goofy grins on our faces and two sets of hands with shiny new rings entwined over the swell of her belly, I heard tiny footsteps move into the nursery.
"Hi, Mamí." Annie said, her voice still rough with sleep. "Whatcha doing?"
"I'm just looking at some old pictures, baby girl. How was your nap?"
"It was good. Can I look with you?"
"Sure, c'mon up." I slid over in the chair to make room and she scrambled up beside me, resting the side of her face on the top of my bump and looking down at the album spread open on my thighs. "The day Mama and I got married, you never stopped moving. I think you were just as excited as we were. And you were just a little bit bigger than this baby is right now."
"Mama looks so silly with a big belly." Annie giggled, her pointer finger tracing over the picture.
"Look at this one." I flipped the to the last page where there was one of Britt sleeping on the beach in her sunglasses and bright yellow bikini on our honeymoon, the protrusion of one of Annie's tiny elbows just above her belly button obvious. I'd taken the picture, then pressed my lips against her sunkissed skin before covering my new wife with a towel to protect her from the sun. Unbeknownst to either of us at the time, it was the last picture there'd be before Annie's unexpected arrival. "Pretty cool, right?"
"Uh huh." My daughter nodded and pressed her hands flat against my belly, looking up at me as she waited for the baby to move. "What are they doing in there right now?"
"Sleeping. The baby didn't wake up early from their nap like you." I winked at her and she snuggled closer to my side. "They'll be up to play with you soon, don't worry."
"What's our baby going to be like when it gets born?" She asked, scrunching her forehead in deep thought.
"That's something we won't know for a while." I told her, then closed the pregnancy album and switched it for the other, the one that contained all the pictures taken during Annie's stay in the NICU. "Just like we didn't know with you, mija. But once they're here, we'll know a lot about them, even if you don't think so right away."
"How do you know?"
"Here, check this out." I flipped open the other album to the picture I'd taken on my phone just seconds after Annie had opened her little eyes, tubes and machines already surrounding her little body. "Do you know what I knew about you when I took this picture?"
"I dunno. I look like an alien."
"No, you were the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. When you opened your eyes for the first time, you looked right at me, and even though you were so, so small, I knew that just like your Mama, and just like me, you were a fighter."
"But I was just a baby."
"Annalise, you were always more than just a baby. Even when you were still in Mama's belly, you were some kind of special unicorn. I know that you do a lot of fighting for yourself every single day, and it makes us so proud of you, but the biggest fight you ever had happened as soon as you were born."
"Because I was sick?"
"Yes. You see these machines here? They had to help you breathe and help you eat and keep you warm." I felt the tears prick my eyes again, and I squeezed my daughter even tighter. "But you didn't give up. You had to teach yourself how to do things that most babies are born knowing how to. That makes you all the more magical."
"Mamí's right about that." Annie and I both looked up to see Brittany leaning against the door frame, smiling with damp eyes.
"Mama!" Annie cried out, and almost moved to jump up quickly before she stopped herself. "We're looking at pictures, come see!"
Moving into the room, Brittany kissed the top of Annie's head, then moved her lips down to brush against my bump, mumbling a few soft words to the baby, then pressed her ear to the same spot, grinning at our daughter in the process. I sat back in the chair, watching Annie follow her Mama's lead until Britt lifted her head to my level and tucked a piece of hair that had fallen loose from my ponytail behind my ear before kissing me softly on the lips. Gently, she lifted Annie up and squeezed into the chair with me, letting the wiggly little girl drape herself across both of our bodies, her head once again using my belly as a pillow.
"See how tiny I was, Mama?"
"I do, baby girl." Britt said quietly, almost reverently and I snaked one of my arms behind her back, holding her closely. I hadn't really intended for everyone to have to be a part of the emotional rollercoaster I'd decided to get on, but it wasn't like I could have said no to Annie when she'd wanted to see.
"Why didn't you get me a smaller hat?" She asked, pointing at the first pictures taken in the NICU. "This one's way too big."
"Oh God San, the hat." Brittany laughed. "We didn't like that hat, Annie, because it used to fall and cover your eyes when we wanted you to be able to see your little world. Mamí complained so much about it to all of our friends that Uncle Kurt came one day with a whole big box of smaller ones for you, because he wanted you to see as much as we did."
"And to be the most fashionable baby in the hospital." I added, thinking that Annalise was probably the only baby with hats custom made by designers of the caliber Kurt knew, and that we didn't care in the slightest where they'd come from, just that we could see our baby's eyes.
"That sounds like Uncle Kurtsy." Annie giggled, and Brittany reached down into the box where the original hat that would barely fit a grapefruit was tucked away, letting Annie see how small she truly had been.
We sat there flipping through the pages, watching Annie grow bigger and stronger before our eyes, but still barely looking like a doll in our arms. and she was completely enraptured. She'd seen pictures of herself as a baby before, obviously, but never where she could witness the progression in such a way. When we reached the last page of the album, there was a picture of me with a gigantic smile on my face, only the top of Annie's head visible, wrapped tight against my body as we stood outside the hospital on the day she finally came home with us. My daughter was quiet as she stared down at the image, one hand slipped into Brittany's and the other absently tracing over the skin of my stomach where my shirt had risen.
"How long is this baby going to live in the hospital?" Annie asked finally, little lips pursed as she picked up her head.
"Well sweetheart, this baby is going to be born in the same building where we go to see Dr. Singh, instead of the hospital, and then once Mamí rests up in a day or so, they'll hopefully come home together."
"So not like me." It was the mix between a question and a statement, and Brittany and I exchanged a glance before I opened my mouth to speak again.
"No, mi amor, not like you." I told her softly and she lay her head back down on me, thinking. "So many thoughts in your little head today, huh?"
"My head is bigger now." She said defensively and Brittany rubbed her arms soothingly.
"It is, Bean. This hat definitely wouldn't fit you now. Do you want to tell us what you're thinking about?" Britt asked.
"I'm not really so sure. This new baby isn't going to need so much help as me, 'cuz I always needed lots of help."
"Oh, Annie." I sighed, brushing away the tears that had formed under her eyes as a sick feeling rose in my stomach, the thing I'd dreaded for days coming to the surface. She was so smart, our girl, and I knew she'd heard the words I'd spoken in the nurse's office, the angry words that sounded like exasperation, but which meant so much more. "Every person in the world needs help, and every person is able to help others in some way. When the baby comes, Mama and I will need lots of help from you, because even when they come home, they're going to be way too small to do anything themselves."
"And when they grow big?"
"They'll need help in other ways, and maybe they'll help you with things too. Bebé, I was twenty-four years old when you were born, and you, this tiny little girl in these pictures, somehow knew how to help me more than anyone else."
"And me too, baby girl. I didn't matter that you were small, or sick, or had to live at the hospital for longer than we'd wanted to leave you there for. What mattered was that there was already more love inside of you than some people have in bodies much bigger."
"I...I think you heard something the other day that I didn't say the way that I meant to." I nearly whispered, closing my eyes as Brittany squeezed my fingers tightly.
"You were very mad at my school Mamí. And at the hospital too." She confirmed my suspicions.
"I was." I nodded. "But not at you, never at you. Annie, the scariest days for me are always when you have a hard time, and if I could, I'd change the whole world to make it easier for you, that's what I was trying to say to Miss Leanne. I don't want you ever to think that it's not okay to need help, okay? This baby isn't going to be like you, but it has nothing to do with being sick when you were born, or maybe needing some extra hugs before you do big scary things. It's just because there is only ever going to be one Annie Lopez-Pierce in the world, and that makes you so special."
"Remember the book Oh, the Places You'll Go?" Brittany asked, and she nodded. "There's no one alive who is youer than you. If you were any different, you wouldn't be the same girl that we love more than anything."
"It's true. We didn't know what you'd be like before you were born, I already told you that, but you're even better than we ever expected." I took her hand and held it against where the baby had woke up and started to move. "Bug, you couldn't have a more amazing big sister."
"And a very good Mama and Mamí too. They're the very best at helping, even if they gotta put burny stuff on you when you get hurt." Annie added, wrinkling her nose at the thought of us cleaning out her stitches each night, and neither Britt or I could hold back our laughter.
Annie wanted to look at the pictures again, to talk about them to the baby once they'd woken up. It was actually really amazing hearing her relay the story of the first months of her life as we'd just told it, but as usual, it came as no surprise to me how quickly she'd absorbed it all. She was so different from other kids her age, that was for sure, but it wasn't in the way people expected. For everything she struggled with, there were ten other things that she so far surpassed her peers in. Maybe it's because both Brittany and I had both spoken to her like she was an adult from the time she was born, sharing our deepest thoughts, because we knew no other way to be with her, or maybe it's because she possessed that Pierce emotional intelligence that I could only hope would somehow be osmotically passed into the fetus inside of me, but so often, I'd watch her with disbelief about how she understood so much. I guess, as her mother it was one of those catch-22 situations, especially as someone who could never really articulate my emotions properly (hence the foot that had been in my mouth for days, even after I'd called Leanne to apologize and explain to her what I meant when I'd sounded like I believed myself some kind of martyr), but we'd just keep talking to her, just keep answering her questions for as long as she had them to ask.
When we finally put the books away, knowing that we'd have to start getting ready to go to Eden's birthday party (because apparently it was a thing in Westchester to have parties for children on Friday nights), Annie seemed more content than she had when we'd started. I, of course, was in my perpetual state of exhaustion, and while our daughter went to play quietly in the playroom, I pulled Brittany down on the couch with me so I could get my evolutionary advantage on and snuggle with the other mother of my children. We were quiet for a while as we lay there, my head on Britt's chest, one of her hands running through the hair she'd tugged out of my ponytail and the other drumming over my belly. Through the glass panes that separated us from the playroom, we watched Annie at work at her little blue stove, cooking for Milky Way and occasionally looking over her shoulder to make sure we were still close by.
"Sometimes, Britt, I wonder how I'm even going to love another child the way that I love her." I confessed quietly, my hands covering where I imagined the baby's ears would be. "That's so awful, right?"
"No, it's like how we didn't even imagine how strong the love we feel for Annie would be until she was here. It's the same with this one, we already love them, but once they're born, we'll love them so much that we won't even going to remember how we existed before."
"Do you think Annie is really okay? God, I could seriously smack myself for her having any more doubt about herself than she already does."
"She is." Brittany promised, bringing my wrist to her lips and placing a firm, reassuring kiss there. "And you didn't. Santana, honey, you believe in our daughter like you've always believed in me, more than anyone else in the world. You've been beating yourself up for days over something that I fully understood what you meant. It's okay."
"I hope so. It was weird looking at those pictures."
"I know, but I'm glad you took them out. It took us so long to have them printed, and even then, we never looked at them much. But it was good for her to see."
"Even if she did get upset when I said she had a little head."
"Hmmm, and there's no one else around here who's sensitive about their size."
"Only if I get called cute, or compared to Rachel." I stuck my lower lip out and Brittany ran her thumb over it.
"The pout isn't helping you look any less cute, baby." She laughed, causing me to laugh at how true that was. "Or your beautiful dimples. But just because you're cute doesn't mean you're not also incredibly sexy and super strong. Besides, you've always been the perfect size so we fit together like this."
"Yeah, yeah, my wife the sweet talker. Well you're cute too."
"Not an insult, Santana." Brittany giggled, kissing me hard and wrapping her arms around my shoulders, holding me tight. "I love you, you tiny snugglebear."
"You're such a jerk, don't let anyone hear you call me names like that." I couldn't stop laughing as I dropped my head back against her chest.
"You're ridiculous, you know that, right? What's the worst thing your wife ever called you? Totally snugglebear."
"Tiny snugglebear." I corrected and I could feel the playful shake of Brittany's head as I burrowed my face into her neck, doing very little to disprove her nickname.
"Why are you laughing so much?" Annie popped her head out of the playroom door. "Sounds like you're having a lot of fun."
"Mama was just reminding me that it's kind of awesome to be little." I told her. "Want to come cuddle with us for a few more minutes before we have to get ready to go to the party?"
"Course." She scrambled carefully up onto the couch, wedging herself into the crook of Brittany's arm.
"And now I have both of my tiny snugglebears." Brittany laughed, kissing the top of Annie's head.
"Guess that's not so bad, huh mija?"
"Nope, not at all Mamí! If we were giant like Uncle Finn or Poppy, we totally couldn't all snuggle with Mama and your big belly."
Of course, like it usually did, our cuddle session turned into me falling asleep and Brittany easing Annie off of me so the two of them could go get ready. By the time I was woken up and managed to make myself presentable for the party, we were running extremely late, and the traffic getting out of the city did little to make up time (a Friday at 5:30, totally not the best move when you have friends in the city Quinn, especially when the wife of your best friend is pregnant and usually running late anyway). By the time we made it to the country club where the party was, it was close to six, and I couldn't help but snicker when Britt handed the keys to our Civic to the valet, glancing over at the lot that could have been a prop for a Benz commercial.
Brittany's hands were full with Eden's birthday gift, and I squatted down on the pavement in front of Annie, smoothing her silver party dress and adjusting the big bow in her hair. She squeezed my hand tightly when I took hers in mine, and I reciprocated, knowing that any type of event at the Chapman's ritzy country club typically overwhelmed me just as much as it overwhelmed Annie. At Eden's Christening, I may have taken her to hide in the bathroom with me, playing Go Fish after I got tired of rich white people asking me if I'd be bringing around another round of hors d'oeuvres, but I'd made a commitment to myself (and intentionally worn my Brittany diamonds and a certain red soled pair of shoes to combat the image some of Quinn's friends had of the dark skinned girl as the help) to not disappear for half of the party. Eden's first birthday party was a big deal, and Brittany and I probably understood that better than anyone. For Quinn, it had been a different long road that brought her to that day than the long road my wife and I had taken, but a difficult one nonetheless, and after a day of reflecting on our journey, I felt an even deeper happiness for her than I would have felt before.
"There are lots of people here." Annie looked between Brittany and me with her eyes wide as I opened up one of the French doors.
"Always with Aunt Quinn, baby girl." Brittany laughed. "Like I dance, and Mamí does superhero stuff, her job is mostly to entertain people, and now they're all here for Edie's big day."
"I don't think I'd like that job very much."
"Yeah, me either Annie, but lucky for us, we don't have to, right?" I lifted her up as best as I could onto my right hip, my back hardly protesting her slight weight. "And I'm sure Uncle Finn found us a place to sit that's not right in the middle of all the busyness."
Brittany laced her fingers with mine, tugging me further into the room full of women in pearls and most of the men chatting business while their kids ran around between their legs. It had never surprised me all that much that Quinn ended up in a world so much like the one she was raised in, except even richer, but I was eternally grateful that Archie, though it took me a while to give him a chance, was so unlike her father and was actually a likable guy. Spotting Quinn with Eden in her arms and a glass of champagne in one hand, Brittany dropped the gift down on the table and led Annie and I over to our friend.
"Happy Birthday, Baby Eden!" Annie said immediately, reaching out to take one of her little hands. Eden just smiled and let out a string of unintelligible syllables.
"Congratulations, Quinn." Brittany hugged her tightly, stopping only to kiss Eden's cheeks. "She's getting so big."
"You are, aren't you Chickadee?" Quinn beamed at her little girl. "Tell Aunt Brittany and Aunt Santana that you're standing up all by yourself now."
"Are you?" I grinned excitedly, sneaking her out of Quinn's arms. Brittany gave me one of her softest looks at the sight of me holding both of the girls before shaking her head and putting her arm around my back, trying to subtly take some of the weight from my arms. "Soon you're going to be running around with Annie and Brice, and your mom will be the one snatching a baby out of my arms."
"I don't know Santana." Quinn teased. "Number one, I seem to recall you being pretty protective over any of us even looking at Annie, and number two, I don't think anyone else enjoys snatching babies as much as you do. I mean, look at you, you're pregnant in heels with two little girls in your arms. That's a lot of baby right there."
"Although honey, if you want to hold all the kids in the room, we should get you a seat." Brittany finally managed to ease Annie out of my arms and onto the ground between us.
"It's okay, I'll give the birthday girl back. Annie and I will go find Finchel and the gays, I'm sure they've saved us seats. Britt, you should have a drink with Quinn." I told her, kissing Eden and handing her back to her mother. Quinn set her down in front of Annie, and my daughter clapped excitedly as she watched her standing up.
"No it's okay, I'll come with you guys." She said softly, and Quinn busied herself with the kids, not wanting to intrude on our conversation.
"Babe, it's Quinn's daughter's first birthday, and she's your best friend." I took both of her hands in mine, kind of swinging them between us. "You know how much I appreciate the fact that you rarely drink because of me, and that you haven't had anything since I've been pregnant, but I'm good, don't worry so much."
"You won't go hide in the bathroom?" She joked.
"Nope, I'm going to go sit and then I'll have a grand old time speaking really loudly about scissoring, Ellen DeGeneres, softball and flannel, in between making the most stereotypical Spanish exclamations I possibly can to make these stuck up people feel uncomfortable. Ay, dios mio, pobrecita! Arriba, arriba."
"You know, your mother actually says dios mio all the time."
"And we like scissoring." I raised an eyebrow and gave her a half smirk. "I didn't say that all stereotypes weren't true."
"Okay, fair enough." She squeezed my hands and leaned in to peck my lips. "I won't be gone long."
"Take your time, I'm serious. If I need anything, I'll tell Rachel and Kurt that you said they have to do whatever I say." I laughed, and Britt rolled her eyes at me.
Taking Annie's hand back in mine, we made our way over to the table in the corner where the rest of my friends were. When Brice saw Annie, he made to run over to her, but at the same time that I scoped my daughter back up into my arms, Finn caught his son by the collar and started whispering to him, probably letting him know that he needed to be gentle with Annie because she was hurt. Grinning, Finn lifted his coat off the seat beside him and I placed Annie down beside Brice before sinking into my own chair.
"How are you feeling, Annie?" Finn asked immediately as Brice eyed the bandaids on his friend's chin.
"Not so bad 'nymore, Uncle Finn. But I can't play rough, 'cuz I can't get bumped."
"That's a pretty smart idea. But look, we packed some crayons so you and Brice can color."
"Yeah MyAnnie. We c'n make pi'tures." Brice cheered from Finn's lap.
"We can make them for Edie's birthday, Bricey."
"Mmkay!" He shouted excitedly, grabbing with his pudgy hands for the red crayon.
Finn and I sat watching them for a while, both of us perfectly content to stick to our little corner. Of course, he repeatedly asked me if I was sure there wasn't anything I needed, but I just waved him off with a laugh. Kurt and Blaine had, as was typical at any kind of fancy function (and any function hosted by the Chapmans was always fancy) had disappeared off into the fray, finding people who they meshed with so seamlessly, and I watched Rachel, who always did her share of schmoozing, looking flustered as she spoke to an older couple who obviously knew who she was. Finn made to stand up to check on her, but I gestured for him to stay seated, and stood up myself.
"I'll go act like a social person and check on her." I promised. "If she needs saving, I can totally play the pregnant lady needs help in the bathroom card."
"Is that even a card you can play? Classy."
"Says the man coloring with crayons. I'll be back, keep an eye on Annie, and if I get stuck, just call for a refill on your drink." I laughed over my shoulder and made my way over to Rachel. "Hi Rachel."
"Oh, Santana, hi." She turned to me and I totally gave her one of those obnoxious cheek brushes. "This is Calvin and Alyssa Miller. Calvin, Alyssa, Santana Lopez-Pierce."
"Nice to meet you, dear." Alyssa reached out her hand, and I shook it, then followed suit with her husband.
Feigning all the sweetness in the world, I smiled in an effort to avoid rolling my eyes, being reminded of my sister-in-law and her oh-so-lovely ex-boyfriend's penchant for the word dear. Luckily, I knew that I was naturally charming, and as I talked to them about how I knew Quinn, what I did for a living, when my baby was due, and, you know, just a few comments about how insanely talented my wife was (because I could never resist), I twisted the rings on my finger that had grown just a little bit too tight with the swelling of my extremities. Alyssa managed to be vaguely judgmental without really saying anything truly awful, but I ignored it and kept the fake smile plastered on my face.
"So, before you joined us, we were just speaking to Rachel about how she's been filling her time since her departure from the stage. We do miss your presence there terribly." Alyssa nearly sighed, and I flicked my eyes over to Brice and once again resisted rolling my eyes at how obvious it was that my friend had been spending her time as a mother, God forbid.
"Well, my son does keep me pretty busy." Rachel laughed nervously. "You know, preschool applications, play groups, his various musical theater classes."
"Of course, of course." Alyssa waved her off. "I just assumed you'd have a nanny to handle things like that."
"I think it's great that Rachel and Finn are raising their son without outside help. That's what my wife and I are doing, and I'll tell you right now that it's the most rewarding job in the world."
"Yes, of course. But this is Rachel Berry we're speaking of here." And you aren't, I heard the unspoken implications of her words, and I inhaled sharply. I honestly didn't care what this woman thought of me (okay, maybe I did a little), but I watched Rachel bristle. She loved her career, and she'd always spoke of going back to the stage when Brice was in school, but the idea that people thought what she was doing with her time was worthless clearly jarred her.
"Rachel Berry is an amazing performer, but Rachel Hudson is an even more amazing mom." I told her, not even veiling my contempt. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched Finn stand up, having heard my voice raise. I probably should have stopped there, but for some reason I couldn't resist the urge to say something further. "And besides being just a mom, since apparently that isn't enough, Rachel also happens to be very involved with preparing a big benefit concert at the moment, right Rach?"
"Yes, of course." Rachel looked at me, her jaw attempting not to drop to the floor because I totally made that up, and she had no time to even process it. "But the news hasn't gone public yet, since this will be my return to the stage, even if it's only a one night performance."
"That's lovely." Alyssa cooed, and her husband just nodded along. "What is the benefit for?"
"Well, I'm not exactly at the liberty to say." Rachel stuttered through the lie, and I squeezed her arm, jumping in.
"It's for my organization, Show Your Brave." The words tumbled out of my mouth, and I knew that both Rachel and Finn were looking at me in utter shock after the dozens of times I'd refused to use Rachel's celebrity status to get things moving quicker. "But I think we've said too much. Rach, I could actually use your help with something, would you mind coming with me to the ladies room?"
With Rachel following blindly behind me, I grabbed Kurt, who was talking to Judy Fabray, by the shoulder and dragged him with us to the bathroom. Obviously, we were in need of a serious conference, after I'd decided to run my mouth, and when I locked the door behind me, I sunk down into the wing chair beside the entrance.
"Why are we in the women's bathroom?" Kurt asked. "Is Santana trying to hide again?"
"Maybe I should have." I mumbled into my hands, the reality of what I'd said kind of setting in.
"Apparently, she's finally letting me help her raise money, and we're having a benefit concert." There was a tone of disbelief in Rachel's voice, and I couldn't help but laugh.
"What?" Kurt nearly shrieked. "You planned an event without telling me?"
"We didn't plan anything." I corrected him. "I lied to this rich bitch, and Rachel went along with it. She was making it out like being Brice's mom wasn't a good enough thing for her to be doing, and that obviously it was good enough for someone like me, so I just got pissed."
"And we all know what happens when you get pissed." He rolled his eyes and I laughed again.
"Santana, while I appreciate you defending me, you are aware that Alyssa Miller's maiden name is Astor, and that she's one of the most prominent members of New York City society, right?"
"Rachel, I don't even know what that means."
"And this is why we don't let Santana talk to people alone at parties." Kurt chuckled to himself and I sat up and flicked him. "What it means is that she knows people, and even idle chatter at a party is relevant. So you kind of can't back out of letting Rachel do this concert."
"I wasn't going to back out." I defended, placing my hands on my bump and feeling the baby kick under my hands. I didn't really care about society, or benefit concerts, or stupid country club parties, all I really cared about was my wife, my daughter, my unborn baby, and helping other people get to the point where I was at in my life. If doing that meant Rachel needed to raise money for me (I thought back to the perpetual pending status of my grant application), then so be it. "I mean, I don't have to do anything, right?"
"You'll need to be present, obviously." Kurt again rolled his eyes at my ignorance to how things work. "And definitely give a speech, but Rachel's people will handle the rest. You know they've been itching to get her to do some kind of performance."
"I hate my life." I sighed, and there was a knock at the door.
"Santana, are you in there? Are you okay?" Brittany's voice called out, and Kurt unlocked the door to let her in.
Once Brittany was settled into the chair with me, my entire body curling into hers as she stroked my arm and rubbed my belly, we filled her in on what had happened and what I'd gotten myself into. Smiling softly at me, she sent Kurt and Rachel from the room, asking Rachel to tell Annie that we'd be back with her soon.
"San, honey, you look upset. Talk to me."
"I just whored out three years worth of work at Quinn's daughter's birthday party, because your best friend knows the most insufferable people of all time." I sighed, and I felt the tiny laugh ripple from Brittany's belly. "It's not funny babe."
"I'm not laughing at you." She swore. "I'm laughing that it's completely true about the people here. It was really nice of you to defend Rachel though, even though she usually sets herself up by being completely unprepared to talk to people like this."
"I know, but it did upset me, and I felt all this weird solidarity with her or something, because that woman was such a classist bitch." I rested my head on Britt's shoulder, letting her hold me even closer. "But now I'm releasing everything I worked for to the wolves, and it's like using Rachel makes me feel like people only care about what I've worked so hard on because of her, you know?"
"I do. But I also know that people will care because you're brilliant, and even though it's growing slowly, this is growing, and maybe with the little push that being in the public eye will give it, you'll be one step closer to getting the recognition you deserve."
"But I don't even want recognition, Britt. I just want kids like me to know that they can have this. That someday it gets easier to be who they are, and they can be cuddled in their wife's arms in the bathroom at a terrible, terrible party with judgmental assholes, and still feel totally okay."
"And those judgmental assholes have lots and lots of money that they're just looking to throw at some new cause."
"I guess. I'm just a little bit afraid to put Show Your Brave out there like that, I've kept it so close to my heart, and there's so much more to do before it's even ready like that."
"My beautiful, perfectionist wife." Britt smiled, pressing her lips to mine. "I know how ready it really is, and I also know that it won't thrive until you let it. Look at Annie, we couldn't keep her in the incubator forever, and look at our Bug, they'll have to come out of you eventually. You know as well as I do that big things happen when you let them. But if you're not ready, Alyssa Astor Miller can shove it, and Rachel will get over it eventually, because at the end of the day, what you do with something that means so much to you is your call. And it's more than a call you made in the heat of the moment."
"I love you Britt, and I love that you care about as little as I do about the likes of the people who are supposedly someone."
"Being someone is so relative." She laughed again. "Who even decides that, anyway? Like, oh, this woman is pretty rude and talks like the mother of someone Lizzie would date, but she's definitely important. The Lopez-Pierces? Nah, they drive a Honda Civic and hide in the bathroom at fancy parties, they're so off the list."
"I'm pretty sure we were never on the list to get kicked off."
"Who cares? Not being on the list means we can have rap music and play musical chairs at our kids' birthday parties, rather than pass around nicoise crostini on tiny spoons. I love Quinn, but I definitely prefer our kind of parties."
"Me too." I grinned, kissing her again and then finally standing up. "But you're right, Rachel has been dying to do this for me forever, and it's one night that can actually make a difference for me, and for a lot of other people."
"Just make sure she's not counting on someone's Twitter followers or something." Brittany teased, linking her fingers with mine and unlocking the door. "Because we all know how well that goes."
"I'll definitely let her know that." I shook my head and playfully rolled my eyes. "Let's go find Annie and make the most of this party, then you can help me process this again in the morning."
Tugging Brittany out of the bathroom with me, Quinn quirked an eyebrow at us, once again suspecting that we were up to our old antics in there, but I shook my head and continued to lead my wife back towards our table. Of course, our friends were buzzing about what had transpired, but I chose not to get involved, instead, sharing a look with Finn, then pulling Annie up onto my lap to look at the series of pictures she'd drawn. Beneath the ones she'd drawn for Eden, there was one of a tiny baby with a silly hat on her head, and beside it, one of a yellow haired girl with a bow that was slightly too big. Folding it up, I tucked it into my purse, smiling at the thought of my girl growing so big and strong, and at Brittany's words in the bathroom about big things happening when you let them. Maybe it wasn't what I thought I'd wanted, but all my work was about to be thrust into the limelight, and all I could hope was that I was ready for whatever was to come.