Title: We Count Out Our Lives in Fingerprints
Rating: T (for language)
Summary: Five times Brittany and Santana learn about each other through physical touch.
Word Count: ~6,800
Spoilers: Up to 2x22
Author’s Note: So apparently when I have real life scholarly deadlines to meet for work, I write fanfiction instead. Oops. What follows is unadulterated fluff.
Santana’s family isn’t a hugging family. Brittany’s is.
It’s not like no one ever gives hugs at the Lopez house, of course—they do when they drop Daddy at the airport before he flies out to medical conferences and sometimes when he comes back and they pick him up at the curb and for family pictures when the photographer tells them to scoot up tight against each other and at birthday parties and whenever someone doesn’t feel well and just needs a squeeze to get better.
So they hug… just not all the time. Not often.
Brittany’s family gives hugs all the time, though, even for little things, and sometimes for no reason at all.
Brittany and her sister hug their dad before bed and when they wake up in the morning and he goes to work and when he comes home from work and after dinner and before they brush their teeth at night. They hug their mom when she calls them to the kitchen for lunch—even if she fixes something weird, like tuna fish salad, which Brittany doesn’t like—and when she gives them permission to take the cat outside with them to play in the backyard as long as they keep him on his leash and when she calls them sweethearts and when they pass her on the stairway while she’s walking down and they’re walking up, even if she has a full laundry basket in her arms and they have to hug her knees.
Since Santana’s family isn’t big on hugging, Santana didn’t realize that hugging is something a person can get good at—like drawing or popping wheelies on a bike or multiplication tables—until she met Brittany.
Brittany is way good at hugging.
And why shouldn’t she be? Her family kinda practices hugging all the time.
Brittany knows all about how to give a good hug: how to throw her arms up over Santana’s shoulders, overlapping them behind her neck, and pull Santana in close so that their ribs fit together and Santana can feel Brittany all over her, holding her in like she’s precious, a secret.
Since Brittany knows all about hugs, it sorta makes sense that Brittany would know all about kisses, too.
And Brittany says that this is when they should kiss.
Santana thinks they’re getting too old to play pretend anymore—they’re eleven and they aren’t in middle school this year, but they will be next—but she can’t quite bring herself to stop playing yet because it’s still a lot of fun, even if games like this are for babies, like Brittany’s sister, and not for older kids like them. Besides, Brittany’s yard has a fence, so it’s not like anybody will see them playing anyway. It can’t hurt anything.
Except that now Brittany wants them to kiss.
They spent the last hour or so pretending that Brittany’s swing set was a skyscraper and that some crazy bad guy trapped them inside it on the top floor with a ticking bomb and that they had to get out of the building before the bomb exploded.
(Brittany got the story from a movie her uncle let her watch when she visited him and her older cousins at their cabin.)
About fifteen minutes into the game, Brittany’s little sister fell off the slide and went away crying—even though her knee was just pink, not even bleeding—so it was just Santana and Brittany for most of the time, which was okay by Santana, because things are always more fun when they’re alone together anyway.
And this game was a lot of fun.
Even fun games have to end, though, which is why Santana kinda thought that they would stop playing once she saved Brittany from the bomb, pulling her from the building at the exact moment it blew to smithereens.
But Brittany says no, it isn’t over.
“This is where we kiss.”
As soon as Brittany says it, Santana feels funny, almost wobbly inside. Her heart speeds up. “What?”
Brittany seems very serious. “When I watched the movie, this is where the guy and the girl kissed.”
“But BrittBritt, we’re girls,” Santana reminds her. “If we kissed, it would be weird.”
Brittany shrugs. “It’s only weird if you make it weird.”
“You really want to kiss, Britt? Like on the lips?” Santana asks, squinting in the afternoon sunlight.
Brittany nods. “This is the part where we kiss,” she repeats, searching Santana for something. “Trust me.”
Usually, Santana trusts Brittany a lot. She trusts Brittany to help her catch up with homework whenever she gets strep throat and has to miss school. She trusts Brittany with a key to her house when she goes on vacation with her family so that Brittany can water her mom’s plants and bring in their mail from the box. She trusts Brittany not to tell anyone that thunderstorms scare her so bad that she cries sometimes during the really loud ones, or what her middle name is, even though Brittany says it sounds pretty. She trusts Brittany to always be her best friend forever and to never go away.
But Santana isn’t so sure about this kissing thing.
Santana has never kissed anyone on the lips before and somehow she has it in her head that that’s something only teenagers—like Brittany’s cousins and their boyfriends and girlfriends—and adults—like her mom and dad—do. She would never dream of kissing any of the boys at school. And she hasn’t ever considered kissing Brittany until now.
But Brittany knows all about kissing.
Brittany smiles at Santana, not exactly a happy smile, but an interested one, like she’s just figured something out. Brittany cocks her head to one side and squints against the brightness.
“If I trust you, can you trust me?” she asks.
Santana must stay silent for a bit too long, because the next thing she knows, Brittany turns away from her and starts walking back towards the house. “Come on, San,” she says. She doesn’t sound angry.
But the thing is.
“I’ll kiss you, Britt.”
Santana’s voice sounds hoarse in her own ears. She still feels wobbly inside. But she trusts Brittany. And Brittany says that this is the part where they kiss.
When Brittany turns around, everything about her shines. She grins at Santana, bright as daylight, and looks like she wants to run over and catch Santana up in one of her perfect hugs. She doesn’t, though. For a second, Brittany seems like she’s figured something out again. Still smiling, she bounces over to Santana, practically skipping, stopping just in front of her.
“Okay, I’ll close my eyes,” she whispers, her voice sweet and happy.
Santana knows enough not to close her eyes until she reaches Brittany’s lips, even though she has never done this before.
It isn’t the longest kiss in the world or as flashy as kisses in the movies, but Santana thinks she likes it.
Brittany’s lips shush against hers like a whisper and their noses bump together a little. They don’t touch otherwise. Santana lets her hands hang slack in front of her. Brittany breathes out when she breathes in and Santana can’t quite explain how, but she knows that Brittany is smiling.
Santana smiles, too.
Then, just like that, the kiss is over. Santana and Brittany open their eyes.
“See?” says Brittany, as though that proved something.
“Yeah,” Santana says, breathless.
Brittany knows that Santana doesn’t always say exactly what she means. In fact, sometimes she says the opposite.
Like when Santana’s parents tell her that they plan to stay at work late so she’ll have to make her own dinner, Santana shrugs and doesn’t look up from her homework. She says, “Whatever. I can make macaroni,” but what she really means is that even though she can cook for herself, she wishes that she didn’t have to do it so often and that she hates being alone all the time.
Even though Santana won’t talk about it, Brittany knows that Santana is lonely because on nights when Santana’s parents work late, Santana tends to show up at Brittany’s house just before dinnertime. Santana says, “Hey, Britt. Do you want to hang out?” but what she really means is, “Can I please stay over for dinner?”
It’s started happening more and more often lately.
Brittany’s mom doesn’t mind setting an extra plate for Santana, so it’s fine that Santana eats over with the Pierces a lot. Actually, Brittany’s mom really likes Santana, which is probably why she said okay when Brittany asked her to pack an extra lunch for Santana to take on their field trip to the zoo today. (Santana’s mom forgot to make her anything before she went out of town for her conference. Santana says it’s no big deal, but Brittany knows it is.)
As Brittany’s mom pulls their van into the parking lot to drop Brittany and Santana off for the day, Santana looks at the lumpy, brown sack in her lap and says, “You really didn’t have to do this, Mrs. Pierce,” but what she really means is, “Thank you.” Brittany’s mom must know that, because her face tightens as she peeks at Santana in the rearview mirror. “It’s no problem, Santana. Really,” she says. Santana nods, still looking at her lap.
After Brittany and Santana get out of the van and Brittany’s mom drives away, Santana says, “Your mom is so cool, Britt,” scuffing her shoes along the curb. Brittany knows Santana really means that one, but that she also means something else beyond it, too—something more to do with her own parents.
Brittany senses a sadness starting in Santana, so she stops it before it can settle. Brittany says, “I hope they have otters at the zoo, San.”
Santana smiles, clutching her sack lunch. “Then I hope they have them, too.”
It takes an hour and a half to drive all the way from Lima to the zoo and Brittany is pretty sure that she has never been on a longer bus ride in her life. She and Santana sit in the back of the bus with the other popular kids, but don’t really talk to them. Santana brought her iPod along and she shares her earbuds with Brittany. They listen to music with their heads pushed close together, the y-shaped cord hanging lazily between them.
At first, when they reach the zoo, the whole seventh grade goes in a big group to watch this fancy tropical bird show in the outdoor amphitheater, but after that the teachers turn everyone loose to explore the grounds in pairs. The rules are that they have to stay on the zoo property, always have a buddy, and be back at the buses by no later than four o’clock. They should remember that they are all representatives of MMS, so they need to be on their best behavior and respect the other zoo patrons, the zoo staff, and the animals. Anyone who breaks the rules will have to go see the principal when they get back to the school.
The fun part is that they can eat their lunches whenever they want—though the teachers warn that if they eat too early in the day, they’ll probably get hungry again later on. They have a biology worksheet they need to complete based on some of the exhibits, but no one seems too fussed about it. It will be due on Monday for all four sections, including the honors class. It would be in their best interest to put some effort into the worksheet while they’re still at the zoo, the teachers say.
Brittany and Santana don’t plan to meet up with Noah Puckerman, but somehow they do, and he shows them to a little out-of-the-way picnic pavilion on the far edge of the grounds. Bushes and trees lean over the roof, loudly green against the grayish sky. The teachers say that if it rains everyone should go inside; Brittany wonders if the pavilion counts as “inside” or not.
Once they all sit down, Noah pulls out a pack of American Spirits he stole from his uncle. He lights one up with a red BIC that looks so scuffed and dirty that Brittany knows he must have found it in a parking lot. He says they can all share the one cigarette. Brittany and Santana say that’s cool.
Santana sits above Brittany on one of the aluminum tabletops. She leans down to Brittany. “Little breaths, okay?” Santana whispers, quiet enough that only Brittany can hear her. Brittany nods and nuzzles against Santana’s kneecap, waiting for Santana to take the first drag, which she does, slowly and easily, before passing the smoldering cigarette down to Brittany for a taste. Noah seems to like watching Brittany and Santana smoke, so he doesn’t interrupt them while they’re at it.
“Awesome,” he says, eyes fixing on the pink glossy stains their lips leave behind on the butt.
Santana offers him a smile that he probably thinks is real.
Brittany doesn’t really like smoking and doesn’t do it often, but she doesn’t mind it enough not to do it sometimes. Smoking on a school field trip seems like a pretty badass thing to do, and being badass matters to Santana, so Brittany just follows Santana and Noah’s lead, relaxing as the hot, peppery scent of warm tobacco fills the humid air, content to go along.
“Weren’t you supposed to be buddies with Finn?” Brittany asks Noah, leaning further back onto Santana.
Noah just laughs, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “Finn will be fine,” he says. “There are some things that Finn doesn’t need to know.” He gestures to the cigarette.
“Santana tells me everything,” Brittany says, which is true, whether Santana knows it or not. Noah gets a funny look on his face and Brittany doesn’t like it. The way his eyes shift makes her nervous.
“I bet,” he says.
“My cousin told me that if I licked my elbow, I would turn into a boy, but I tried it and it totally didn’t work, which sucks, because I’ve always wanted to pee standing up,” Brittany says in a rush, changing the momentum of the moment.
Noah chuckles a bit. Santana looks down at Brittany, her eyebrows knit together, but she says nothing. Everyone goes quiet. Success.
They continue smoking for a while before Brittany says, “Want some chips, San?” and Santana nods, so Brittany reaches into her backpack and pulls out the sack lunches.
As soon as Noah sees them, he scoffs. “You brought lunches from home?” There’s a sour note in his voice.
“Yeah.” Brittany doesn’t see what the big deal is.
“Did your mom cut your sandwich into triangles for you?” Noah jeers.
Everything happens quickly after that.
Something shifts and Brittany tenses. She feels Santana stiffen behind her and watches as Santana tosses away the cigarette butt, scattering angry, orange cinders across the concrete floor. Noah has no idea what’s coming, but Brittany does; she flinches. Santana scrambles to her feet, standing on the picnic bench. She starts screaming at Noah in Spanish, gesturing with wild arms for him to get out, leave, now.
What Santana says sounds sharp like knives, but what Santana means is something more like “Ouch.”
“Jesus, fuck!” says Noah. He throws up his hands, surrendering, then snatches up his backpack and the cigarette carton and stomps away, heading back towards the main zoo building down the trail. He doesn’t run, but he does walk purposefully, his pace quicker than usual.
Brittany can feel Santana trembling all over through the aluminum bench. She knows that if she doesn’t do something soon, she’ll lose Santana for the day.
“Come on, San. Grab my backpack,” she says, standing up in front of the table. “Piggyback ride.”
She lifts her arms away from her sides, creating space for Santana to arrange her legs over her hipbones as needed. Brittany waits, allowing Santana a moment to decide if she wants to do this. It takes a while before Santana moves. Brittany can’t see her, but hears Santana pick up the crinkling lunch sacks and jam them into her backpack, then the bench rattle as Santana steps forward, slumping onto Brittany’s back. Weight. Pressure. Santana’s warm arms tight around her neck.
“Am I pulling your hair, Britt?” Santana asks in her ear.
“Nope,” Brittany says. “Let’s go find the otters.”
Santana nods. “Let’s do it.” There’s a smile in her voice.
They spend the next couple hours roaming the grounds, purposefully avoiding their classmates, though neither of them admits to doing it aloud. After lunch, they pull out their worksheets, which involve filling out Punnett squares based on the primary genetic traits of some of the animals and a bunch of fake allele combinations that their science teacher made up. Brittany is good at Punnett squares, so she winds up doing almost the whole assignment for Santana.
“You’re so smart, Britt,” Santana says, watching as Brittany determines whether the jaguar in the rainforest exhibit would be more likely to give birth to black or spotted cubs if it mated with a panther—which is stupid, because the jaguar at this zoo is male, so it can’t give birth to anything anyway.
Brittany feels a low, sweet warmth spread over her. Her ears have probably turned pink. Brittany grins at Santana. She loves it when Santana says exactly what she means.
Secretly, Brittany thinks she might be the only person in the world who knows that Santana acts super cute when she feels really, really happy.
Today, Santana is nothing short of adorable.
Early on in the afternoon, Santana gets into a staring contest with a snow leopard, hunkering down over the guard rail and narrowing her eyes intently. When it looks away from her, Santana cheers and does a cartwheel on the sidewalk. “Yeah, you better blink!” she crows, “Big damn pussy! Ha!”
In the reptile house, she gives all the snakes and lizards dog names. “Look at him,” Santana says, pressing a finger to the glass on the chuckwalla cage. “Spot here totally wants to play fetch. Let’s find a stick.” Her giant smile gives everything away. Brittany smiles, too.
About an hour before they have to leave, Santana buys them a snowcone to share from a cart. It turns their lips a fierce, deep red and freezes their cheeks from the insides. The ice chips cut against their tongues, leaving them raw and strangely numb.
“Did your mom give you money for this?” Brittany slurs, about five bites in.
“So you spent your own money on this?”
“Thank you, San.”
“It was worth it.”
Brittany knows just what she means.
The bus ride back to Lima takes even more time than the bus ride to the zoo did because they get stuck in rush hour traffic on their way out of Toledo. The teachers have to call the school to tell the principal they’ll be late getting back. Brittany and Santana miss the bus home, which means they have to walk. Normally, they wouldn’t mind, but after walking all day at the zoo, their feet feel kinda tired, and Brittany still has dance practice tonight. She groans.
“We could always hitchhike,” Santana says, but what she really means is, “Poor BrittBritt.”
Santana winds up going with Brittany to her dance practice and sits in the corner while Brittany learns new steps for jazz. Every now and again Brittany sees Santana smiling at her in the room-length mirror. Brittany smiles back and her heart skips a beat.
At night, as they fall into bed—Dr. and Mrs. Lopez are in Miami for the weekend, so they arranged for Santana to stay with Brittany until Sunday—Santana sighs and curls up close to Brittany, braiding their legs under the covers. She presses their foreheads together and Brittany feels that same low, sweet heat from the zoo spread all over her. Santana licks her lips and her breathing comes in threads. Her eyes keep darting back and forth, glancing at Brittany and then looking away. She inhales sharply.
“That was fun today,” Santana says, her voice high and flighty.
Brittany knows just what she means.
“Yeah, me, too.”
She kisses Santana on the forehead before they fall to sleep.
“Guess what I’m writing,” Brittany says, but Santana can’t guess, because it just feels like a lot of loops to her.
“I don’t know,” Santana shrugs.
“You’ll mess me up if you do that,” Brittany scolds, pressing down on Santana’s shoulders so that Santana will stay still before adding another loop.
“Sorry,” Santana says, not sure if she is or not.
Brittany ignores Santana acting rude. Instead, she hums a tuneless hum. “Guess again.”
They’re sitting on Santana’s bed, Brittany cross-legged directly behind Santana, both of them in pajama shirts and sweatpants. They have a movie on, but neither of them watches it. Instead, Brittany writes lazy loops on Santana’s back over Santana’s gauzy, cotton sleep shirt with one finger. Santana flips through one of the girlie magazines her mother says she is way too young to read—which is so lame, because Santana is thirteen and definitely old enough to read whatever the hell she wants—and tries hard not to think about how fast her heart beats nowadays whenever Brittany sits close to her like this.
Santana pauses on her page and looks down at her toenails, painted with the very adult mauve polish she stole from the drugstore last weekend when she went with her dad to pick up his new glasses. Brittany drags her index finger over Santana’s spine, continuing her string of loops. Santana inhales and smells the sweet, sleepy scent of bedtime Brittany just behind her. Her breath catches.
“I don’t know, BrittBritt. What?”
“You really don’t know?”
“Oh. I wrote ‘HI SANTANA.’” Brittany sounds honestly disappointed.
Santana sighs and dog ears her magazine before pushing it away. “You can’t do it like that,” Santana tries to explain.
Santana just gestures for Brittany to switch places with her. Brittany trundles half over the top of Santana to the front of the bed and Santana waits for Brittany to settle in, then presses a hand on Brittany’s back, which burns warm like a hot rock beneath her open palm. “Like this,” she says, dragging her finger in a trail of haphazard loops over Brittany’s spine.
“San, you aren’t even writing anything,” Brittany says seriously.
Santana shakes her head. “Sorry.” And this time she kinda is. Still, she has a point to prove; Brittany can’t just expect her to read scribbles.
After a pause, Santana drags a meandering fingertip down from Brittany’s right shoulder blade, snaking it left, then right, then left again, making a point to hold it down once she reaches the dimple above Brittany’s hip bone, just visible through the gap between her t-shirt and low-riding pants.
No sooner does Santana write the letter than Brittany names it aloud.
“That was an easy one, though,” Santana protests. “I’m not done spelling the word,” and so she continues, adding two low loops of her own.
She writes them lowercase and in cursive before adding a question mark with a flourish.
“‘See?’” Brittany says, as though it’s the simplest thing in the world.
Was it really that easy? “Un-freaking-believable!” Santana says. She tries to sound mad, but she knows that Brittany can tell she’s faking. Brittany goes back to humming and taps her fingers on the comforter.
Santana draws out more letters.
“‘NO WAY,’” Brittany reads.
No use pretending anymore. Santana smiles now, genuinely amused. “How do you do that?”
Even though she can’t see Brittany’s face, Santana knows that Brittany’s smiling, too, and not just any smile, but that little feline grin Brittany wears when she knows that she’s one step ahead of someone. Santana continues to write, waiting for Brittany to answer her.
“You just have to listen to how it feels, Santana,” Brittany says gently.
“Listen to how it feels?” Santana parrots back.
“Yeah,” Brittany says. “Listen to yourself. Like, from the inside.”
Santana thinks about what Brittany says. And for a second, Santana really listens, even though Brittany isn’t writing on her now, just to see if she can do it.
At first, all she hears is the movie muttering in the background, set on a low volume, and faraway sounds from outside, like cars passing on the road. And below that? Brittany breathing. And herself breathing. She can’t hear her heartbeat, but in some ways, she can feel it. Fast again. She hovers her finger over Brittany’s shirt before lightly making another character, this one in dual graceful strokes on either side of Brittany’s spine—one, two. Like angel wings.
“I don’t get it, Britt,” she says softly. Something trembles inside of her and she feels the need to stay quiet.
Santana writes another word just below her last character, her finger lingering at the very base of Brittany’s back. She opens her hand and spreads her fingers, resting them on Brittany’s bare skin. Now Brittany’s heart beats fast, too. Santana feels its pace increase beneath her palm.
Brittany stays calm, though. “It’s okay, San. The movie’s almost over anyway. We can just go to sleep.”
Santana knows that they’ve said so before, but this time it’s really true: Today was the worst practice in the history of practices and Coach Sylvester is the biggest bitch in the history of bitches.
Coach has been on the warpath lately. Nothing seems to satisfy her, not even the best.
Brittany is the best.
In fact, that’s just the problem.
Coach commissioned Brittany to choreograph the routine for their upcoming trip to Nationals and told Brittany to make it so damn complicated that no other squad could even come close to doing something like it. So Brittany did as Coach told her, and now the Cheerios have a routine so difficult that only Brittany and two of the seniors who have been in dance since they learned how to walk can keep up with it, and they’ve only got a week to perfect it before everything falls to shit and they lose their competition.
Coach refuses to back down from the routine, of course; she insists that they pick it up or she’ll have them all flayed alive. In the meanwhile, though, Coach just screams at Brittany through her bullhorn, as though Brittany is really the one responsible for making everything impossible. “You’re supposed to be one of my captains!” she screeches before assigning Brittany to run special laps.
Brittany ran no fewer than thirty-five “special” laps today and it was almost thirty-six after one of the JV girls nearly dropped Santana onto the gym floor after a botched throw. (Luckily, Santana has good balance and saved herself from falling; she would have died if Brittany had had to make another run because of her.) Now Brittany can’t even walk straight; she can hardly walk at all, really.
So even though they haven’t hung out much lately, Santana still decided to drive Brittany home after practice and stay at her house to take care of her, because even though Santana felt exhausted, she knew that Brittany felt worse than she did. After baths, menthol ointment rub, and fresh pajamas for both of them, Santana helped Brittany onto her bed before clambering up there after her. Within minutes, both girls fell asleep on top of the duvet, too spent to even turn down the covers.
Five hours later, they awakened in the same positions in which they had fallen asleep, considerably more rested but also hungrier than they had been earlier. It was two in the morning and Brittany’s parents were in bed already. If they wanted food, they would have to fend for themselves.
“I’ll make you something, BrittBritt,” Santana offered, extending a pinky to Brittany before leading her, limping, downstairs to the kitchen.
Now Santana stands over the skillet, shaking the last omelet back and forth to keep it from sticking, the grease-slicked remnants of an empty bacon packet on the counter by her elbow and an open bag of shredded pepper jack cheese propped against Brittany’s mother’s spice rack. The kitchen smells of salt and sweet and every few seconds the hot air over the skillet pops, the omelet crackling as it cooks. Santana knows that Coach wouldn’t approve of this meal, and especially of them eating it so late at night, but after how that psycho bitch treated Brittany today, Santana is in a “fuck Coach” kinda mood. Brittany sits at the table, a messy, half-empty plate in front of her, her face blank and hapless. Santana watches Brittany’s reflection in the dark window over the sink.
“You okay, BrittBritt?”
Santana knows how Brittany gets when she’s tired—she slows down, goes quiet, and her voice gets sweeter, if that’s even possible. Like honey. So Santana just waits while Brittany takes a long while to chew the bite of omelet she already had in her mouth.
When she finally speaks, Brittany ignores Santana’s question. “San,” she says, “it’s like two in the morning, right? We didn’t eat dinner.”
Santana gives the skillet another shake. “We’re eating dinner now, Britt.”
“But this is breakfast,” Brittany mumbles.
“Well, yeah,” says Santana. “I mean, it’s breakfast food, but we’re eating dinner… er, a snack or something.”
“But it’s night,” Brittany reminds her.
“Yeah,” Santana says, not quite sure where this is going. She pulls the skillet from the front burner, pushing it onto the unheated back stove.
“So wait,” Brittany says, sounding sweeter still, but also a little whiny. “I don’t get it. Is this breakfast or is it, like, dinner? Can we do this?” She whimpers and sets her head in her hands, as if her skull has suddenly become too heavy for her neck to support anymore.
“Do what, Britt? Eat breakfast?”
Santana doesn’t even know what they’re talking about anymore. She turns to face Brittany and Brittany stares up at her, bewildered.
“I’m just confused,” Brittany moans, covering her face with her hands again. She runs her fingers roughly through her hair and growls in frustration or exhaustion or something. “We’re eating breakfast, but it’s not breakfast, and it’s dinner, but we didn’t have dinner, and it’s eggs, and I just…,” her sentence trails off. She sounds really, really serious, like she just identified a flaw in the latest plan for world peace.
“Poor Britty…,” says Santana, offering her friend a sympathetic pout. She makes a comforting gesture. Pobrecita. She can’t help it, though; she laughs.
Brittany spares Santana a sheepish look, hiding behind her hands as though her fingers are a mask. “Oh my god,” she groans, embarrassed. “No, wait!” Her shoulders start to quake. Now she’s laughing, too. “I only meant…,” but she never explains what she meant. She starts full-on laughing and Santana does, too.
They probably wouldn’t think this was so funny if they weren’t so tired. But the thing is that they are tired—almost wasted with physical and mental exhaustion—so they do think it’s funny.
They haven’t spent much time together recently, not since Brittany started dating Artie, not since Coach instituted epic practices daily after school, not since they’ve both been too busy to just hang out together like this, and maybe that makes it even funnier, too—the fact that this is such a them moment. That this is just their thing.
Pretty soon, they’re both howling. Santana grabs onto the handle on the oven door and doubles over, clutching her already aching abdominals through her oversized Cheerios shirt. Brittany throws herself over the table, her face buried in her arms, whole body wracking. Soon, their howls devolve into little chokes of laughter punctuated every few seconds by an “Oh god!” or a wearied-sounding “Breakfast…” The fact that they’re losing it like this is almost as funny as what Brittany said in the first place.
But when Brittany looks up at Santana, Santana sees that she’s crying—not just teary from the laughter, but actually weeping, her lips trembling and her face pink. Everything in Santana drops. Nothing seems funny anymore, if it ever did. “Oh, Britty,” she says, this time seriously, rushing over to the table, where she throws her arms around Brittany from behind, draping her body half over the chair. She presses into a deep embrace, her arms linked around Brittany’s neck, her face snuggled into Brittany’s hair. She doesn’t know why Brittany’s crying, but she can guess.
Even though Brittany is the one who did laps, Santana has spent this whole day running—running to catch up from where she’d fallen behind over the last few months, from where she’d let someone else stand in her place. Taking Brittany home, taking care of her, being with her… all of that was running. Without thinking of all the reasons why she shouldn’t do it, Santana starts pressing little kisses into Brittany’s hair.
“Santana,” Brittany says and at first Santana worries that Brittany will throw her out. After all, Brittany has a someone now. Santana really, really shouldn’t.
“Santana, it’s okay,” Brittany says, reaching up to pet the side of Santana’s face. It’s only when Brittany’s hand rests on the back of her head that Santana realizes how fast her heart is beating.
Like she spent all day running.
“It’s okay, I’m not sad,” Brittany says, even though Santana can hear from her voice that she’s still crying. “I’m just really, really tired, San. It’s okay, though.”
It’s almost like Santana has spent so much time running today that she doesn’t know how to stop anymore—like she has too much momentum—so she continues to kiss Brittany with little punctuated kisses that smack when her wet lips pull away from Brittany’s hair.
“Hey,” Brittany says finally, placing her hand on Santana’s arm. “Be still.”
Her last kiss lingers on the back of Brittany’s head. But Santana does stop. She almost pulls away entirely, but Brittany doesn’t let her go. Brittany presses her hands over Santana’s arms, holding her in place, and scoots forward in her chair, silently inviting Santana to slide in behind her. It’s an awkward fit with both of them sandwiched in-between the table and the chair back. Santana molds her legs around Brittany’s torso, her arms still slung over Brittany’s shoulders. It isn’t very comfortable for Santana to sit like this, but then again, it is.
“Just be still,” Brittany repeats. “Just stay here with me.”
“Okay,” Santana says stupidly.
It takes a few minutes before her heartbeat slows down. Before it matches Brittany’s. Santana presses her chin over Brittany’s shoulder and sighs. “Hey, Britt,” she says.
“Hey,” Brittany says. Santana can feel Brittany smiling where they have their cheeks pressed together. She can smell the almost-mint menthol rub on their skin and feel their muscles relaxing into each other. For a long time, they stay quiet, the clock over the trashcan ticking minutes away, the outdoors beyond the sliding glass porch door still and dark and vacant.
“It really is, though, San,” Brittany says finally.
“Hells yeah, it is.”
They both laugh again and snuggle tighter.
Santana has taken to asking Brittany for permission to kiss her.
“Can I kiss you, Britt?” Santana says, balancing unevenly on her tiptoes, hands clasped nervously in front of her, as though Brittany would ever tell her no.
When Brittany nods or says sure, Santana grins—her big, real Santana smile—and leans forward, still on tiptoe, holding her breath like she’s making a wish.
The kisses feel like summertime and rollercoaster drops and heat and dance and just about every good thing Brittany can think of. They feel like coming home to a place Brittany didn’t even realize she had left.
Secretly, Brittany thinks it’s funny that Santana acts so nervous about kissing, considering that, ever since prom, she and Brittany have more-than-kissed actually kinda a lot. They still aren’t together-together, of course, but things are getting better. Santana doesn’t seem quite as scared as she did before, and somehow everything feels brighter, like someone turned a light on above them.
On the airplane ride home from New York, they held hands under a blanket as they fell asleep; they woke up shivering under the open air duct with their fingers intertwined, thirty-thousand feet in the air, the blanket at their feet on the floor.
Santana didn’t even flinch.
She held Brittany’s hand until they touched down on the tarmac in Fort Wayne.
“We’re home, BrittBritt,” she said when they had to stand up to get their carry-on luggage out of the overhead bins.
Brittany felt warm all over. She didn’t have to say anything back.
Brittany knows that Santana thinks that everything went wrong for her this year. She was supposed to be head cheerleader, supposed to become prom queen, supposed be the most popular girl in school, supposed to win it big at Nationals with the glee club in New York.
She was supposed to get her girl.
Nothing really turned out quite like Santana had planned.
Brittany would never wish anything bad on Santana, but since bad things happened to Santana anyway, Brittany chooses to think of them as a chance for Santana to learn something important—like that you can’t plan for everything, and especially not the really important stuff.
That’s what Brittany thinks about as they pull into Santana’s driveway after the last glee club meeting for the year, Santana in the driver’s seat with her shoplifted, oversized sunglasses on, Brittany riding shotgun, her knees folded up against the dash. Brittany hums and thinks about what happened at the lockers today, about how she and Santana walked into the choir room pinky-in-pinky for the first time in forever.
Brittany gets so lost in her thoughts that she doesn’t notice it when Santana pulls her sunglasses off and sets them on the console, unbuckling her seatbelt and shifting where she sits. She doesn’t notice it when Santana’s breath catches. She only turns her head when Santana speaks.
“Can I kiss you, Britt?”
Santana sounds a little breathless, a little tight-throated, and somehow even flightier than usual. And Brittany? She feels something stretch inside her chest. Just the question—just the thought—brings back that low, sweet warmth to her, a little bit different but just enough the same every time she feels it.
Brittany smiles and unbuckles her seatbelt. She turns to Santana, grinning. “Totally,” she says.
Santana grips the edge of her seat and leans forward across the console, barely breathing. She tilts her head just so and touches her lips to Brittany’s and at first it feels like “thank you,” but then it shifts to something sweet and almost familiar, something like a song Brittany thinks she might know.
After just a few seconds, Santana breaks the kiss. She looks at Brittany like she’s just figured something out, their foreheads all but touching; they’re so close.
“Can I tell you something, Britt?”
Her voice is almost a whisper.
This time, Brittany just nods yes, afraid to look away from Santana, even for a second. This feels like something important already.
Santana leans in even closer, so close that when she speaks Brittany feels her breath on her lips.
“I love you.”
And then, another kiss, this one deeper and yet somehow softer than before. She whispers again against Brittany’s lips, “I love you,” and then pulls away, waiting.
Brittany knows that hearts can break with sadness—like her heart broke all the times Santana pretended that what they had together didn’t matter, like Santana’s heart broke when Brittany chose to stay with Artie, like both their hearts broke so many times this year with every little look and glance that meant “I just want you, but…” and all of that—but until now she never knew that hearts can break with happiness, too.
She leans back on her seat and closes her eyes; she wants to memorize this moment, the way it looks, and tastes, and feels: the air conditioning, the sunlight, the print of Santana’s kisses still buzzing on her lips. She almost forgets Santana is waiting for her to say something.
Brittany opens her eyes and grins. She can feel her ears go pink.
“Can I tell you something, San?”
A small, hopeful smile appears at the corners of Santana’s mouth. She nods. “Uh-huh.”
“I love you, too.”
Santana reaches across the console for Brittany’s hand and their fingers slide together. Perfect fit. Brittany grins and Santana follows her lead; they’re both smiling because it’s summer and because they have each other and because, because, because, because—
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