Title:This Day and Age

Pairing:Rachel/Santana

Rating:M (for eventual sexual content and immediate drug use and underage drinking).

Synopsis:Santana shows up drunk after graduation at the nearest house, and that just happens to be Rachel Berry's. An unlikely alliance is formed, and an even more unlikely bond results. After Santana starts bringing Rachel coffee, they start bonding and some illegal stuff happens that Rachel doesn't approve of – so she forces Santana to confront her emotions and the reason for running.

A/N:So, this is a repackaged version of New Day and Age, a three-parter I wrote a long time back. It was my first significant Pezberry work after Little Encounters, and it was and still is my favorite I've written. The concept here is that I'm going to flesh out the story that took place between parts. Essentially the "new" content starts after chapter/part 1. And so forth. The chronology is the same, some of the old stuff is edited (words replaced here and there, ahem, Dorrie). I hope you all enjoy, because I'm really psyched to write this. Essentially I'm going to be looking at a many-chaptered fic, maybe as many as 20 chapters. Be patient with me – working and trying to make rent takes up a lot of my time and energy so I may not always be able to update every week but my goal is to put up a new chapter of this once every two weeks at the least.

###

Prologue

###

Sometimes a girl just needs to run. Santana wasn't usually the type to give in to her 'flight' instincts, but something about the mixture of alcohol and sorrow had yielded these results. Earlier that evening, she had been drinking at Puck's to celebrate their recent graduation. It was the middle of May, and the humidity was nearly unbearable. She didn't know if she could attribute her nausea to alcohol, humidity, or the fact that Brittany had made it clear that the dream of 'them' would never happen.

So Santana was running as fast as she could. She had amazing balance for a very drunk person – she'd had practice. The Cheerio had come to school intoxicated more than once, but that wasn't a fact she advertised. She didn't advertise much. As a rule, Santana kept every emotion, thought, and feeling under wraps.

That was why she was running. To escape the emotion overtaking her entire being. For so long she'd invested all her emotions into Brittany, into a future with Brittany. A part of her knew that may not be a reality, but she at one time had hope beyond hope. Not now. She should have known that Brittany couldn't love her the same way. While the blonde was often proud of Santana, and often loving, there was always a feeling of disconnect no matter how much Santana doted on her in her own way. While she wasn't overly romantic and it took a lot of prying to get Santana to open up, she'd tried. She'd tried for Brittany.

So that night, seeing Brittany in Artie's lap and the sad, apologetic look she gave Santana had sent her over the edge. They'd been growing apart in their own way and it was time to accept it was over for the dreams she'd had. Santana didn't know if she was in lovewith Brittany, but she knew that with all her heart she had loved her. The Lopez had devoted her whole heart to a losing cause and bitterly, Santana found herself cursing her own stupidity.

She didn't need anyone. She didn't need Brittany or anyone. They had graduated now and everyone would go their mbarras ways and that would be it. After all, how many people really stayed friends with the ghosts of their past? Nobody had ever liked Santana – she'd been one of the Unholy Trinity. Of the three of them, she was the least liked. Mostly because she kept everyone at a distance. Even Q had been soft sometimes, during the whole pregnancy thing.

Santana didn't want to be soft.

###

ONE

Run

Run, neon tiger, there's a lot on your mind

They promised just to pet you, but don't you let 'em get you

Away, away, oh, run

Under the heat of the southwest sun

###

Cement didn't feel like one of those things that you wanted to wake up on, but somehow Santana Lopez found herself sprawled on someone's sidewalk. It was uncomfortable, cold, and her head hurt. Although she couldn't see much of anything, she knew that she'd probably cracked her head on the cement; long story short, she probably shouldn't be falling asleep. She tried to stand, but wobbled trying to push herself up.

"Way to get drunk, Lopez," Santana scolded herself miserably, falling flat on her ass in front of someone's house. It was too dark to tell where she was at; obviously she hadn't made it out of Lima but something told her this area was somewhat familiar, if only in vague blotches of memory. Only one light was on in the house, and Santana was sure she didn't want to get caught loitering drunk and underage in someone's front yard. Not that she had any parents who really cared what she was doing. Rather, her own father was probably passed out on the couch at home with an empty bottle of Jack at his side. She just didn't feel like getting arrested again.

As quietly and as simply as possible, she put all her weight on one leg and pushed herself up on her knee. She wobbled, almost fell again, grumbling to herself. As Santana regained her balance, she brushed long black hair away from her face, started to move – but regretfully in the wrong direction.

Showtunes, somebody was singing showtunes as the front door opened. The figure was carrying a large sack, almost as tall as the girl was. And that voice. The moment she hit a pitch-perfect note, Santana knew. Rachel Berry.

"Aw, Christ," Santana tried to move away from the approaching figure before she was noticed but it was too late. The girl had stopped in her tracks and was probably staring like a fucking scared deer. Lopez continued to stumble away anyway.

"Hello? Are you all right? May I ask why you're in my front lawn?" Rachel inquired, that damn earnest tone in her voice. Santana never understood people like Rachel – people who didn't fight, but welcomed others. She thought of all people, Rachel should be angry at others, fight just as much if not more than Santana. Rachel had taken the brunt of so many emotional beatings and insults.

Santana intended on continuing to walk, but a branch hopped out in front of Santana, and she became familiar with the cold feel of cement.

"Oh my god!" The pitter-patter of shoes and what sounded like knees hitting the grass came to Santana's attention. It really couldn't get much worse.

A warm hand moved underneath her arm and Santana groaned, "Yeah, this really can't get much worse," she rasped with a little bit of a slur. She felt like getting sick, but that would only add to her miserable state.

Rachel seemed to register who the voice belonged to, and drew back for a second as if expecting a flying fist or something equally unpleasant. "San..-tana?"

The hesitation made Santana halt for a second, push herself up, and lean on the shorter girl. "In the flesh."

"Are you drunk?"

"And they said you were the smart one," Santana all but growled and pulled her arm away from Rachel's shoulder – just in time for the diva to reach out and catch her.

The funny thing was, even in her state she could recognize there was a difference in the way Rachel responded to her. Where she had even faced down her biggest enemies – Quinn, namely – she still cowered when it came to Santana. She was always hesitant to approach the Cheerio. Maybe it was because Santana had threatened bodily harm more than a few times over their period of knowing one another, in fact that was probably it, but Santana still found it strange and a little thrilling that she still had power oversomeone.Even if it wasn't herself, or Brittany, or anyone that mattered. Rachel looked like she was quite honestly afraid of touching Santana. Yet the surprisingly firm grip on Lopez's arm told her that Rachel wasn't going to let her fall and get a concussion.

Speaking of that. Santana felt a wave of nausea. "I need – "

"Santana, I think you're ... I think you're bleeding."

"Great."

And suddenly it was all rushing and pushing and Rachel helping Santana inside before she could even reasonably object. The diva was babbling something about not sleeping and seizures and comas and all Santana could think was that her head hurt and she wanted to lay down. Dizziness overtook her senses and she coughed – one of those coughs that makes you think you're going to lose your lunch. Rachel was gone; when had that happened? Santana was just about to lay down, to hell with what the hobbit told her she could and couldn't do, when Rachel was scooping her up and pushing her against the seat-cushions, propping her up.

Santana phased in somewhere around Rachel's next sentence.

" – mustn't fall asleep, because if you do you'll likely lose consciousness semi-permanently and I think that would be very bad," Rachel was worriedly pulling Santana's hair away from the wound. "Oh, good, it's not too deep but it's still worrisome. Likely you have a minor concussion and it's best not to fall asleep for at least two to three hours," the diva seemed to forget her fear of interacting with Santana as she folded one leg beneath herself, and moved so her thighs were aligned with the side of Santana's.

"Why do you even give a damn? God, I'm not Q, you can't just be nice and expect me to let you."

"I don't believe you have a choice," Rachel insisted quite simply, "and you should know I care about anyone – it doesn't matter who."

"Great so that makes me just like everyone else," the bitterness that spilled out of Santana's mouth tasted like betrayal. Brittany. Quite suddenly and almost violently, Santana pushed Rachel away. The diva let out a squeak and Santana ignored her dizziness. "Fuck this, hobbit. I'll be fine. Leave me alone." Lopez fumed. Brittany. The only person she'd ever trusted. And now Berry was sitting here telling her that she was just like everyone else. Just what she didn'twant to be.

Rachel had this annoying way of understanding what was going on with people. And just as Santana made for the door (and nearly took a spill as a wave of nausea washed over her) a pair of arms wrapped around her waist and clung.

Santana tried pushing Rachel away, her stomach coiling tighter and tighter, eyes hot with fury and underlying sorrow. Strong olive-skinned hands pushed at Rachel's, but the diva only held on.

"Please, Santana. I know I'm not your friend, or anything to you, but whatever I've said, I didn't mean it to upset you. I won't risk anyone falling into a coma just because they can't put aside their pride long enough – "

That was it. Santana snapped, smacked Rachel's arms away. "Goddamnit, fuck you, don't you talk about my pride! I've turned over my pride for one.. for one person and you know what? I got shit for it! I got nothing! So don't talk to me about letting go of my pride 'cause that's all I've done for two fucking years, Frodo! You have no idea," Santana's bitterness tasted like venom, and the dam broke inside of her. Santana's head spun and she wouldn't relent to her emotions just yet. "I think I'm gonna be sick," her voice cracked, her tone softened, and for the moment Santana just let herself stay where she was. She could run when she wasn't about to pass out or vomit.

Rachel's warm hands – surprisingly gentle – grasped Santana's arms hesitantly and lead her slowly to wherever the Berry household had a bathroom. The quiet brown eyes observing Santana made her feel as if she had nothing to fear, for the moment. Life taught her that she had everything to fear.

"Is there anything I can get you?" Rachel asked, flipping the bathroom switch and wetting a towel for Santana – just in case.

Santana shook her head, "No, just close the door, Frodo." Defenses up, always up, Lopez. You never get anywhere by letting people in. Britt taught you that much,Santana's inner-dialogue steeled her for Rachel's hurt expression. It only flashed for a second, and then the door clicked shut. Santana's stomach twisted just a little too much and that's when the night officially hit rock bottom.

###

"Do you have mints?" Santana had rinsed her mouth out at least twelve times and chewed a couple sticks of gum but she still felt disgusting. Her forehead was coated in a light sheen of sweat, and Rachel was refusing to let her fall asleep. It had been approximately two hours already but the diva was worried about whether or not Santana could fall asleep. In fact, she'd been practically chewing her nails off since Santana had come out of the restroom. She'd been blackout drunk before – this couldn't be much different.

Rachel snapped out of her worried posture and nodded, "Oh, yes, hang on," she rose and disappeared into the kitchen. Santana rolled her eyes at the sound of wrappers and boxes falling, and Rachel cursing in what little way she did. It took a little bit longer for the diva to reappear, hovering over Santana and helping her sit up. Santana was growing accustomed to the feel of Rachel's surprising strength lifting her into a seated position, the way her hands shifted to adjust to the shape of Santana's hips. The smaller brunette sat in the newly opened space beside Santana and handed her the mints, again examining her headwound.

"Don't you have like .. dads or something? You're always talking about them," Santana was suddenly aware of the fact nobody was home but Rachel. When she'd pictured Frodo's family life it was this gay, picturesque scene where they played the Wii together and board versions of Clue.

"They're away on vacation momentarily," Rachel informed her, scooting away slightly and folding her hands in her lap.

Santana merely nodded, and waited for a moment to lapse before speaking again, "So uh.. how's the head wound?"

"You should be fine. You'll have to be especially careful."

Santana sat back against the cushions and closed her eyes. Damn right she'd have to be careful. She was still fighting waves of nausea and vertigo before the questions came.

"Santana, may I ask you something?"

"Pretty sure that's what you're doing, midget," Santana rolled her eyes, glancing aside quietly and examining Rachel's face. For a hobbit, she wasn't that bad looking. Those silent brown eyes held a lot of unspoken questions. Somehow, Santana felt she knew what Rachel was going to ask. What idiot wouldn't guess it, though?

Rachel hesitated, and Santana saw the girl shove her fists into the couch and turn her gaze to the coffee table; again, that same nervousness she only displayed around Santana. The diva could stand up to everyone except Santana.

"Tick, tock," Santana folded her arms over her chest as she lay her head sideways against the cushions, avoiding her wound. She wanted to close her eyes so bad.

"Why were you drinking?"

"Fuck off."

Rachel fell silent, and out of the corner of her eye Santana could see her fidgeting.

"I don't wanna talk about it."

"I understand."

More silence. Unnerving, grating, deep silence. The kind that made Santana feel as if she were sinking. Her gaze shifted to Rachel, and waited there as if it was going to reveal some kind of insight. Santana's eyes must have looked hard because Rachel glanced over and immediately flinched.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have asked. It's not my place," silent. Rachel, always full of words, seemed to always lack them around Santana. This was becoming more apparent. Either that or she had gotten hit in the head harder than she thought. It was as if a part of Rachel cowered at Santana. That surge of control gave Santana a good feeling, even now as she felt a bit of guilt.

"It's fine," Santana bit, although she wanted to be softer. "Can I sleep yet?"

Rachel looked hesitant, and reached over to touch Santana's head. Lopez felt soft fingers running through her thick locks, reaching the wound. She flinched a little and Rachel responded by pulling away. "You should be okay. This may sound strange but I don't know if you should be falling asleep without supervision," Rachel suddenly looked away. She seemed to avoid Santana's gaze at all costs.

"Fine, just let me sleep and don't do anything creepy, troll," Santana grumbled silently and lay down. She felt Rachel shift slightly to allow room for Santana's legs. As the brunette guided a pillow gently under her head, Lopez was reminded of what it felt like when she'd been sick and Brittany had taken care of her. All gone now. She felt a sting, and slammed her eyelids shut, hoping Rachel wouldn't notice her weakness.

###

When Santana awoke it was daylight, and she felt a peculiar pressure against her thigh. It wasn't until she looked around and saw photographs on the wall that she remembered where she was. Lopez moved a little, felt the pressure shift and heard a quiet groan. Rachel had apparently fallen asleep on her – her brown hair was splayed over Santana's thigh and Rachel's hand was cupping the curve of Santana's knee. There was something about how it felt that made her temporarily forget her growing distress from the previous events of the night. And then her phone vibrated in her pocket. The clock across from the couch read 4:43 a.m. Way too fucking early. Rachel didn't wake at the sound of Santana's vibrating phone, but she did shift closer and press her head more insistently against Santana's thigh.

Where r u? R u safe? – B.

I'm fine – S

I still want us to be friends. Ur my best friend san – B.

You're going away to school anyway, it doesn't matter – S

It matters – B.

it used to – S

It took a few moments of hesitation for Santana to decide what she was going to do. Knowing Brittany, she'd persist in getting a hold of Santana. What Santana needed to do was disappear in some way. If she was going to be friends with Brittany, she needed time to process everything she was feeling. The girl sighed, scrolled through the security options, and reluctantly selected the 'block' function. Frowning, she turned off her phone and settled back against her pillow. A hand stroked her thigh gently, and for a moment she thought Rachel was just reacting to something in her sleep, but a voice croaked sleepily at her.

Serenely, Rachel blinked at her couch-partner. Those maple brown eyes searched Santana's expression in the dark, and Santana only scowled. She let Rachel slip carefully behind her – though normally she would have shoved anyone else away. As the diva's arms slipped around her waist and warmth enveloped her, Santana realized this was the first time she'd ever been the little spoon.

The only reason she didn't balk about Rachel's display of comfort or make a show of being tough was because she was too tired.

Partially, Santana thought it was really nice the way someone else was trying to make her feel safe. She heard a quiet humming near her ear, and Santana closed her eyes.

It was easy to forget that her heart was hurting in that moment. Even though it was Rachel Berry comforting her, the big spoon to her little spoon, Santana found herself pressing back into Rachel's arms and burying her head near the curtain of Rachel's hair, splayed across the pillow they now shared.

###

When Santana awoke a second time, she was alone and it looked to be somewhere around one in the afternoon. Groggily, she sat up and the night before was all but erased from her mind. Santana had one special way of dealing with things – ignoring them.

The only thing that lingered in her mind was that she vaguely remembered Rachel Berry snuggling in behind her on the couch and she had allowed the girl to hold her close. The first time she'd ever been the little spoon was with a girl who was slightly shorter than herself.

On that train of thought, Santana glanced around and wondered where the girl had gone off to. Even though she was totally cool with leaving unannounced, she didn't think Rachel would let her get away with it. Not to mention she probably looked like a mess. The Cheerio rose from her place on Berry's couch and wondered where the girl had gone. The Berry house was spacious and Santana had only been there once or twice before that she could recall.

"Did you want some waffles for breakfast? We don't have a lot of non-vegan foods but I did manage to find something. My dad, Leroy, he's not vegan so we have some things." Rachel's hair was tied back in an uncharacteristic pony-tail and she had what looked to be a little powdered sugar on the side of her nose. In her hands she held a plate with three waffles, topped with whipped cream, syrup, and powdered sugar sprinkled around the plate.

"Uh," Santana blinked, "I mean wow, Berry." The shorter brunette looked so hopeful that Santana hated to tell her 'no' and leave without making it known she at least appreciated Rachel's (undeserved) kindness. Standing awkwardly in the doorway between the kitchen and livingroom, Santana shoved her fingers through her messy hair before nodding simply. "Sure, but then I should uh...you know, go."

Rachel bounced a little on her heels and set the plate down at the table, grabbing a smaller plate for herself with two similarly-made waffles, minus the non-vegan whipped cream and Santana suspected the waffles were some wheat-vegan thing. Lopez knew nothing about how vegans ate. She liked steaks. Big steaks.

Santana made short work of her plate. It turned out Rachel made really good breakfast waffles and it was easy to forget that she was in the kitchen of someone that should dislike her as well as kick her out of her house. Letting out a few Spanish expletives, Santana sighed as she sat back and a wide-eyed Rachel Berry waited for her approval (in English).

"Did you enjoy it?" Rachel had apparently already finished her own plate and cleared it away when Santana had been shoveling waffles into her mouth.

Realizing that Rachel didn't understand her Spanish expletives and her compliments, Santana lapsed back into English, "Yeah, it was really good. Thanks." Again, awkward silence fell and Rachel had gone back to avoiding Santana's eyes at all costs. Lopez rose carefully from the table and motioned, "I should get going. Thanks for.. you know, making sure I didn't have too bad of a concussion or whatever."

She wasn't good at this whole thing. Maybe that's why Brittany had never loved her as much as she had loved her best friend. Santana glanced down as she watched Rachel nod simply from her seat.

Santana was disappointed in herself as she turned around and left without another word; she only left Rachel with a glance at the doorway, where maple brown eyes flickered to the empty table.

Rachel wouldn't have been any different than anyone else. She'd leave just like the rest of them, and Santana would be stuck in Lima Heights alone.

###

Hands shoved in her pockets, Santana really had nowhere to be. From what she'd heard over the past two weeks, Brittany and Artie had left for college. So had everyone else in her social circle. She'd assumed everyone else was gone as well, that's why Lopez hadn't been expecting Rachel Berry to run into her with a coffee in her hand. Who drank coffee when it was 85 degrees out?

It had nearly spilled all over Santana but somehow Rachel managed to keep the coffee glued to her hand, "Oh my gosh! I'm so sor-Santana?"

She blinked, arched an eyebrow. Why was Rachel getting coffee from the Cuban place in Lima Heights? Not only was the diva out of place but she was stillin Lima. Halted in her steps and her thoughts, she saw Rachel's eyes darting everywhere but Santana's face. "I mean, this is my barrio.You can't have expected to see me in Q's old neighborhood."

Wearing jeans and a black beater, Rachel also looked incredibly out of characterin a sense. Granted, it was probably safer not to dress like a school girl in a neighborhood with way too many older Cuban men with fetishes, but Santana didn't think Rachel even owned a pair of jeans.

Secondly, Rachel looked really good in that beater. She'd always worn those ugly sweater-vest things and Santana had never realized that the diva had a completely flat stomach. Her dark eyes – truth be told nearly black – scanned over Rachel's form before she realized she was basically ogling the shorter diva. "So uh, why are you in Lima Heights? And why aren't you in New York?"

"Oh, I can't afford New York just yet. While I have a five-year goal, I'm spending this first year working at home and saving money. Not to mention I'm taking a few classes that need to be completed before I can start applying to the larger universities," Rachel sipped her coffee, made a pleased expression, and glanced at Santana.

"Oh."

Rachel nodded a bit awkwardly. "I'm sorry for nearly," she gestured to Santana's shirt, "spilling coffee all over."

Lopez took in her own clothing and scoffed. It's not like coffee stains would have wrecked much. She was wearing black workout shorts, running shoes, and a black sweater. Down the street, Santana could hear the familiar sounds of Reggaeton being played outside one of the barbershops, a few patrons smoking cigars outside of the doorway. "It's fine. You really shouldn't be in this neighborhood, though."

Rachel looked vaguely offended. "I get my coffee from Mister Manning almost every week, and I've yet to be accosted if that's what you're concerned about." The brunette turned up her nose slightly but Santana noticed a flicker of her gaze, as if the diva had just recalled that she was talking to Santana, someone who wasn't to be tested.

"I've never seen you in Lima Heights," Santana all but grumbled. Mr. Manning, the owner of the Cuban coffee shop, wasn't fond of people outside the Hispanic community.

"It's not as if this is Chicago," Rachel pointed out. "Lima Heights is three blocks from Lima."

Santana scoffed, smirked, and glanced aside. For some reason she couldn't look Rachel in the eyes. She remembered a ghost of warmth, that one moment of weakness at Rachel's house.

Rachel seemed to be remembering the same, because she was bravely searching Santana's face, "How .. have you been?"

"Alive," Santana's tone was slightly sarcastic, but she had a hard time letting her walls down. She felt bad for anyone who might try to get some kind of humanity out of her now. Brittany had ruined all that. She wouldn't allow herself to be sad; that's what emotional barriers were for.

Rachel only watched. Santana's stomach coiled. It was as if the girl knew Santana was masking everything. That irritated Lopez, and she wanted to react with something rude but was at a loss because at some point, Rachel had thought it was okay to touch Santana.

A warm hand encompassed her elbow for a brief second, stroked the sensitive skin of her inner-elbow, and was gone before Santana could react. Those soft, light brown eyes left almost a tangible trail over Santana's face. Lopez gulped and shrugged her shoulders.

"I realize you probably don't like me. I feel we've reached at least a mutual respect in the last four years of high school," Rachel began, and Santana wondered when the shorter girl had stepped close enough for Santana to feel the warmth emanating from Rachel's body. She was talking softly, nearly a murmur, and something about the tone in the diva's voice made Santana shiver. "You're not alone, Santana. If only you knew how important you are, how important you could be. I think it would surprise you to know who's been paying attention and who knows you for who you are."

Santana's defensive reaction was to say something incredibly bitchy, but she couldn't. Rachel's hand had slipped into Santana's pocket and those soft, maple eyes were staring up at Santana's face. She couldn't breathe for some reason. Rachel had tucked something into Santana's front pocket and stepped away before any words could tumble out of Santana's mouth.

Rachel was halfway down the sidewalk when Santana regained her motor functions, slipped her hand into her pocket, unfolded a piece of paper, and read what Rachel had written.

You may never use this, but I hope you do.

Below, signed alongside her name and a star, was Rachel's number. Had the diva actually been flirtingwith her?

###

It took quite a long time for Santana to even consider using Rachel's phone number or to contact her in any way. When she did, it was because Brittany had sent her a post-card from her new campus. Lopez was torn between finding a building to burn down or crying. While she didn't feel like going to prison for arson charges, she didn't feel like crying either.

So maybe she could investigate what Rachel was up to. Had someone replaced the Rachel Berry she knew with someone who flirted with girls who she was supposed to hate? While there had always been noticeable tension between Rachel and Q, nothing had ever come of it.

For safety's sake, Santana had been avoiding Mr. Manning's coffee shop just in case Rachel were there. However, with her current mood, Santana really didn't want to be anywhere that vaguely reminded her of Britt. Outside of Manning's, the owner and his grandson were playing chess, and a part of Santana had hoped to spot Rachel coming out of the doorway. No such luck.

Fishing the number out of her pocket, she read over the familiar words and entered the number into her phone. Saving it under "Berry," she hesitated. Did she really want to text the diva? She'd shown more than once that she could get under Santana's skin. Yet something about the interaction they'd had not that long ago. Almost a week, and Santana could still remember the way her chest tightened in realizing Rachel was standing far too close and murmuring far too intimately.

It had been an accident, showing up at Rachel Berry's house when she was drunk and distraught. Almost three weeks ago with very little contact since that night. Did she really want to turn this into a voluntary situation?

Yet she couldn't forget the feel of Rachel's hand unexpectedly slipping into her pocket, the way the tips of her fingers had unintentionally – or maybe intentionally – pressed into the muscle of her thigh as Rachel had pulled her hand out. That was interesting, to say the least. An arched eyebrow announced Santana's decision as she opened a new text message and began to text, but before she could do anything, a dialogue popped up already.

I hope you don't mind, I got your number from Quinn. – R*

Weird timing. U talk to Q? – S

Yes, quite frequently. We've reached a mutual agreement of friendship. – R*

Santana felt a strange welling of jealousy in the pit of her stomach. There had always been tangible evidence supporting some kind of attraction between Rachel and Quinn. Santana was pretty sure if the pair had a chance, they would've fucked right on the piano in the choir room.

I was just going to text u – S

Strange timing indeed. I'd like you to come over today, if you want. – R*

What for? – S

Company? – R*

Y the question? – S

I'd just like you to come over. Do I need a reason? – R*

Usually when u invite a former enemy over – S

I was never your enemy and I never considered you mine. – R*

Why did she have to be so damn uppity all the time? She was better than Lopez, Santana was willing to admit that. It didn't mean that Rachel had to proveit over and over again.

K. B there shortly – S

With that, Santana thought maybe it was a good idea to bring something over as a gesture of friendship – or rather a proving of 'betterness.' She made her way across the street to Manning's, stepped inside. She'd never been in here to order coffee for herself before, much less someone else. Lopez cleared her throat and her dark eyes darted about the menu before she spoke up.

"I have a friend who comes in here every week. I don't know what kind of coffee she gets, but I want to surprise her with some. Any chance you know of any regulars and what they drink?" That was a good start.

The girl behind the counter, Manning's niece, nodded. She spoke Spanish, but understood English. In plain words, she asked what the person looked like, so Santana described Rachel to an extent that surprised even herself. Had she really paid that much attention? Of course, it was hard not to notice someone that small with such a big mouth.

And so Santana walked out of Mannings with a decaf (surprising) coffee, just the flavor Rachel liked. Hazelnut. It was somehow fitting. The hot coffee in her hand reminded her just where she was going, and that was strange. Santana let that thought pass, though, and soon she was knocking on Rachel Berry's door voluntarily for the first time. It didn't take long for the door to swing open, and awkwardly Santana held out the coffee – both to prevent an ambush hug and to show Rachel her gesture of thanks, or friendship, or whatever it was going to be. She hadn't decided yet.

Rachel looked surprised, and in her sweatpants and t-shirt she looked like maybe she needed a coffee. Score. The diva took the coffee, sipped at it cautiously, and then spoke, humming in approval, "You didn't need to do that."

Santana shrugged.

"Come in," Rachel gave a sort of lopsided smile, almost a smirk, and bit that bottom lip of hers. Santana did her best not to ogle and stepped through the door, taking note of the way Rachel didn't really move out of the way, or move at all. She'd just stood there, forcing Santana's entrance to be as close as possible, the taller girl's body brushing past the warmth of Rachel's.

When did Rachel Berry become such a flirt?

Santana cleared her throat awkwardly, tapped her hands on her thighs, and glanced around. "Are your dads home?"

"Nope."

Damn.

"What have you been up to this summer? Do you have any plans for school?"

Santana shook her head, and felt a hand on the small of her back for just a second as Rachel slipped by and moved up the stairs, motioning for Santana to follow. She assumed the bedroom was upstairs. That could get interesting, as most bedrooms just had a bed to sit on, and Rachel was clearly not shy about making contact with Santana. Although that night Santana had been drunk and the morning following the diva had been largely demure and afraid to make eye contact, some new boldness had been seeded in Rachel's behavior. Santana had to wonder why that was, or maybe whohad encouraged it. "No plans. Haven't been up to much." Drinking, being miserable, playing Call of Duty with her little brother.

Rachel opened the bedroom door and moved inside, waiting patiently for Santana to enter and carefully shutting the door behind her.

"So before we start this whole friendship thing I'm just gonna say that the way you've been acting is really fucking tripping me out, because to put it bluntly, it really feels like you're flirting with me half the time," Santana let the words come freely. After all, as a Lopez she wasn't one to hold back.

A little bit of the old Rachel showed herself as the diva's eyes darted to the ground – but then there was a little laugh, not mocking, but it was there. And Rachel was smirking. Her light brown eyes held the sparkle of one who'd just heard a good joke, "If I was?"

"It really wouldn't make any sense. I mean you and Q had weird tension but you obsessed over the T-Rex and you're this academically success-driven hobbit that has never acted this cool or laid back in all the time I've known you," Santana felt her heart rattling around between ribs like rain-drops through the slats of a vent. Was she panicking? Was Rachel really making her panic a little?

Rachel raised an eyebrow, nodded, and sat down on her bed. Quietly, the diva sipped her coffee. "Indeed, I am quite driven by my desire for success but you've never spent any amount of time with me that would suggest you have any idea what my non-academic interests are."

"Women? Really?"

"My fathers are gay, and thus have shown me that love is not limited by gender, nor is lust or attraction."

Was she telling her that she was attracted to her? Was it just because Santana happened to be the only one here?Maybe it was an attraction of convenience. Lopez frowned and folded her arms, "Look, Frodo," ignoring the look of hurt on Rachel's face, "I'm not just here for your convenience. Just cause I likes the ladies it doesn't mean I'm going to hop in anyone's bed for a verylong time. You have no idea the shit I've been through and quite frankly – "

"Shut up," Rachel stated in a polite tone, watching Santana.

Santana blinked.

"For your information, Santana, you're no convenience. In fact, I've gone out of my way to find you this summer, often with no results. It was a happenstance that you ended up on my lawn that night, but it doesn't mean I hadn't been trying to figure out a way to speak with you since our junior year."

"What exactly are you saying?"

"Isn't it obvious?"

"Not really."

Rachel hummed and shook her head, sipping her coffee and setting it on the side-table before standing up and closing the distance between herself and Santana. "I see who you are, and I want to know more about her," her voice was too close, too intimate to ignore. Santana remained rooted to her spot, though Rachel was mere inches from herself, and those two hands were gently touching Santana's wrists.

"Don't you think you should've asked if I was even interested in being friends?"

"You're here, aren't you?"

Damn. Damn. Damn. Why did the short shit have to be right all the time? Santana scowled.

"You're lovely, Santana. No one's ever showed you that, but I'd like to. I've wanted to. I know your past doesn't permit you to allow anyone within a circle of trust but I'm convinced I can eventually show you what it is you've deserved from someone you're involved with," Rachel's voice was quiet, the way it might be if she was trying to seduce Santana or the way it might be during a really good round of sex. Santana flushed red, felt heat well up inside of her. Her already dark eyes must have gotten darker, and when she looked up, Rachel's eyes were slightly dilated as well.

And then the diva stepped back, sat down on the bed, reached for her coffee and sipped at it.

"Are you going to sit down?"

Santana swallowed, nodded numbly, and took a seat on the mattress. Not too near Rachel, because she'd be damned if she'd let the diva take control of the situation. Big spoon once or not, it wasn't going to happen again.

Yet here all the cards were laid face-up, staring Santana down. Rachel Berry not only was into girls, but had apparently been into Santana. When the Cheerio had not really thought of or noticed Rachel in all their years, only a few times had she given a lot of attention to Rachel and usually it had been negative. "How did you know I drank Hazelnut decaf?" Humming in pleasure, the diva's question came out with a gentle curiosity.

"I asked Mariela."

Rachel nodded. "Thank you. That was kind of you."

Santana shrugged and dared a glance over. As she met Rachel's eyes, the diva smirked softly and searched Santana's face.

"I'm glad you agreed to come over here. I always thought we would get along well, even before I realized I had an attraction to you."

How could Rachel be so damned blunt about things like that? How could she be so honest? Santana didn't realize it until she felt her face grow hot, but she was almost mbarrassed to be the object of such attention. Brittany had always done it in an innocent way. Rachel was surprisingly confrontational about her attraction – confrontational in that there was no denying its existence.

"It's okay," it was as if the girl really did have a sixth sense, "I realize you have a bit of hesitation in admitting feelings, much less feelings you consider taboo, but it's just you and me here. Nobody's judging you."

Santana glanced down at the floor. Swallowed. Her tan cheeks flushed. "You could be lying."

"But I'm not."

Lopez glanced over at Rachel, found a soft gaze lingering on her, and suddenly realized that maybe she could trust Rachel. A little. And so for the first time, she relented to that desire to just let her walls down, even if only for a second.

"This coffee is delicious."

And that's where it began. Santana and Rachel sitting on Rachel's bed, with Santana secretly allowing her walls to come down momentarily, while the diva drank coffee.

###

TWO

Illegal Activity

It's good to have you with us, even if it's just for the day…

###

Santana stood outside Rachel Berry's doorstep, wondering how she'd ended up here again so soon after the last visit. It had only been a couple days. Maybe it had to do with the blunt in Santana's fingers. She took a big hit, felt the familiar burn, her limbs all jelly and goo. She felt really good and she had only thought about Brittany about five times today, and only cried once. Then she'd gotten out of bed and hunted up her cousin who gave her the best weed he had on hand.

She rolled up, and somehow ended up here, smoking weed on Rachel Berry's doorstep. Logic said this was probably a bad idea but mostly because it was illegal and no doubt the whole block could smell the marijuana burning openly in the night air.

Santana's eyes were heavy and she was grinning as she blew out the remnant of what she'd just inhaled. A heavy cough accompanied that and she wondered when she'd finished the whole blunt because that last hit had finished it up. She looked confusedly at the thing before stepping on it.

A light flicked on and it was pretty damn bright. The porch light. Santana narrowed her eyes and moved forward – she felt like she was in quicksand and her limbs were tingling just a little. "Good, good," she hummed to herself before realizing that she was about to crash right into Rachel. "How'd you get there so fast?" Santana Lopez all but whispered the words, as bewildered as someone might be during a Copperfield show.

"Santana Lopez!"

The shorter girl was grabbing Santana's arm the way her grandmother would have, dragging a not-so-graceful and very high Lopez up the stairs and into the house.

"You smell disgusting."

Santana snorted, "Only to someone who doesn't smoke weed and probably never has," she laughed a little, "what's the big deal?"

"The whole front yard smells like marijuana!"

"So?" Santana realized too late that she was being shoved into Rachel's bathroom and sprayed with copious amounts of body spray and Febreze. She was still stoned but if she wasn't she definitely would've been cranky. "Why am I even here?"

"I have no idea, you're the one who once again ended up in my front yard intoxicated and we really need to talk about that because if the police or any authorities or my fathers smell that weed they're going to arrest you or something terrible," Rachel was ranting and spraying Santana with a fabric deodorizer. The taller girl let out another snort, covered her mouth afterward, and thought Rachel looked super hilarious when she was angry.

"You're short."

Rachel rolled her eyes so far back that Santana thought that must have hurt. She also smacked Santana a few times on her arms and shoved her against the bathroom counter, "Stop being an idiot! If you get me in trouble I swear to God I'm going to –"

Santana started laughing again, "You know the most ridiculous part," she leaned forward, staring Rachel right in the eye, face hovering a few inches from Rachel's, "I don't know why I'm here either." She moved out of the bathroom (see: stumbled), and was about to open Rachel's door when she realized it was the door to the closet and somehow she'd gotten turned around.

"SIT DOWN THIS INSTANT," Rachel's voice was so aggressive that through the haze of weed, Santana felt herself get a little turned on.

"Oh," she raised a manicured eyebrow and felt herself shoved back on the bed. "Damn," she growled and she reached forward, grasping Rachel's hips and ready to get the sexy stuff started, and for a second she thought Rachel was going to go along with it because the shorter girl flushed red and let out a frustrated groan. She watched Rachel bite her bottom lip and her throat worked with a guttural sound.

"No," Rachel's voice was husky, soft. She reprimanded Santana by pushing her hands off her waist (though she looked like she regretted it). "Why are you here? Why are you high?"

"I don't know why I'm here," Santana sighed, laying back on the bed. She felt like her atoms were all buzzing around, happy and contented, bumping into each other. Her eyes closed, she felt like she really wanted to listen to music right now. "I'm high because my cousin has some really good weed," she hummed. "Do you have any music?" She sat up, as if to search out Rachel's music collection, but she was stopped by a pair of insistent hands. "If you keep manhandling me I'm gonna get real turned on, Berry," Santana growled in a blatantly sexual way.

Rachel again looked like she was fighting off the urge to swoon. "Stop it," she murmured quietly, low and husky. "Stop saying those things."

"Stop manhandling me then."

"Fine." Rachel folded her arms over her stomach. Her flat, toned stomach. Ugh. Santana felt her lower parts aching a little and she remembered that sometimes the weed her cousin gave her made her really fucking horny. That was it. It's not that Rachel herself was the source of arousal. Santana reached forward, almost touched Rachel's hands, almost slipped them off that deliciously flat stomach. Rachel made another angry noise, "Santana, focus."

"How about you give me some music and we can talk when I'm sober," Santana motioned to the pair of headphones appearing a little blurrily on Rachel's desk.

"I don't even know why you're here," the shorter girl shoved them solidly into Santana's hand, and watched as Santana fumbled to put them on. Rachel helped with that, and Santana found some sense of stability as she searched through Rachel's music and found something satisfactory, something smooth and upbeat.

The music felt good, like warmth through her bones, and she laid back on Rachel's bed. She tried not to notice how nice Rachel's bed smelled, how much like her, and eventually she felt less high. She didn't know how long it had been – only that by the time the high was at a manageable level, Rachel was hunched over her desk working on some kind of homework for her college classes.

Santana took off the headphones, sat up and let out a contented sigh, "Homework, huh?" She stood up, leaning over Rachel before sitting back on the bed. "I don't know what you wanna talk about."

"You're the one who showed up here." Whoa, hold up. Was Rachel really mad? "High on an illegal drug and here. So why don't we start there and then I'll tell you that this cannot continue if you show up like that again because I don't feel like getting in trouble for your avoidance tactics." She was really mad. She sounded like a pissed off girlfriend but they weren't even really 'friends' yet.

"I don't know."

"Right," Rachel scoffed and continued writing angrily on whatever homework she was doing. "I really don't have time for you to dance around the subject right now, Santana. My guess is you were sad so you decided weed would take the edge off, am I right?"

Santana shrugged, "About right."

"So why my house?"

"That part I really don't know."

Rachel closed her eyes, rubbing the bridge of her nose. She swiveled around in her chair, soft brown eyes meeting Santana's. "Tell me how your day started?" The question was a lot softer, and the anger seemed to melt out of her expression.

"Sad," Santana covered her mouth, scratched the corner of it, and found that she couldn't meet Rachel's eyes right now. "I mean I woke up from a dream about Britt and it was a wrap." She wasn't good at talking and sharing so she really didn't feel like doing that right now. Plus, it was a buzzkill and she wanted to hold on to that high just a little longer. Of course, she could always go get the rest of her weed and smoke it at home, but that was a while from now since Rachel would probably want to play therapist.

Rachel nodded. "I figured," she spoke softly and she frowned. "Listen, Santana, I realize that you're what I would classify as an emotional cripple –"

"What are you, a psych major?"

"—but that doesn't mean that you can use alcohol and drugs to make it all go away. When the buzz wears off, you're still going to be sad. You'll just have put it off for longer. And I know you know this. The only way you're going to recover from this heartbreak is to face it like a grown-up."

"I am grown up," Santana frowned, her voice a little defensive. "Just 'cause I don't have my head in a book it doesn't mean –"

"It wasn't a defamation of character," Rachel murmured before closing her books and sitting beside Santana on the bed. She just sat beside her – didn't demand contact or assume that she was allowed to comfort Santana. It was like the girl really did kind of know Santana's boundaries. "I'm just saying, when you stop drinking, stop smoking, whatever else you do to run away, you're going to find out you've not gotten any further. You're hiding, not running. Not really."

Santana groaned, "You're a buzzkill."

"I know."

"And you're probably going to try to ask me why I care, but I'm not going to say any more than 'I just do.' I don't think anyone's ever tried to help you heal from all the pain you've experienced. I mean there's been disaster in your life, a lot. From what I've seen in high school alone," Rachel spoke in a non-accusatory way. "The way you keep people at bay, everything. I mean I'm not a therapist. I just wanna be your friend, 'cause I honestly don't think you've had a real friend for more than a week at a time."

Santana sighed; this emotional shit was exhausting and it was killing her high. She felt a hand trace some hair behind her ear, and a thumb just barely trace the shell of her ear. It comforted her, and then it was gone.

"So, talk or don't talk, I don't care. You'll talk when you're ready. Just know I'm here."

Santana felt the weight on the mattress shift as Rachel stood and went back to doing homework. She ended up laying in relative silence on Rachel's bed, watching the brunette work and wondering how the hell she wound up here. With Rachel Berry. Like they'd been friends for a long time.

The silence with Rachel was comfortable, though. There wasn't any expectation or obligation to fill it, no need for Santana to divulge anything she didn't want to. Her dark eyes merely lingered on Rachel for a while, head resting on her arm as the girl worked on her college shit.

Maybe the reason they'd all given Rachel so much shit in high school was that they knew she was years ahead of them in maturity. She'd always seen the world the way someone with intelligence would, in a wider-sense. She saw the future, planned for it, and what was more she took responsibility for it. Maybe it was dorky of her, but it was damn smart of her, too.

Santana however, had never planned for a future. She had especially never planned for a future without Brittany in it. Though she made a big show of being tough, Santana was kind of emotionally needy. She felt incomplete and she didn't know how to function without someone to love.

The former Cheerio hoped she wasn't just doing some switcheroo thing. It didn't feel like she was. She didn't want to make Rachel into another Brittany.

The normal reaction would've been to leave, to make sure the tie was severed to confirm with herself that she didn't need anybody now. She thought about it once or twice, but just couldn't find the motivation to move. Why did she constantly feel like she had to prove anything? Especially when Rachel had just sort of affirmed that Santana didn't have to worry around her.

Who would've guessed that Santana Lopez was a self-conscious teenager?

"Tell me anything," Rachel inquired from across the room. She hadn't looked up from her work yet.

"I think too much," Santana answered, a knee-jerk answer.

"I could've told you that," Rachel teased in a warm, friendly way.

Santana smirked. Sighed a little.

"Even though you could've gotten arrested and I kind of yelled at you for doing so, I'm glad you showed up."

"I think I am too," Santana's reply was barely loud enough to hear. It was kind of an admission to herself before anything else.

After another half an hour of silence, Rachel's words burst out and caused Santana to jar into a sitting position. "I have a solution!"

"Christ! What?"

"Don't ask questions. Let's go." Rachel stood and unceremoniously grabbed Santana's arm, dragging her down the stairs and outside. They were a block away from Rachel's house by the time Santana got her arm back and gathered her bearings.

"Where are we –"

"Show me where you live."

Shit.

###

Santana's house was kind of loud. Although officially only her grandmother, brother, and she lived alone in the house, she had a bunch of cousins that were always over and the thing about family is that they weren't always related by blood. It was a neighborhood-wide family, or so it seemed. So when they got to the house, Santana's grandmother was playing dominoes with her Cuban boyfriend, and the boys seemed to be all downstairs playing Call of Duty and smoking pot. (Even her abuela indulged sometimes.)

She didn't have time to warn Rachel about that part, but the shorter girl only made a face at the smell and there was no mention after that. Santana cleared her throat, embarrassed and confused as to why Rachel made her bring her there; she opened her bedroom door and did her best to throw some of the piles of clothing in one corner.

"You have been depressed."

"I'm bad at cleaning."

Rachel gave Santana a gentle, knowing smirk before she flicked her wrist, motioning for Santana to sit. The shorter girl closed the bedroom door, and got to work. It wasn't until she had a pile of Santana's pictures in her hand before she caught on.

"Wait – you can't just do that. I didn't say you could do this." She felt a surge of dull anger and sadness, and Santana stood, grabbing the pictures. "These are mine," she said the way a child might when their favorite toy was getting taken.

Rachel covered Santana's hands with her own, met her eyes with softness and sincerity, "Santana."

"What? I didn't say you could do anything with any of my stuff."

The shorter girl pried Santana's fingers from the pictures, "We don't have to destroy them. I wouldn't dream of destroying your things, but right now these pictures do nothing but hurt you." When she took them, she put them in her front pocket and started digging around the piles of clothing. She found an empty shoe box underneath one of them and put the pictures inside. She started gathering things here and there, stray pictures, and she set the box on the sidetable for just a moment.

Santana traced the box with the edge of her fingertips, feeling a well of sadness bubbling up. She had to let go of that part of her life. Rachel was right; holding onto the past was hurting her. She felt tears in her eyes and tried to blink them away. When she wasn't aware of it, Rachel had sidled up to her and was gently taking her hand away from the box. She coaxed her fingers for just a moment, pressed them in her palm, and she was covering Santana's fingers with her own.

"You can do this."

The compassion was enough to make Santana hurt. Suddenly she was pushing the damn box off the counter and considered telling Rachel to fuck off, but instead she ended up on the floor picking the pictures up, eyes clouded with tears.

Rachel seemed tense, a little frantic. Seeing Santana's sorrow seemed to make something in Rachel desperate. The shorter girl was running her hands over Santana's face and pushing hair away from her damp cheeks. Santana didn't reach out, wanted to, but did not. Rachel was on her knees, and in Santana's crouched position she was taller for the first time. She wrapped her arms around Santana's neck, her surprisingly strong arms; she smelled like lavender. Santana was tugged in a fierce embrace, and she felt a pair of lips on the top of her head, felt fingers combing through her hair.

Time moved so slowly. It took Santana a little bit to gather her wits, and she'd stopped crying but for some reason was holding onto Rachel, crushing Rachel to her, the pictures all but forgotten for the precious few moments.

After that, she helped Rachel gather things that reminded her of Brittany. Santana felt strength like a warmth in her bones, and at the end of it she agreed to let Rachel keep the things at her house until Santana felt strong enough to keep them or throw them away. When they couldn't hurt Santana anymore.

She didn't know when that would be. Maybe weeks, at worst months. Somehow she felt as long as she had Rachel's support, she'd be okay. It was a bittersweet feeling when she looked into her mirror and didn't see the pictures of her and Britt anymore. No more messages in erasable ink on her whiteboard. No more hearts that Britt had drawn.

Rachel was kind about it. They'd walked all the way back to Rachel's and she'd watched the shorter girl stand up on her very tippy-toes, tucking the box safely away under one of those animal sweaters. When Santana didn't say anything, Rachel examined her face the way one might look for a wound. She felt fingers on her jaw, and Rachel was touching her face delicately for just a moment.

Santana found an immense kindness in those eyes. Rachel Berry was possibly the kindest person she'd ever met, and she didn't know if she deserved the friendship she would get from her. She sighed quietly and gave a quiet smirk. "I don't understand you."

"You never did," Rachel smiled quietly. "You never gave me a chance."

She was definitely right about that.

###

Rachel called Santana the next day, offering to come over. Thinking that she really didn't want Rachel to have to hang out in Lima Heights, she responded with a mirroring gesture and said she'd be over shortly. So here she was, not high or drunk, soberly and willingly knocking on Rachel Berry's door.

Hiram Berry answered (the Jewish dad), and Rachel poked her head out from behind him, "I got it!" Rachel grinned and somewhat shoved her dad out of the way.

Laughing, Hiram nodded in greeting. "You must be Santana."

"That's me. You're .. Hiram, right?" Santana offered her hand, shaking it firmly. The man drew back his own, seemingly impressed. He 'oohed' in a kind of effeminate way.

"Strong hands," Hiram noted. "I'm Hiram. It's nice to finally meet you."

"Uh, thanks," Santana didn't know what to make of being told she had strong hands. She smirked a little and before she could say anything else, Rachel was clearing her throat and making some kind of pointed expression at her father. He sighed to himself the way parents did, and cleared out of the room.

"Have fun, girls," he said in parting from around the corner before disappearing to wherever dads did during these kinds of gatherings (i.e. slumber parties).

"So why…I mean is there a reason we're hanging out today?"

Rachel shook her head, "Not that I know of. I just…wanted to see you." They were headed into the basement, which seemed to be a sort of personal theater. Rachel must've been down here before Santana arrived – which would explain her sudden appearance when Hiram had answered the door. There were some books spread on the floor and the television was set to low on Turner Classic Movies.

"And you figured I wasn't doing anything," Santana added as she sat down on the comfortable leather couch.

"Nothing good," Rachel smirked, seemingly to herself, but there was a glint in her eye when she looked at Santana.

"So are we friends now?"

"Whenever you're ready."

The weird thing was that Santana didn't think Rachel was even being sarcastic. She had no expectations of Santana and was just genuinely ready to wait for Santana's friendship (and otherwise, since she had mentioned something before about being attracted to her). It was refreshing, because it seemed like everyone always had some agenda with Santana, some timeline she had to keep to. Santana found herself sort of staring at Rachel and felt a yearning to thank her, felt some desire to hug her or … something. However you were supposed to handle this kind of gratitude.

When Rachel looked back at Santana again, she realized she didn't have to say anything. Rachel's eyes were full of understanding. They felt like they could see into Santana, hold her hostage and know all her secrets. Santana couldn't take too much of it, because she looked down a moment later.

"How'd you sleep last night?" Rachel asked when she finally seemed to look away, at least from what Santana could tell. She felt comfortable looking back up at Rachel when she wasn't being … examined.

"Better," she answered simply.

"And you woke up better?"

"I think so. I wasn't sad. I didn't feel like smoking any weed."

Rachel laughed a little, "I think that's an improvement."

"You must think I'm a real idiot."

"No, I just think you've had a hard time coping," Rachel answered simply and seemed to finish whatever she was doing because she began stacking up her books.

"I don't know why I'm here," she wondered aloud for a moment. "I don't know why you want me here."

"I like looking at you," Rachel teased softly. She was so blatant, so bold, and it made Santana blush. Nobody made Santana Lopez blush.

"You know what I mean," Santana deflected.

"I want to be your friend. I want us to be friends," there seemed to be something else. Something in Rachel's expression was hiding, was very there but very hard to see. Santana only nodded and glanced at the television.

They fell in silence together as one of the old-timey actors played out his part in whatever this movie was. It wasn't until Santana relaxed a little that she realized she was just hanging out with Rachel Berry. Willingly. She had come over and decided to hang out with her and it had been her decision. And what's more, she was enjoying it. Hell, she actually felt comfortable and content doing so. It didn't feel weird at all, and that by itself was really fucking weird.

"If you want to watch something else we can. I watch a lot of this stuff, actually."

"I don't mind. I don't watch much of anything."

"Are you hungry?"

"A little."

"I'll get us some food," Rachel popped off the couch and without another word trotted up the stairs. Santana was toying with the arch of leather underneath her hand as she looked around the basement. It was a little bit like a den; there were a couple taxidermy-treated heads on the wall (a deer and a boar). It didn't seem like something Rachel or Hiram would like – maybe it was Leroy's decorating style. It was oddly comfortable.

She felt her phone vibrate and it was Quinn.

Heyy, what are you up to? – Q

Hanging out – S

Oh? With who? – Q

Did she need to lie? What would Quinn think about her hanging out with Rachel Berry. Apparently the two spoke so maybe it wouldn't seem that weird. Santana sat there debating it until she heard Rachel come down the stairs.

Rachel. – S

Color me surprised. I thought you hated her. – Q

I just hate everyone so I'm learning to tolerate a few – S

Lol. Well I just miss you. I'm getting settled in out here, you know and it's just weird doing it by myself. – Q

Braver than I am. – S

Always have been, ya lug – Q

Miss you too – S

Well text me later. Have fun with the short one. – Q

Rachel's weight shifted the cushion beside Santana, and a plate full of pizza rolls was set on her lap. Rachel had some kind of tofu-burger on her own plate. "Sorry, it's all I could find on short notice. I'll have to get Daddy to buy some more non-vegan food for when you're over."

"That's a big assumption. What if I don't come over again? Or very often?"

Rachel only smiled knowingly at Santana, swallowed her food and took a sip of her drink. All the while giving Santana that smug, glinting look.

"Ugh," Santana dipped her head back on the couch. "Yeah, I guess you better."

It was strange how sometimes people were just drawn together. Like a sort of magnetism. And Santana had never, ever thought that it would exist between her and Rachel, but the more frequently she saw her, the more she realized there was. She wasn't quite sure yet if it was a new phenomenon or an old one that she'd just conveniently ignored. She tried to think back in high school if there had been times – but it really hadn't been until her junior year that she found herself interacting with Rachel in ways that weren't destructive or cruel. She regretted that. Maybe she would've been happier in high school if she hadn't been so self-involved.

Santana finished her plate of pizza rolls and was settled into the couch when a blanket was tossed over her, and Rachel tucked herself in beside her. She had been getting a little cold, but it was weird having Rachel sitting so close beside her. Granted, she didn't mind, but again the fact she didn't mind weirded her out a little.

"Does weed really bother you?" Santana asked out of the clear blue.

Rachel laughed, "Why?"

"I mean – I guess I think you'd have fun if you tried it once."

"This is like one of those after-school specials," Rachel snarked, much to Santana's surprise. "Peer pressure and stuff, and I'm supposed to say no. I'm going to say no anyway."

"You'd never try it?"

"Not here! My fathers would never have it."

Santana pondered for a moment. Why did she even want to share with Rachel? That was like her … her private time. Her happy time. And she was kind of pushing to share it with Rachel. "What about my house?"

Rachel was silent for a really long time. "Ask me in a week. Maybe."

Santana chuckled at the answer, and found herself looking at Rachel's profile in the dim lighting with a sort of admiration. Maybe this friendship would be good for her. It .. felt like it was. She felt kind of happy. And she hadn't thought about Brittany at all today or really felt very sad all day.

If Rachel kept up this whole thing, this friendship deal, Santana might actually have to figure out how to show her gratitude. That was like learning another language for her.

The shorter brunette gasped and slapped Santana's shoulder, hissing her name, "You didn't bring any with you, did you?!"

Santana broke out in a peel of laughter, "Christ, no. Not the way you practically beat me last time. I wouldn't dream of it."

The relief was visible, and Santana was still laughing by the time Rachel had stopped looking like a bewildered kitten.

###

"Mm, nope, not time yet – " Santana rolled over in her sheets, buried her face in her pillow. She thought her brother was trying to wake her up but when she heard a foot stomp in indignation, she rolled over. Eyes confused and blurry, she realized Rachel goddamn Berry was standing at her bedside.

"I have been trying to call you since nine a.m.!"

"What…the…" Santana's voice croaked. "Rachel, I know that you're trying to be my friend but I never said you could just show up like this… this early in the damn morning, holy Christ," Santana buried her face under her pillow again.

Rachel's voice was sort of muffled from Santana's side of the pillow.

"What the fuck are you doing here?"

"I'm treating you to a special day and you're late for it."

"How in the hell are you going to plan a special day and, one, not tell me about it. Two, not ask me if I want one?"

"You don't have a choice," Rachel said in that matter-of-fact way that made Santana irritated with the shorter girl's existence. "Get up," she flipped the pillow off of Santana's face and tugged her into a seated position. She outright ignored the fact that Santana was in a t-shirt and underwear, pulled her to her feet and threw some clothes at her.

Bewildered and wondering why the fuck she was letting Rachel decide all this, she put the clothes on anyway and was guided out of the house a bit like a lost child. Rachel opened the passenger's side door, chatting away.

"I borrowed Daddy's car and we're going to gorge ourselves on funnel cake and carnival rides."

"What?"

"We're going to the Ohio State Fair."

"What?"

"It's a two hour drive."

"What?"

Rachel looked over as she started the car, very pointedly arched an eyebrow, "Santana Lopez, you sound like a parrot."

Santana narrowed her gaze, staring blankly at this girl. She was so … infuriating sometimes. To just wake her up and assume she wanted to go to some fair – okay funnel cake sounded awesome and – Santana was basically arguing with herself and looking stupidly at Rachel.

"Ohio State Fair. We're going to have fun."

"We're not even friends yet," Santana spoke bewilderedly.

"Whatever helps you sleep."

Santana afforded a laugh at that one. The drive was long and she found herself singing along with Rachel, thinking about how well their voices sort of melted together. It was some Sheryl Crow CD from the 90's, and by the time they got to the fairgrounds, Santana felt a little bit like a kid going to the fair with her friend for the first time. Maybe Rachel was one of those people that had the ability to win anyone over.

She got out of the car and followed Rachel to the fairgrounds, and felt a little giddiness wash over her. Rachel paid for both their day passes, and they were headed first to get a big plate of funnel cake. Calliope music played on somewhere nearby, carnies tried to coax people into playing their games (the rigged ones especially), and Santana found herself getting lost in the careless atmosphere. The smell of fair food and oiled rides made her forget all about the fact that she hadn't even agreed to come.

She wouldn't tell Rachel she was, but as they shared funnel cake at one of the picnic tables, she felt happier than she had been in a long time. It was just a sugar rush, surely. (At least that's what Santana told herself.)

"This is the best," Rachel sighed and patted her still-flat stomach. "I love fair food."

"Lucky it's only around once a year because if I ate this at home, I'd be fat and unattractive," Santana commented wryly as she finished her half of the funnel cake.

"That's probably impossible," Rachel responded, licking the powdered sugar off her fingers. "Now, let's go get sick on some carnival rides." She threw away the plate, wiped her fingers with wet wipes and gave some to Santana so she could do the same.

About the time when Santana was chasing behind Rachel, shouting, "Hey, Rach, slow down!" did Santana realize that she was actually friends with this person. Someone who should've never given her the time of day. Rachel stilled in her path and turned around, grinning and face flushed with excitement, and the sight surprisingly made Santana happy. She met the shorter girl with a grin. "Ferris wheel first. And I hope we get stuck at the top because I love heights," she nudged Rachel with her elbow and they matched step for step.

Two carnies later they were at the ferris wheel and heading up to the top when Rachel admitted she had a fear of heights.

"I could've guessed; you're really white-knuckling that bar there," Santana chuckled a little. She felt apologetic but realized that even if she did apologize, Rachel wasn't mad at her. The taller girl gently wrapped an arm around Rachel's waist and tugged her closer – ignoring the little frightened squeal. Her hand covered Rachel's eyes and she tried to think of how to take away that fear for Rachel. "Okay, so think about…think about Broadway. You're on Broadway for the first time, it's your last act for the night and you've killed it all night. The crowd is going wild – or whatever they do on Broadway. They're crying in the front row."

Rachel laughed a little, and pried Santana's fingers from over her eyes. "You're ridiculous." Santana ignored the comment and slapped Rachel's hand, covering her eyes again.

"I'm in control here," she teased the shorter girl. She watched Rachel's fear melting away, realized she was comforting Rachel and knew the precise thing to do. "Your dads are in the front row and your mom is, too," Santana continued. She felt the brunette sink against her, and the hand she'd slapped away ended up slipping around her stomach.

"I'm not afraid anymore," Rachel's voice was happy, contented, and Santana gently removed her hand from Rachel's eyes.

"Good."

She didn't complain when Rachel stayed attached to her. She may have held on a little tighter, and when they reached the top she watched Rachel find her bravery and glance down at the ground below them. Warmth bloomed in her, and she thought maybe this was better than anything she'd had before. Maybe this was the kind of friendship she'd always needed – someone who was willing to meet her halfway, someone willing to work with her and understand her.

As the cart rocked a little on the way down, she was smiling to herself and trying not to let her overwhelming happiness show. She couldn't let Rachel know that she was the reason she was smiling. Even though the short shit probably already knew it.

###

After they'd made their way through two other rides – the tilt-a-whirl and that thing that swung them upside down and probably killed two people a year – Santana had gotten stopped by a carnie and Rachel shoved three dollars in her hand. Santana didn't want anything from this booth so she wondered why Rachel wanted her to play it, but she spotted what Rachel was looking at. A stuffed moose. "The moose, really?"

Rachel nodded, gave an apologetic smile, "It's really cute."

"Why don't you play?"

"You're more coordinated and probably stronger." She gently pushed at Santana's back as she stepped behind her. "Please?"

Santana examined Rachel's face, and she'd be damned if that pout didn't actually convince her. Santana sighed, handed the first dollar to the carnie, and squared her footing. The softball in her hand was lighter than regulation and the trick was to knock the bottle over. The thing was – two of the bottles were usually either weighted or bolted into the stool.

She went with her gut, drew her arm back, and threw. The ball dinged the side, but the bottle didn't tip. Fortunately, the one next to it had gotten knicked and was teetering a little. She handed the next dollar to the carnie, aimed, and was right on the money. She had to knock it down twice, and was quick enough to see the carnie do some slight-of-hand shit.

She aimed at what appeared to be another bottle, but was in fact the only bottle that wasn't weighted. She threw and knocked it over. For three dollars, she'd won the damn moose for Rachel.

When she handed it to Rachel, the short brunette bounced on her heels and hugged it close. Momentarily, Santana pictured a much younger Rachel looking at her fathers the same way she was looking at Santana now. It made her heart do that swelling thing and she only waved her hand dismissively, "Don't get all mushy on me. It was your money."

Rachel collided into her anyway, smelling of lavender, and hugged Santana. "This is the best day," Rachel's words were soft and Santana only barely heard them. They still melted her, and she let herself enjoy the embrace for just a second. And she realized that maybe this day hadn't been about her. Maybe it had been about making Rachel happy.

###

When Rachel dropped Santana off, she was kind of sad to get out of the car. She sat there for a good few minutes, in silence. She didn't want to say that she didn't want today to end. Didn't want to admit that she just couldn't get out of this car.

Rachel seemed to understand, glanced over at Santana. "Are you glad I made you go?"

Santana smirked softly, "Do you think I'd admit it if I was?"

"Probably not."

Winking, Santana started to get out when she felt a hand at her leg. "Wait." She felt a kind of electricity, and stayed where she was.

"Here," Rachel was leaning into the backseat, and pulled out a gift bag.

Santana arched an eyebrow, "Berry…"

"Just open it."

She did. And she laughed. The first thing she pulled out was Febreze.

"You know, for your extra-curricular activities," the way Rachel whispered that was like she was about to have the cops on her tail. "Something else," she motioned to the bag.

Santana dug, and found a leather bracelet – somewhat butch, very much her personal style. As she put it on, she bit her lip. "Why?"

"Just because," Rachel answered softly.

"You can't buy my friendship," Santana teased her, but the smile was genuine and she hoped Rachel knew that.

"See you soon?"

"Don't you hope." Santana hesitated, still not wanting to get out of the car. "Come over tomorrow," she granted, pretending to be very begrudging but in reality, she wanted Rachel to say yes. The brunette beside her nodded happily and Santana got out of the car before she started acting like a big softie.

Though she was disappointed to see Rachel drive away, part of her didn't feel so alone as she rubbed the leather bracelet on her wrist, wondering idly if Rachel would cherish the moose Santana had won for her.