Rating: T (for language)
POV: Santana and Brittany, alternating
Word Count: ~7,700
Summary: On Christmas Eve, Brittany gives Santana a special gift to commemorate their first Christmas together as a couple.
Notes: Written for the Brittana U Christmas Project, with the prompt “Brittana get a Christmas ornament together.”
The nine o’clock vigil Mass is packed full of people; there is hardly room to stand. All the people are dressed in their Christmas best—all the little girls in pea coats, all the little boys in red and green sweaters—and their voices ring powerfully throughout the church as they sing the Christmas hymns. Santana sits between her parents and sings along, her pretty voice rising to meet the music. Her mother smiles over at her.
Everything seems so bright this year. The flames on the Advent wreath burn proudly; the poinsettias paint the altar a deep red. The Gospel story of Christ’s birth, so anchoring and familiar, swathes her like a favorite blanket.
She remembers Christmas Eve Mass last year. Her abuela sat next to her—Santana swears she can still smell her perfume if she closes her eyes—and at the Sign of Peace, her abuela hugged her close and whispered, “May you have peace in your life, Santanita.” Santana remembers how a hollow feeling overtook her stomach when she heard those words; she remembers how, after Communion, she stared up at the lifesize Crucifix that hung above the altar and almost cried when she realized that the only thing she needed from her Savior was neither forgiveness nor redemption, but something He couldn’t give her.
It was something she needed to give herself.
During the homily, the priest elaborates on the story of the shepherds—how frightened they must have felt when they saw the Star and realized they needed to follow it; how much trust they had to place in the promise of their salvation; how humbled they must have been when they knelt by the manger.
“But most of all,” the priest says, “think of their hope. Think of their happiness. Imagine their joy. On this holiest of nights, let us be like the shepherds—thinking not of our own fear and despair, but of our hope. What hope has Christ given us this year?”
She thinks about what she’ll be doing after Mass this year. How her dad will drive them home, and how she’ll feel choked up when it hits her, for the hundredth time, that her parents know and that they love her; how she’ll grab her car keys off the kitchen counter and her mom will kiss her on the cheek and tell her to “have fun, but be careful on these roads”; how she’ll drive over to Brittany’s house, and Brittany will pull her into a hug and kiss her and say “Merry Christmas, San.”
She follows her mother into the Communion line, and when it’s her turn, she receives the Eucharist with an “Amen” and more faith than she’s had in years.
Back in the pew, she kneels next to her mother and father while the rest of the congregation passes through the Communion line. The church musicians sing “O Holy Night,” and she hears both of her parents sing it quietly under their breath as they pray.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
And she understands now. She understands why people fall to their knees to worship, and how it helps them show Adoration, and how the action makes them vulnerable, and how it necessitates that they trust the object of their worship—and she understands why she falls to her knees to worship Brittany, and how it feels so right because she truly Adores her—and she understands that all those times she fell to her knees for people other than Brittany were so wrong, and so shameful in their imitation of true worship.
She folds her hands together and bows her head to pray. Thank You for Brittany. Thank You for all the happiness in my life. Thank You for my family. Please bless my abuelita. Please bless all my friends and their families. Please give me courage. Please don’t hate me. Please don’t think I’m bad. Thank You for everything You’ve given me this year.
When the Mass ends, the musicians play “Joy to the World” for the recessional hymn. The song buzzes throughout her body and pours forth from her mouth. She sings loudly and clearly, professing as best as she can, and then follows her parents out to the parking lot.
When Santana opens the passenger side door, she looks a little bit like she thinks she dreamed Brittany into being here, like she can’t believe she’s found Brittany waiting in her church parking lot in a warm car with two holiday cocoas sitting in the cup holders on the center console, steaming and ready to drink. The sharp, clean smell of peppermint—Santana’s order—and the hot, lively smell of cinnamon—Brittany’s order—mingle with the sterile scent of winter cold before a snowfall where Santana holds the door ajar.
“BrittBritt?” Santana says in a small voice. She wears her nice dress coat and a pretty scarf, with her hair half up in ringlets. It isn’t snowing yet, but the clouds in the sky hang low, a heavy quilt of unmoving gray. Santana keeps her hands jammed in her pockets; she doesn’t have gloves on.
“Get in, lovergirl! We’re going shopping!” Brittany says.
“Shopping?” Santana returns, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth, lined with a dark, somber shade of lipstick that would make Santana look sad if Brittany couldn’t see the happiness in Santana’s eyes, canceling out the effect.
“Not really,” Brittany shrugs. “But that’s what they say in the movie. I’m gonna take you back to my house. I brought you cocoa. You should get in and quit letting all the warm air out.”
“Okay,” says Santana, a real smile blooming on her face. She braces one hand against the car seat back and one against the door and lifts herself up into the car; Brittany can see now that Santana’s wearing heels. She spies the collar of Santana’s pretty dress poking out from underneath her scarf. Santana meets Brittany’s eyes. “What?” she says shyly.
“You’re perfect,” Brittany says, reaching for the peppermint cocoa in the console; she hands it over to Santana. A blush of cold has settled into the tips of Santana’s ears and the rounds of her cheeks. Even though it isn’t snowing just yet, water droplets cling to the dark wool on Santana’s coat. Santana peels open the lid on her cocoa cup and watches curlicues of steam escape from the cup into the car cabin. “Don’t burn your tongue,” Brittany warns.
“Can we―?” Santana says.
“Already on it,” Brittany nods, turning the key in the ignition so that the car fully starts again, flicking the windshield wipers on for a second until the condensation clears from the windows enough for Brittany to see in front of her. Brittany lazily checks her mirrors, then circles over to where Santana’s parents stand, arms linked, chatting with some other parishioners beside their cars.
Santana presses a button on the door and rolls down her window, leaning her head out to get her parents’ attention. Once she has it, she says, “I’m gonna go with Brittany, okay?”
“All right,” says her mother, waving at Brittany from around Santana’s shoulder. “Drive safely, girls. Be good.” She gives them a tight smile.
Santana’s father pulls away from his conversation and saunters over to the side of Brittany’s car. He raps on the passenger side doorframe with his knuckles. “You have snow tires on this thing, Brittany?”
“Yes, sir,” Brittany says, feeling a little thrill, though she can’t exactly say why. Her eyes meet Santana’s and Santana looks somehow embarrassed, breathless, grateful, and giddy all at once.
Santana’s father checks in through the window. “You’re both wearing seatbelts?”
“Always,” Santana and Brittany say in unison.
“You obey traffic laws, Brittany?”
“Dad!” Santana says sharply.
Santana’s father laughs, his voice hearty and full. He gives the doorframe another rap. “Well, okay. Can’t be too careful with precious cargo, though,” he says, tugging at the sleeve on Santana’s coat through the open window.
“No you can’t,” says Brittany seriously and she and Santana’s father share a look. Somehow, it feels like he’s really seeing Brittany for the very first time. Over his shoulder, Santana’s mother shuffles her feet, trying to stay warm, and the couple to whom Dr. and Mrs. Lopez were speaking stand, blank faced, not understanding the significance of the moment.
“You’re gonna let all the cold air in here,” Santana mutters, pointedly trying not to look at her father. She leans back against her headrest, staring at the ceiling, clutching her hot cocoa in lap, feigning annoyance. Brittany knows better, though; there’s a tightness in Santana’s voice.
“Goodnight, girls!” Santana’s mother calls again.
“Goodnight, Mom,” Santana says. “Goodnight, Dad.”
“Goodbye, Santana,” her father says. He nods, “Brittany.” As he peels away from where he rested on the car, Santana rolls the window up; it goes slowly, sluggish with condensation. Santana wears a thoughtful look on her face. Brittany has never loved Santana’s parents more than she does right now.
“Merry Christmas, San,” she says.
Santana smiles and takes a sip of her cocoa, covering up the fact that she’s too choked up to speak just yet. After she swallows, she returns, “Merry Christmas, Britt.” There’s a light in Santana’s face that never shined there last year; it’s been getting brighter and brighter lately.
Brittany grins and suddenly remembers why she couldn’t just wait for Santana to come over to her house after Mass, but had to pick her up instead. Something big and warm and deep tugs at her heart. “I have a surprise for you,” she singsongs, a hint of mischief in her voice as she maneuvers the car around an island of snow in the middle of the parking lot and steers towards the main street, reaching over to the console for her cinnamon cocoa. Santana sees what Brittany’s doing and peels the tab on the cocoa lid back for Brittany, handing the cup over to her so that Brittany can keep her eyes on the road; she did promise they’d drive safely, after all. “Thanks.” Brittany accepts the cup and takes a noisy sip from her drink.
“A surprise?” Santana says, checking Brittany’s eyes in the rearview mirror.
“Yup. I’ll give it to you at home.”
“Okay,” says Santana, trusting. She reaches across the console, fingers open, and Brittany takes her offered hand.
Even though Santana’s skin still feels cold from standing outside, Brittany can’t help but smile. “You’re gonna love it,” she says conspiratorially.
“You are the worst at keeping secrets.”
“Don’t be a brat! I haven’t told you anything.”
“No way! For all you know, it’s like a lemur or a toboggan or something.”
They both laugh and Santana gives Brittany’s fingers a squeeze just as the first snowflakes pirouette onto the windshield, the road hazy in front of them, the air illuminated by the car lights, a shimmer and thick orange blur.
When they pull up to Brittany’s house, all illuminated with colorful lights, Santana rests her cheek against the glass of the window and takes it all in. Her eyes rake all over the house, from the wreath on the door to the candles in the windows, and she wonders if Brittany will decorate her house like this when they’re grown.
“What are you looking at?” Brittany asks.
“Your house. It’s so pretty. It makes me so happy.”
Brittany bites her lip as a grin spreads across her face. “Okay, I can’t wait any longer, I just have to give this to you.”
“Wait, you brought it with you? I thought you said I couldn’t have it until we got home.”
“Well… I wanted it to spend some time with us.”
“Oh my god. Please do not tell me you got me some sort of creepy little pet. Were you serious about the lemur?”
“What? Why would I do that?”
“Really, Britt? Remember my fourteenth birthday? Remember the ferrets?”
Brittany grins. “I thought you’d forgotten about that.”
“In a million years, I don’t think I’ll ever forget about that.”
“Those ferrets were delightful,” Brittany says decisively. “You just misunderstood them. But no, this isn’t a ferret. Or a lemur. It’s way better.”
She reaches behind her seat and retrieves a small box. It looks like it could hold a coffee mug or a giant fancy cupcake, and Santana studies it curiously.
“Um.” Brittany pauses and stares down at the box. Santana realizes that Brittany’s shy all of a sudden, which almost never happens, and her curiosity peaks.
“Okay, so…,” Brittany looks nervously at her. “I know we did gifts yesterday, but I really wanted to get this for you and save it for tonight. I feel like I have to explain it first, though.”
Santana encourages her with an “Okay” and an interlacing of their fingers.
“These are really special in my family,” Brittany says. “My mom still loves the one my dad got her when they first started dating, and I want us to have something like that.”
Santana nods, completely confused and eager to understand.
Brittany places a hand over the top of the box. “I just… well, why don’t you open it.”
She hands the box over, and Santana holds it in her lap, wondering what kind of special gift has Brittany acting so tongue-tied. With a quick glance at Brittany, who smiles and nods, Santana opens the box and peers down at a circular glass ball. It’s a Christmas tree ornament. She tugs it gently from the box and examines it in the dim light raining down from Brittany’s house.
It’s lightweight, and delicate, and a beautiful dark blue color. There’s a carefully drawn heart in the center of it, and inside the heart, in silver calligraphy, are the words Our First Christmas, and below that, in smaller writing, 2011.
“Do you like it?” Brittany asks in a nervous voice.
Santana can’t speak. She reads the words on the ornament again. Our First Christmas. 2011. She traces her thumb over the ornament and something big lodges itself in her heart.
“San?” Brittany prods in a small voice. “Are you okay?”
Santana opens her mouth to respond, but she has no words prepared. She closes her mouth, then opens it again almost instantly, and words tumble out from the big thing lodged in her chest.
“I love it,” she whispers, and she realizes she’s nearly choking on her breaths.
Brittany exhales and lights up all over. “Good. I thought you would. I know I’m, like, assuming a lot of stuff by giving you this, but….”
She trails off and shrugs her shoulders. Santana looks up at her, hopeful, and prompts, “But what, BrittBritt?”
Brittany licks her lips while she contemplates her answer. Santana’s heart races like a hummingbird; she holds the ornament in her lap and waits breathlessly.
“You and I found the perfect tree for my family this year,” Brittany says. “And—I want us to find the perfect tree for our family every year. And then hang this on it. You know?”
Santana breathes deep and realizes her cheeks are aflame with heat. She still can’t articulate anything she’s feeling—how can she explain Absolutely 100 percent yes Everything makes sense I think I understand where my life is going I think I understand how Christmas is always going to feel I am so in love with you and I always want to be in love with you.
“Yeah,” she says, making shy eye contact with Brittany. “Yeah. I know.”
Brittany smiles tenderly at her and raises a hand to her cheek. “You okay, baby? Your face is really hot.”
“I’m just overheating in this coat, I think,” Santana manages.
“Let’s go in,” Brittany says. She grabs their empty hot cocoa cups and opens the car door, and Santana snaps to life with the sudden incoming cold air.
They slam the car doors shut and walk toward the garage, and as light, gentle snowflakes drift down on them, Santana halts.
Brittany sets the cocoa cups down on the driveway and walks toward Santana. Santana rests the ornament between their bodies and says, “I want the house to look like this.”
“I want the house to look like this,” Santana repeats. “We’ll get the tree—and we’ll hang the ornament on the tree—and I want the house to look like this. Not the boring white lights like my family does. The colorful, happy ones like your family does.”
Brittany looks at her with wonder in her eyes; she brings her hand up to tug gently on a lock of Santana’s hair, and smiles break out on both of their faces. Little snowflakes settle in Brittany’s hair and Santana reaches up to pat them away.
Brittany takes the ornament from Santana’s hands, smiles briefly at it, and sets it gently on the ground. She pulls on Santana’s hands to bring their bodies closer together, and they beam at each other as mutual understanding passes between them. Santana looks at Brittany’s bright eyes, pink cheeks, and pretty lips, and feels a great well of hope deep inside her chest.
She tilts her face just enough to kiss Brittany delicately. Brittany kisses her back, just as lightly. The snow trickles down on them and Santana looks intently at Brittany, knowing that adoration is shining forth out of her eyes, and whispers, “I love you.”
Brittany’s skin still feels tight from the cold, even after she and Santana tromp into the mud room and shuck away their extra layers, hanging their coats in the closet and leaving their wet shoes by the garage door―Brittany stuffs her fuzzy deerstalker hat into the pocket of her coat―before heading to the laundry room to scrounge up warm inside clothes. Brittany knows Santana can’t stay the night, so instead of digging fresh pajamas out of her laundry basket like she normally would, she collects two sweatshirts and extends them both to Santana, offering her the first choice.
Santana sets the ornament atop of the washing machine with a ting, checking her options. Brittany holds a gray dance school sweatshirt in her left hand and a red and black Cheerios sweatshirt in her right. Santana’s eyes pass over Brittany’s last name, printed in all caps on the back of the Cheerios sweatshirt; she pauses, her expression turning deep, hopeful, and almost thirsty.
Brittany recognizes the look as the one Santana used to wear on summer nights when she and Brittany would catch fireflies in empty pickle jars and at the top of rollercoaster hills just before the drop when they were kids. It’s the same look Santana wears now whenever she surprises herself by doing something she didn’t think she would ever be brave enough to do―like standing up to Coach Sylvester during Cheerios practice or holding Brittany’s hand in front of everyone.
It’s her wishing look.
Brittany feels something bloom, flowerlike, inside her chest.
“That one,” Santana says, tapping Brittany’s right wrist. She sneaks a shy glance at Brittany and Brittany’s heart beats so hard and fast and sweet that it warms her all the way through. She thinks God, San, will you―? and ducks forward, giving the sweatshirt over to Santana along with a poorly-aimed kiss, her lips smacking just below Santana’s temple. She feels heat in Santana’s skin that wasn’t there a second ago.
“Okay,” says Brittany, grinning.
“Okay,” says Santana, grinning back.
Something electric passes between them. They are such dopes sometimes.
Brittany steadies herself against the washer and hums, lovedrunk and happy. They both pull their sweatshirts on over their other clothes, the skirt on Santana’s dark dress poking out from under the jumper, her makeup and hair still done up doll-pretty and perfect. Santana shrugs her shoulders once she has her sweatshirt on, like she’s testing it out. It hangs loosely on her, just a little bit too long in the sleeves. She burrows her hands into the front pocket pouch.
“Wanna go put this on the tree, mouse?” Brittany says, plucking up the ornament from where Santana set it on the washing machine.
Santana scrunches up her nose. “Mouse?” she says, smiling, and Brittany melts.
(Santana is basically the single most adorable thing in the world, like, all the time.)
“Yeah. Sometimes you just remind me of like a little mouse or something,” Brittany shrugs. “Like a really super cute mouse.”
Santana just laughs and reaches for Brittany’s free hand, allowing Brittany to lead her out of the laundry room, through the kitchen, and into the living room, where they find the tree waiting for them, already illuminated against the darkness pouring in through the window. It casts latticework light and shadow across the carpet, fanning out from the corner, and makes everything seem cozy and mottled. Even though Brittany knows her parents and Rory and Ashley are just upstairs, she feels like she and Santana are the only ones at home.
“Okay. Pick a spot,” Brittany says, passing the ornament over to Santana, giving her hand a squeeze. Santana lingers by Brittany’s side, examining the tree. She sends Brittany another shy look―May I please?―and Brittany nods, encouraging her. No one at school would ever believe Brittany if she told them how awkwardly, wonderfully, adorably bashful Santana Lopez can be sometimes; secretly, it’s one of Brittany’s favorite things. Brittany gives Santana a quick peck on the cheek and pats Santana’s butt, pushing her in the direction of the tree. “Go on, Pierce,” she says, reading her own name off the back of Santana’s sweatshirt.
For a second, Brittany worries that she may have embarrassed Santana, but then Santana grins, her smile brighter than Christmas. Even though Santana likes to pretend she doesn’t blush, Brittany spots pink rising to her cheeks and ears; Santana flushes, looking goofier and happier than Brittany’s ever seen her look before. Brittany flushes, too.
The name hangs between them, and―
Whereas Santana’s mother keeps their tree decked in designer ornaments, both uniform and monochrome, Brittany’s family makes a mess of their tree, draping it with nibbled popcorn streamers; mismatched, rainbow twinkle lights; kindergarten crafts; and heirloom Christmas balls painted in peeling, metallic jewel tones. Every year, Brittany’s parents allow Brittany and Ashley to pick out an ornament a piece to add to the hodgepodge. It may not look chic, but Brittany’s mom calls it a “memory tree.”
Santana approaches the tree now with the utmost reverence, carefully hooking the ornament onto a high branch, right at Brittany’s eye level. Brittany’s mom and dad’s “Just Married 1989” ornament hangs just a few boughs above it, and Ashley’s “Baby’s First Christmas 2003” ornament sways softly beside it, disturbed by Santana’s hand, reflecting LED color against the dimness of the room.
Brittany and Santana admire their work―not just the ornament, but everything they’ve done this year―and Brittany feels her heart swell in her chest. Last Christmas, with all its long looks and weirdness, seems a million miles away now, but next Christmas and the next Christmas after that and the dozens of Christmases after that seem wonderfully close and so, so real, all of a sudden.
“Merry Christmas, San,” Brittany says.
“Britty?” whispers Santana, turning into Brittany’s arms. She wraps one arm over Brittany’s shoulder and sets the fingertips on her other hand gently against Brittany’s jaw, holding her breath.
At Santana’s touch, Brittany feels her whole self come alive. She links her hands behind the small of Santana’s back. Santana rolls forward onto her tiptoes and, the next thing Brittany knows, they’re kissing, Santana’s breath still clean with peppermint, her lips butterfly soft against Brittany’s own.
“Thank you,” Santana whispers, nudging their foreheads together before leaning in for a deeper kiss. Brittany can feel Santana’s lipstick smearing on her skin. They kiss again and again and again, nodding into the motion. Brittany’s mind goes blank, but her heart goes full with Oh god, I love her and This forever, please? and Merry Christmas and Let’s just stay here and So much,until she can’t help but sigh into Santana’s mouth.
But then, for the first time all night, Brittany remembers how her family will leave for Santa Fe soon. She doesn’t want to go; she just wants to stay curled up in Santana, cocooned in her warmth, kissing her like this forever, their mouths getting sloppier and sloppier, as they stand bathed in the light of the Christmas tree. Santana must feel something in Brittany shift, because she pulls away with a light gasp. “BrittBritt?” she says, searching Brittany’s face.
Brittany doesn’t want to wreck the moment, so she rests her forehead against Santana’s. “I want to show you something,” she says, kissing the corner of Santana’s mouth. She tugs at Santana’s waist, then reaches for Santana’s wrist, guiding Santana closer to the tree. As Brittany stoops down, dropping into a crouching position, Santana follows her, sliding her fingers into Brittany’s.
They lie down, side by side, heads resting on the red, felt rug circling the trunk of the tree, legs facing out into the living room. Immediately, the proud, green smell of pine and resin surrounds them. Brittany feels needles rake into her hair. She sighs and so does Santana. “Look,” Brittany says, nodding up at the lights.
Santana follows Brittany’s eyes, peering up through the branches overhead. Brittany has always loved lying under the Christmas tree and watching the twinkle lights; it feels like stargazing, only indoors. She curls her fingers tighter over Santana’s knuckles and searches out their ornament, hanging a ways above them, half-obscured by the lower branches.
“It’s beautiful,” Santana says. Then, “You’re beautiful.”
Brittany feels her ears go pink. She will never, ever get over that―even if Santana calls her beautiful every day for the rest of their lives, it will always, always thrill her. She looks over at Santana, grinning.
“You’ve got my lipstick all over your face, though,” Santana says smugly.
“Yeah? How’s it look?”
Santana snickers. “Awesome.”
Brittany pumps her free fist against the air, careful not to hit the tree. “Yeah!” she says in what she hopes sounds like a thug voice.
“I’m glad it wasn’t a lemur.”
“When you first told me about the surprise, you said it could be a lemur. I like this way better,” Santana shrugs.
“What? Wait, you are!”
They both laugh and lapse into a happy silence, their shoulders and sides pressed close together, their hands twined beside them, their breathing in sync. Santana looks so beautiful, her hair falling in clever curls around her ears and jaw; Brittany’s chest feels tight, just looking at her. She doesn’t want to leave Santana ever, not even for a few days.
The ornaments above their heads tell stories, and Santana wishes she could know all of them. She wants to know if Brittany has a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament up there, like Ashley does, and she wants to know what Brittany’s first Christmas was like. She wants to know which ornaments Mr. Pierce gave to Mrs. Pierce over the years and if every Christmas was as special as their first one. She wants to know which of those elementary-school projects dangling from the branches—all popsicle sticks and toothpicks and fuzzy felt balls—were made by Brittany, and when, and she wonders how excited Brittany was when she gave them to her parents to display on the tree.
“Did you guys put a star up there, Britt?”
“Mm?” Brittany opens sleepy eyes and looks over at her.
“Is there a star on top of the tree? I didn’t get a good look.”
“There should be. We put one up every year.”
Santana raises herself off the ground and crawls out from under the tree. She peers up at the tree and, sure enough, spots a star resting on its peak.
“Yeah, I see it,” she says.
“Good. Now stop being random and come lie down with me again.”
Santana laughs and crawls back over to Brittany. “Somebody’s bossy,” she teases, hovering over Brittany’s face.
Brittany pulls on the strings that hang down from Santana’s sweatshirt. “Only when I want my little mouse to come cuddle.”
Santana laughs through her nose and ducks her head to kiss Brittany. “How did I get such a goofy girlfriend?”
Brittany grins. “Fate, I guess.” She sweeps Santana’s hair back from her eyes. “Why did you want to see the star so badly?”
“I don’t know,” Santana shrugs. “I guess because I was thinking about the Nativity story and everything. The Star of David leading the shepherds to Jesus and all that.”
Brittany blinks at her, waiting for further explanation.
Santana shrugs a second time. “Mass put me in a thoughtful mood.”
“Yeah. In a good way. It felt meaningful again.”
Brittany nods. “I’m glad.”
Santana smiles and lies down again, curling her body around Brittany’s. She drapes her arm across Brittany’s stomach and rubs her thumb over Brittany’s side. Brittany wraps an arm around her shoulder, squeezes her tight, and kisses her forehead.
They doze for a few minutes. Santana breathes in the laundry detergent scent on Brittany’s sweatshirt and thinks about how the shepherds must have felt when their weary eyes saw the star. She wonders if they felt as hopeful and joyful as she does right now, lying under a Christmas tree with her girlfriend.
She hears footsteps all of a sudden, and then a voice breaks the quietness. “Girls,” Mrs. Pierce calls softly. “What are you doing?”
Santana instinctively freezes. Brittany simply raises her head a little bit and says, “Hey, Mom. We’re enjoying the tree. It’s like stargazing if you see it from this angle.”
From the unfazed tone of Brittany’s voice, it almost feels like Brittany’s mom walked in on them sitting at the kitchen table doing homework, rather than lying wrapped up in each other’s arms underneath a Christmas tree.
Mrs. Pierce walks closer to the tree and looks down at them. Santana still doesn’t move; she holds her muscles tight and waits to see how Brittany’s mom will react.
“Looks like fun,” Mrs. Pierce says. “It’s getting late, though. How is Santa Claus supposed to come if you’re not in bed?”
“Mom,” Brittany whines. “Come on. I’m not Ashley.”
“No, you’re not, but I know Ashley would like for Santa Claus to bring her some presents tonight,” Mrs. Pierce says pointedly.
Brittany rolls her eyes and releases her hold on Santana. Santana detangles herself and rolls off of Brittany, careful to avoid eye contact with Mrs. Pierce.
Brittany shimmies out from the under the tree and claps pine needles off her hands. “Ashley’s ruining my romantic moments even when she’s not in the room,” she complains.
Mrs. Pierce laughs. “You can see Santana tomorrow, honey.”
“Tomorrow is way too far away.”
“Impatient as ever,” Mrs. Pierce says, shaking her head. “She used to be even worse than this when she was little, Santana, if you can imagine. You should have seen her as a kid on Christmas Eve. Sometimes we couldn’t get her to bed until three in the morning. Can you believe that?”
Santana laughs, grateful for the conversation, and glances affectionately at Brittany. “Somehow, I can,” she replies.
Brittany shoots her a false glare. “Seriously, San?”
Santana holds up her hands. “I’m just sayin’… you nearly threw a tantrum when our plane had that long delay on the way to Nationals.”
“Because I was excited and just wanted to get there.”
“Mmhmm,” says Mrs. Pierce, and she exchanges an amused look with Santana. “Well, you girls get moving. Christmas is always a busy day—you don’t want to be tired. Did you drive yourself over, Santana?”
“No, Britt picked me up.”
“That’s right, I forgot. Okay, be careful driving her home, Brittany. Seatbelts. Speed limit. And don’t hang around for too long—you need to get to bed.”
“Got it, Mom.”
Mrs. Pierce kisses Brittany’s forehead. “Merry Christmas,” she says. She turns to Santana and kisses her forehead, too. “Merry Christmas, Santana.”
“Merry Christmas, Mrs. Pierce.”
“Oh! I almost forgot to ask you,” Mrs. Pierce says, resting a hand on Santana’s shoulder. “How did you like the ornament?”
Santana glances at Brittany, then grins shyly at Mrs. Pierce. “I loved it.”
“Yeah?” Mrs. Pierce asks happily.
“Yeah. It’s perfect.”
Mrs. Pierce grins big, just like Brittany so often does. “I’m so glad.”
“We hung it on the tree,” Brittany offers. She doubles back and gestures toward the ornament.
Mrs. Pierce squints at the spot Brittany indicates. “Aw, it looks great!” she says. She smiles at it with a far-off look in her eyes. Then she smiles at both girls and says, “Okay, well I’ve got to take care of some Santa duties. You two get going.”
“We will. ‘Night, Mom.”
“’Night, Mrs. Pierce.”
By the time they get back to Santana’s house, Santana’s parents have gone to bed and everything is quiet. Santana and Brittany come in through the back door to the kitchen and Santana hangs her coat on its hook, but Brittany keeps her coat on as a reminder that she’s not supposed to stay here long; she thinks she’ll need the reminder, like a string tied around her pointer finger, to keep her from spending the night.
Somehow being the only two cold things coming into a warm house makes Santana and Brittany shiver even worse than they shivered outside. Santana leads Brittany by the hand through the darkness of her kitchen, their fingers messily laced together, hissing “Shit, shit, shit, shit” as they tiptoe across the frigid tile floor in stocking feet. They pause in front of the microwave.
“Do you want some hot chocolate, Britty?” Santana whispers, her eyes so dark they look black and deep against the faint green light coming from the microwave clock. Even though she whispers, she sounds a little breathless.
“If I drink more hot chocolate now, I’ll have to pee like nineteen times tonight and Mom and Dad’ll get mad at me for being out of bed. They’ll think I’m trying to peek at the presents or something, which is lame, because if I wanted to do that, I’d just, like, attach a spy camera to Lord Tubbington or something. Duh,” Brittany says.
The way Santana looks at Brittany then—like Brittany is the best, prettiest, funniest, smartest person in the world—makes Brittany feel warm all the way through. Brittany’s heart speeds up. Briefly, Brittany wonders if it’s normal that Santana still has this effect on her, even though they’ve basically loved each other for forever and been dating for a long time now. Not long enough, she supposes; never long enough.
“Okay,” says Santana, and she sounds tender, even through her whisper. She gives Brittany’s fingers a squeeze and leads her out of the kitchen and upstairs. They both walk lightly, years of dance and Cheerios training having taught them to balance their weight and move gracefully, even in the dark.
Once they’re in Santana’s room, she flicks on the lamp next to her bed. Even with the light on, everything still feels dark because Santana’s wallpaper and decor are all black, so it always seems like nighttime in here, even during the afternoon. Some people don’t like how dark it is—Quinn says that Santana’s room is like a tomb or a dungeon or a lair or someplace creepy like that—but Brittany likes it.
It reminds Brittany of when her family toured a cave on their vacation to South Dakota and the guide turned off all the lights in one of the big, back chambers; he called it total darkness and told the group that if they stayed in total darkness for a month, they would go blind forever afterwards. That freaked Ashley out so much she started crying until their dad picked Ashley up to hold her—she was only six—and she quieted.
The guide told everyone to hold their hands in front of their faces, so Brittany did, and even though her hand was super close to her face, she couldn’t see it at all. Even though Brittany couldn’t see, the darkness felt peaceful to her, like something wrapping her in an all-over hug, which is definitely how Brittany feels when she and Santana lie, legs tangled, in the dark satin of Santana’s bed sheets, bodies molded to each other, breathing on a cycle.
Santana finds the remote to her iPod dock and clicks it; the rich coffee voice of Nina Simone starts to sing on low volume from her speakers. Brittany grins and Santana blushes. “So I’ve kind of just been listening to this on repeat,” she says. Brittany is pretty sure that Santana is the sweetest girlfriend on the face of the planet, or maybe just the sweetest person, in general.
Brittany starts to dance a little where she stands while Santana putters around the room, putting her shoes back in her closet and taking out her earrings, depositing them into one of the little lacquered jewelry boxes she keeps on top of her dresser. Brittany gets lost in the music for a second, and when she looks back up, she finds Santana staring at her. Brittany smiles then and so does Santana, maybe because Santana likes it when Brittany dances, or maybe because Santana thinks it’s cute when Brittany goofs off, or maybe just because they love each other and it’s so easy to smile when they’re together.
“I don’t wanna go to Santa Fe,” Brittany blurts out. She puts on a whiny voice, “Can’t I just stay here with you? My family could just send me a postcard or something.”
Santana smiles a sad smile. “But, Britty, they already bought you a plane ticket, baby.” She doesn’t seem convinced herself.
“They could just take Lord Tubbington instead of me.”
“Can you imagine the TSA giving him a full body scan?” Santana laughs, her dimples showing. She makes a kitty ears gesture over her head with her hands. “Meow!”
That makes Brittany laugh, too. “They could bring Rory, though.”
She half expects Santana to imitate Rory’s accent, but Santana doesn’t. She just flounces over to Brittany and wraps her arms around Brittany’s waist, burrowing her face into Brittany’s shoulder. “Or I could just sneak in your suitcase,” she mumbles into the fabric of Brittany’s coat. “I would totally fit.”
They both sigh then. They haven’t actually spent a day apart since they started dating; neither of them wants to start now.
After a long pause, Santana gives another sad chuckle. “God, we’re pathetic,” she says. “We’re like that couple.”
“I think we’re cute.”
“Yeah, we are.” Santana sighs, but doesn’t move away from the embrace. “I should give you your sweatshirt back so you can pack it.”
“No,” Brittany says quickly. “You keep it.” She suddenly feels very, very warm inside her coat and super aware of Santana’s heartbeat and her own heartbeat and the fact that they have their bodies pressed together. Should she say what she’s thinking now? She does. “I like the way it looks on you. I like it a lot.” She means more than she says somehow.
Santana sighs and nuzzles against Brittany. “I like it a lot, too,” she says in her smallest, mousiest voice. “And I like that it smells like you. And I like…,” she trails off, but Brittany’s pretty sure that she knows what Santana means, even if Santana doesn’t finish her sentence.
“Keep it while I’m in Santa Fe,” Brittany says dreamily.
“Roger that,” says Santana, and Brittany knows that she’s smiling, even though she can’t see her face.
After a long while, they pull apart and Santana quickly changes into pajamas—putting the sweatshirt off so she can remove her dress and slip into sweats and a t-shirt, then back on again, this goofy smile on her face the whole time—and then heads into the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth.
Brittany follows her and sits on the counter while Santana applies her face scrub and moisturizer. She watches Santana in the mirror and swings her feet back and forth, careful not to kick the cupboards. They talk about tomorrow and when they can meet up; Santana’s pretty sure that her dad will want to take her family out for some fancy breakfast, like at a hotel restaurant or something, but she promises to head over to Brittany’s house as soon as she can after that.
“Maybe we can go on a walk and just not come back for a really long time so that I like accidentally miss my flight or something,” Brittany says.
“Tell them you’re allergic to Santa Fe,” Santana says around her toothbrush, her words slurry. “Or that you forgot that you have this giant project due for Geography that you need to stay home and finish because it involves, like, visiting different places in Lima.”
“Nice,” Brittany laughs and Santana spits in the sink. She brushes Santana’s hair back over Santana’s shoulder to keep it out of the way and runs her fingers over Santana’s neck.
Santana straightens up. “All right. Tuck me in, Britty?”
“Sure thing, pretty girl,” Brittany smiles, hopping down from the counter to follow Santana into the bedroom.
Tucking Santana in turns into cuddling Santana in bed. They both lie down on Santana’s mattress, Brittany draped half over Santana, and sigh. Brittany wraps an arm under Santana’s and holds Santana to her chest, like a sleeping child would a baby doll. She kisses the back of Santana’s neck again and again and again, and the kisses feel pretty and sweet and just a little bit longing because Brittany still doesn’t want to go; she never does.
Santana sighs. “How did I get such a perfect girlfriend?” she mumbles.
“Fate, I guess,” Brittany smiles, her lips curling as she kisses Santana’s neck again. It’s way hot in her coat, but she doesn’t care.
“You’re my best thing, Brittany,” Santana says quietly. “Can we do this every Christmas?”
And even though they talked about it earlier tonight, Brittany’s stomach still does a somersault at the thought of spending every Christmas from now on with Santana. Brittany wants to say something, to tell Santana how much it means to her that they can make these plans together now, that they can finally talk about everything that’s so big and so right between them, when before they never could. Brittany wants to say how she finally feels like they’re home and mention how every so often she just thinks Thank God because that’s all she ever wanted, really.
It’s all Brittany’s ever wanted at all.
But then Brittany can’t find the words; they feel lodged in her throat. Instead, she just nods against the back of Santana’s neck and kisses her again and again, feeling their heartbeats speed up, pressed so close to one another.
It takes another twenty minutes and probably a hundred kisses before Brittany finally pulls away. Sure enough, her coat acts like the string around her finger, making it too hot for her to fall asleep, pressed up against Santana like this. It forces her out of bed.
“I can’t wait until I never have to say goodbye to you at night,” says Santana, lying on her back, her hands on Brittany’s cheeks as Brittany straddles her, half on the bed and half off it.
“Me, either,” says Brittany, leaning down to give Santana a Sleeping Beauty kiss.
“Mhm,” says Santana as Brittany pulls away and gently tugs the covers over Santana, making sure to cover Santana’s toes so her feet don’t get cold in the night. “Merry Christmas, BrittBritt. I love you.”
“Love you, too, San. See you tomorrow.”
“Yup. Tomorrow. On our first Christmas.”
And as Brittany tiptoes into the hallway, she can’t help but feel this giddy rush of Santana, Santana, Santana. She gets a pretty good idea, then. Instead of heading straight to the car, Brittany stops in the yard, grinning like a dope. It stopped snowing while she was inside with Santana. Now everything looks perfect.
Checking her phone when she first wakes up has become automatic—as routine as rubbing her eyes and stretching. But there’s also nothing routine about it, because on the mornings that she finds a text from Brittany, her heart stretches in brand new ways.
This morning—Christmas morning—she rolls over and lazily grabs her phone off the nightstand. She smiles when she sees the “new message” icon on the screen. For a minute, she holds the phone to her chest like a present she doesn’t want to unwrap. Christmas has only just started, but it’s already amazing. Everything about yesterday was perfect. Everything about everything is perfect.
She opens Brittany’s text message and her stomach does that thing where it shoots light rays all throughout her body. IT’S CHRISTMAS!! Brittany’s text reads. Wake up and look outside at the surprise I left you :-).
Santana hops out of bed and runs to her window. She throws back the curtains and sees a beautiful white blanket of snow covering the ground. Right below her window, the smoothness of the snow breaks, giving way to the shape of a snow angel.
The snow angel is immaculately-shaped and perfectly oriented toward her bedroom. She can imagine Brittany lying down in the snow, giggling to herself in the dark, and spreading her arms and legs wide, opening her body up below Santana’s window.
To the right of the snow angel’s head, indented clearly in the snow, are three written characters: I <3 U.
Santana’s throat feels tight. She closes her eyes and rests her forehead against her cold window, giving herself a moment to fully meet her emotions. It’s Christmas Day and her heart is all joy and thankfulness and wonder and love.
She holds her hands in the front pocket of Brittany’s sweatshirt and just breathes.
When she picks up her phone to text Brittany back, she can’t decide what to say. Thank you? How did I get you? How do I deserve you? How are you real?
She feels choked up when she types out her short reply. You make me so, so happy.
Brittany replies almost immediately. Can’t wait to see you later. Merry Christmas, sweetheart.
It’s too much. She holds the phone in her left hand; she touches the cold window with her right. The tears in her eyes make the snow outside look blurry, but she can still see the outline of the snow angel, speaking to her of her happiness, reminding her that she’s found her way to hope and joy and love.
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