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Hold me without touch, keep me without chains

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Hold me without touch, keep me without chains

Author note: This takes place a few months after "The Quarterback." This story deals with depression, eating disorders, and has triggering material, and as a fair warning up front, it is Brittana most of the way through but there is some Fabrittana eventually. Mostly canon up to Quarterback with a few slight head canons/alterations.

Several times in Brittany's life that a few months I had changed everything. The summer before freshman year she had just been this young girl and then all of a sudden a few months later she was hanging out with the head cheerleader and getting looked at like she was the hottest thing any of the boys have ever seen. She had been best friends with Santana and then all of a sudden a few months later they were doing things to each other that she couldn't describe it because they felt better than she had ever experienced before. But Santana had been hurting, barely able to look at her… and then a few months later they were dating.

A few months ago she was in Lima, she was Sam's girlfriend, she was stuck. Then MIT happened and Santana and she held hands as they walked off the stage together and she broke up with Sam. She did a semester at MIT and while her grades were the highest they ever were, she just couldn't do it. It was too much pressure, too many eyes constantly on her, expecting so much, and she received so little pleasure or satisfaction from it in return. It was nothing like the admiration she received for her dancing, because of the hunger for more, always more, that came with it. It didn't take more than a few more months before she dropped out of MIT, managing instead to get into Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance program for the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU.

A few months ago, Finn had been alive, and everyone she had known from Glee seemed to be piecing their lives together for the better, starting to make their way into adulthood and successful futures. But now Finn was dead, and Brittany could barely think of any of her old friends without feeling unbearably sad, let alone keep in contact with them. A few months ago, she had been unable to bring herself to even call anyone, let alone go to Finn's funeral or memorial…but now she was on her way to New York City, with every intention of seeing Santana for the first time since regionals.

All her hopes are riding right now on this; it's the only plan she has bothered to make, not because she is so confident that it will work, but because it's the only option she can allow herself to have. Santana has to let her into her apartment, into her life. Santana has to forgive her, to understand how it was possible for Brittany to have kept her silence for so long, even when she knew Santana probably wanted to speak with her and see her the most. Santana has to, because if she doesn't, Brittany doesn't know what she will do next.

Brittany's possessions right now were in two bags; everything else from MIT was sent back to Lima, to her parents' house, where it could stay until she needed it. She got in a cab and told the driver the address, then, sitting back, took a breath as she moved closer and closer to the woman she needed in her life again.

It seemed much too soon for her to really be prepared as the cab pulled in front of the correct apartment. All that was left after she had paid was to haul her bags up the short flight of steps, face the door, take one last steadying breath, and knock.

88

Santana Lopez has given up.

It's not something she would ever say aloud to another soul, and she has a difficult time even admitting it to herself, inside her own darkest thoughts. But she knows it's true, deep down, and it is affecting her to her core. She has given up, and honestly, she couldn't care less what happens to her or in her life anymore.

She never would have thought, a few months before, that Finn freaking Hudson not being in her life could affect her so strongly. Honestly, she rarely thought about Finn at all, other than when Rachel had to yammer on about him, and when she did, it was with a strangely affectionate irritation. But Finn's death had shattered her world and her world view, more than she would have thought possible, and ever since her life had seemed meaningless, even a burden.

She knew she had loved Finn, even if she never exactly said as much, and even if he was a huge, lumpy dumbass who could rarely relate to her without sticking his oversized foot directly in his usually hanging open mouth. But she had never realized that to suddenly not have him there, a phone call or car ride away, to know that he was gone, forever, would hurt so much and with such intensity. He had been family, even if he could sometimes infuriate the hell out of her, and it was hell to have him gone.

It was almost worst, watching everyone else around her hurting just as badly. It made her realize with a sudden clarity she had never before possessed that anything, absolutely anything or anyone, could be taken from her at any time, no matter how much she didn't want it, and there was nothing she could do about it. She could lose her car or her job or her home or her health, she could lose anyone and everyone that she loved, and she couldn't prevent it. Having things, loving people, having a hope or a plan, she realized with sudden desperate despair, was completely pointless, because it would hurt all the more when she lost them than if she didn't have them at all.

She had lost so much in her life already. She had lost her feelings of safety and security on a national basis, now that everyone knew, even before she knew who they were, that she was a gay ex cheerleader, that they could hate her at a glance alone. She had lost her abuela's love, she had lost her scholarship and her certainty of her dreams, she had lost Finn, and now, she was sure, with two conspicuously absent spots at Finn's memorial, she had lost Brittany and Quinn. If they couldn't be there for her even then, knowing her like they did and how badly she would need them, then they would never be there for her again at all. And that somehow hurt every bit as badly as Finn.

She made up her mind, then and there, the moment Finn's jacket disappeared from her possession, that she would never let herself lose anything or anyone again. She would never let anything good into her life to risk. She would keep herself from success, keep herself from any kind of loving relationship at all, and that way she could never hurt so much again.

So Santana continued to wait tables, but she refused to sing, even when requested to; it would be something she could possibly enjoy, and music was no longer a comfort or a joy, but a source of pain. She did everything she could to avoid Rachel in their apartment, to push aside the rare question. She was there for her, when Rachel showed emotion, but the moment the other girl wasn't looking, she retreated to her room with a bottle and cried into her pillow until she fell asleep. When Kurt moved back to Lima, wanting to support his father and Carol in their time of grief, she was happy, because it was one less person to push her to open up.

But it wasn't easy. As hard as she tried not to feel, she had never naturally been a person to be able to stop, as hard as she tried to bottle it up. So she had to find a release, and there was only one way she could think of to try to cope. Every night, as soon as she was off shift, Santana went out, losing herself and her fears in shot after shot, drink after drink, until she was finally able to pick off the first warm body who gave her a smile. In drunken haze, she could forget her feelings, forget everything about physical touch, and each time she hoped it would be enough.

Never mind that she woke up most mornings with her face swollen and sticky from tears, that she was forgetting to eat and had no appetite when she did remember. Never mind that she hated herself more fiercely than she could recall feeling in some time, even as she tried to feel nothing at all.

It was a typical morning, the day that Brittany came back into her life. She was hungover, aching all over, half asleep on the couch because she had been too drunk to get herself to her bed in Kurt's old bedroom. When she heard the doorbell ring she ignored it, calling out a slurred order to go away. No way in hell was she dealing with the world right now.

88

Brittany knocked again. She didn't want to tell who she was yet in case her ex girlfriend or half way friend decided not to let her in. If they didn't let her in and let her stay she had nowhere else to go, and for the first time, the weight of her lack of a back-up plan began to settle over her. She felt a little panic well up as she knocked on the door a little more firmly.

Santana growled aloud, half rolling over, and almost fell off the couch. Newly irritated, she called out more loudly.

"I'm not home, already!"

"Santana?" Brittany called from the other side of the door. "Santana, it's me, Brittany. Let me in. It's the middle of December and it's freezing out here," she called, wanting to try to get the door open. She knew that tone and that was not a good one.

Even in her sprawled, limp position on the couch, Santana froze. She wanted to deny to herself that she recognized Brittany's voice, but of course, she would recognize it anywhere, no matter what distractions. She shook her head, trying to convince herself it was a dream, or some sort of hungover delusion. Or...

"Rachel Fucking Berry if you're trying out that stupid ventriloquist impersonal shit Sam does, your ass is gonna be bearing footprints pretty soon."

"When we were 14 years old you gave me a friendship bracelet," Brittany called out, wanting to prove it was her and not Rachel or Sam or anyone else. "When we became official girlfriends we stopped wearing them. We started to wear rings on our right middle fingers instead. Because we were more than friends. We wanted more than friendship."

Santana felt like her heart just stopped. She swallowed hard, feeling it stick in her throat, and tried to curl up into a ball on the couch. Already her eyes stung hotly, and she couldn't seem to come up with any words. She shook her head, denying to herself what she had just heard, and then almost whispered, "Go away."

She couldn't take this, not now. Not after all these months. There is no way she could just let her in, to do whatever it is she wanted, all over again. If Brittany wasn't there two months ago, or the months before that...no. just no.

"Santana, I am freezing my ass off out here. Please just let me in. I want to see you, I need to talk to you."

Brittany hated this. She hated there was a door between them, but she hated more there was now a wall between them consisting of more than simple construction- a wall partly built by her own decisions.

"Santana I am asking you to open the door, please?"

She closed her eyes, trying to keep herself from breaking down. She didn't like the anger she heard in her voice before and the tone she used once she was sure it was her was somehow worse.

Santana couldn't take hearing Brittany's voice. She couldn't stand knowing she was on the other side of the door, so close, after being so far in every way for so long. Why was she here now? Why was she coming to her now, when Santana had finally sort of succeeded in pushing her out of her thoughts? And why was it that even now, hearing Brittany sounding upset or hurt still affected her so badly?

Santana squeezed her eyes shut even more tightly, trying to force back unwanted tears, before she finally got to her feet with a groan that was almost a whimper. She staggered to the door, thrusting it open, and then hurriedly turned away, not wanting to see Brittany longer than she had to. She couldn't stand to look her straight on.

"What."

Brittany didn't even think about it; she couldn't resist. The moment Santana was in front of her, she stepped forward and wrapped Santana up in her arms from behind her. She held her for a moment, her face pressed to Santana's neck, before she spoke.

"I transferred from MIT to NYU. I am going to dance instead of do math. I can't live the life other people want me to. I'm dancer. I need to move and to express myself that way. I need that part of my life back, and I need a place to live. I can afford $1200 a month on rent. I am hoping I can move in here."

The moment Brittany's arms wrapped around her, Santana's heart started to race, panic flooding every muscle. She couldn't be held by her and continue to function. She couldn't smell her so close to her, listen to her voice near her ear, and still maintain even a little bit of composure. She couldn't do this, none of this made sense, she couldn't handle it, so she twisted herself violently, trying to force her to let go.

"Oh, so I'm the fallback. Your plans don't work out, and you think you can always come back to old reliable? What, your husband won't let you share his twin bed anymore?"

Brittany felt a sting at the mention of the fake wedding. She didn't really want Santana to know about that.

"You know Sam and I broke up." She dropped her arms to her sides to let Santana free. "And you know how much dancing means to me. You know it's the place where people don't call me stupid. I can't keep being their math monkey. I need to get back the important things in my life. Dancing and you."

Santana backed away from her, as far as the room will allow. She kept her back to her, her arms protectively crossing over her chest as she shook her head, refusing to look over towards her. Her entire face burned, and her voice comes out tautly, almost mean as she answered.

"Right. I'm so damn important to you."

"You were the one that broke up with me, remember?" Brittany said softly. "You are the most important person in my life. I tried to make someone else more important for a while and look what happened. I don't like it when we're not at least best friends. I don't like it when we're not together. I hated Boston because you weren't there. And I don't know if I can do New York without you. I'm asking for us to be us again. The dynamic two shot."

Santana could feel her hands starting to shake, her legs growing weak, and as the trembling began to spread up her arms to her shoulders, she made her hands into fists, clinching her jaw to suppress the cry that wanted to escape. She couldn't hear this. She couldn't let herself even try to believe, and she didn't want to. She couldn't afford to feel anything soft, anything like love or hope, not anymore. She shook her head, slowly at first, then harder, her messy hair flying out. Not trusting herself to speak aloud, she walked with slightly unsteady gait towards her curtained off area of the apartment.

Brittany took a breath, moving to shut the front door before moving her bags by the couch. At least Santana didn't throw her out. She didn't know what to do, so she headed to the kitchen. She did what she always did when she was upset, beginning to clean. She made sure to be quiet, not wanting to upset Santana more than she had. As she cleaned everything she could get her hands on, she felt guilt build in her chest. She hadn't been there for Santana, her own sadness crushing her. And now maybe Santana just didn't want her anymore. She shook her head, fighting to keep the same faith that had been tested with Santana before.

Once the kitchen was clean she made a grilled cheese for Santana and one for herself. She heated some tomato soup, doctoring it a little before she put some in a bowl for them to share. She grabbed two waters and headed toward Santana's area, hoping not to be assaulted when she got there.

Assault was not at all on Santana's mind. Actually, she was simply trying with increasing desperation to hold herself together. Between the hangover-induced throbbing in her temples, aching of her muscles, and dry mouth, and her emotionally induced confusing, anger, and nearly frantically denied sadness, she couldn't seem to decide what to do or how to respond, and the only way she could have a prayer of holding herself together was by being alone. Even then she found herself melting onto her bed, face down, her back shaking with the tears she was still trying with all she had to hold back. Why the hell was this happening?

Brittany passed though the curtain and into Santana's space. She felt nervous being in her inner space without permission, but she pressed on.

"I made us some lunch. Grilled cheese. No bacon since you didn't have any. I thought about putting a ketchup smiley face like you like, but I don't think either of us feels very smiley today," she said softly as she walked toward the bed. She felt her voice shake a little but tried to keep herself from admitting how hard this was. "I don't have anywhere else to go so if you are going to kick me out do it before dark, ok?"

Santana didn't respond to her aloud. She couldn't respond. She could still feel the slight shaking moving through her body, her heart beating hard against the comforter, her breath raspy even to her own ears. She ignored her, hoping that if she played dead, maybe Brittany would go away. But this was Brittany, and Santana knew the chances of that...or so she thought she had. She would have thought the chances of them not talking, all these months, of Brittany not being there on instinct the moment she needed her most, would be beyond zero too.

Brittany put the food down on Santana's bedside table.

"I didn't go to you when you needed me. And if you're upset about that then you have every right to be. I couldn't go back to that high school again. I planned on going back but I couldn't get on the plane. I should have sucked it up for you because you needed someone. I should have been stronger for you but I just wasn't." She reached out to play with a bit of Santana's hair. "You haven't been taking care of yourself and I wasn't there to make sure you were ok. Blame me for that. Hate me for that. But I am here now and I'm not going away."

Santana knew she should reach her hand out and shove Brittany's hand off her. She should tell her to go away, to get out of her room. She should tell her to leave her alone, that she doesn't want her anymore. That nothing matters, not her words, not her apologies, and not her stupid little touches. But when she opened her mouth, none of this comes out. She opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again, swallowing repeatedly against the lump steadily rising in her throat. Finally she forced out, "Stop. You can't do this. Just stop."

"It's been eight months, Santana. I can't not be in your life anymore. I can't not have you in mine." Brittany sat down on the side of the bed, her hand stroking though her hair. "I don't know who I am anymore without you. Everything is just too loud and confusing and fast. I need my best friend back. Even if you don't want to be my girlfriend anymore. Even if you don't want me to belong to you. I need you back at least as my best friend," Brittany kept her voice soft even as she pleaded.

"Stop it," Santana repeated, and this time she could hear the cracking in her voice, the near pleading tearfulness. "Stop talking...stop."

She mashed her face harder into the comforter, feeling her nose stuff up and threatening to run with her fight to hold back tears. She didn't move away from Brittany's hand, however; she felt powerless to try. It was as though its stroking had hypnotized her, holding her where she was.

Brittany kicked her shoes off, moving to lay down. She was behind Santana so it didn't take much to move to spoon her. She didn't say anything as she fit her body against Santana's back with only the comforter to keep them apart. She moved an arm around her waist, nuzzling her neck though her hair.

"I love you," she whispered as softly as she could.

This was not fair. This was so not fair. Brittany knew that there was no way she could ignore this or resist...she knew this. She was playing dirty, forcing her to give in, and Santana should be pissed off. But she couldn't feel anger. She couldn't feel anything but fear.

The tightness around her heart seemed to puncture then, and Santana started to cry, quietly at first, then with growing intensity. She moved her hands to cover her face, sobbing from behind them, "Leave me alone. Go away. I said to go away...why don't you listen to me, I said go away."

Brittany felt a shudder run through her as Santana started to sob and tell her to go away. She felt like her heart was being slowly ripped out of her chest.

"I can't leave you again. It hurt so much when you broke up with me. I am finally in the same city as you are. I'm finally holding you again. How can I just walk away from that? Aren't we soulmates? Isn't that what we always said?"

"I need you to go. Go, go, go, please go, please stop, please go, just go...please, just GO," Santana pleaded, her words difficult to understand through her tears. She tightened her hands over her face, still doing everything she could to keep Brittany from seeing her face.

Brittany didn't know what to do. Never before had Santana pushed her so hard to walk away. Everything in her gut was telling her not to leave. Everything she knew about Santana was telling her to stay.

"If you want me to leave for good then you look me in the eye and tell me you don't want me in your life anymore. You look me in the eye and tell me you don't love me anymore."

She hoped more than anything Santana wouldn't be able to do it.

Santana couldn't. Not even if she wanted to, not if her continued existence depended on it. Santana couldn't even make herself form the words on her lips with her palms pressed against them, let alone turn around and look Brittany in the face while speaking them aloud. It wasn't possible, and the increased trembling of her frame and her lack of response spoke this even if her words didn't.

"I am never leaving you again. Never ever."

Brittany brought her arms around Santana more firmly. Santana's body had betrayed her words; she had learned early on that Santana's body gave away more than her words ever would.

"I've got you Santana. I've got you and I will never let you go."

She nuzzled her neck, trying not to notice how thin her frame felt. One thing at a time. One thing.

Every word, every squeeze of her body, every nuzzle and every breath against her skin felt like a hammer knocking down more and more of the walls she had fought to keep up around her heart. Santana gave in entirely to her tears, letting her body go limp with them, her fingers relaxing over her face as she stopped fighting. Brittany felt the shift as Santana started to let the tensing in her body go. She closed her eyes, just staying with Santana and trying to get her to a state of calm. They needed to talk about everything but right now she knew Santana, and they just needed to hold each other and breathe. They had been underwater for months. Now it was time to take those first merciful breathes together.

"I used to lay in bed alone and hug Lord Tubbington, and I would sing "Valerie" to myself," Brittany told her softly into her ear. "I would close my eyes and think of you on that stage all dressed up. You did so well. Lord Tubbington didn't like the singing so much, though. I have a few new scars now that will always remind me of you, and I don't mind it at all."

Santana still wasn't at a talking stage. She was at a gulping for breath, trying not to drown in her own bodily fluids stage. She couldn't return Brittany's embrace or even maintain enough control of her limbs to cover her hands with hers, but she did lean back into her, letting herself be held. Brittany just rubbed Santana's back with one hand while the other held her a little tighter.

"Breathe for me, Santana. I need you to breathe nice and slow. I know it hurts right now. Quinn had to hold me last week when I was crying so bad I burst a blood vessel in my eye. It was pretty gross, it looked like when we were zombies for homecoming, only not so sexy. But I need you to try for me. Just try to breathe."

Hearing that Brittany was so upset she burst blood vessels crying definitely wasn't doing much to soothe her. Santana tried, but it was slow going, and when she eventually started to do better, it was because Brittany's heartbeat against her back eventually started to regulate her own.

Brittany breathed slowly, trying to show Santana a pattern to follow. She let Santana just lay there, trying not to do anything but love her. She did, as a friend and as more than a friend. Brittany always knew the only person who could be called her soulmate was Santana.

When Santana started to calm, eventually just lying, breathing, in Brittany's arms, she hurt all over, as though she had endured a beating. She closed her eyes, releasing a slow sigh aloud.

Brittany was scared to say something. She just traced up and down Santana's middle with the tips of her fingers. She had no idea of her touch still explained all the things she couldn't say to Santana but she hoped it did. She hoped her touch was still as comforting and supportive as it had always been.

"Hi."

Another long sigh escaped Santana, and she swallowed, keeping her eyes closed. She whispered her response, her voice scratchy and dry.

"Hi."

Brittany nuzzled the back of her neck. "I have seen what my life looks like without you in it. Without your presence affecting everything else in my life. I don't like it. I don't like it at all. And I think maybe you don't like me not affecting everything in your life too. You need me and I need you and that's just a fact. Forever."

The truth is that Brittany always has affected everything in Santana's life. As much as she didn't want her to, as hard as she tried to push any thoughts of her aside, she was always there, even when she wasn't physically there at all. Santana still had few words for her; she was too exhausted to try. But she gave a faint nod in response, letting this speak.

"That's all I needed," Brittany whispered as she nuzzled the back of Santana's neck. Knowing that Santana at least agreed with that gave Brittany the confidence to feel a right to be back in Santana's bed. She pushed herself a little closer, her hand slipping under the shirt. "Take a nap, honey. After you wake up we'll get you a warm bath and then we'll talk. You need to rest first."

As exhausted as she was, Santana thought it would be impossible for her to sleep. Not when she hurt so much, physically and emotionally. Not with Brittany there, touching her, holding her, after all this time. Not with so much to think about and try to piece together in her mind. But with Brittany's soothing warmth against her, she found herself drifting off after less than ten minutes, falling into a deep sleep.

Brittany didn't sleep while Santana did. She laid there, wrapped up in the only person she ever truly fell in love with, and hoped that maybe that love could still end up saving them both. She felt Santana's frame and knew she couldn't have been eating well if she was this thin. It brought her back to high school, and the fear rose in her chest. But that was a conversation for another moment. After a while she just started trying to form a plan, needing to support the one she loved.

Chapter Text

It was close to three hours before Santana even stirred, and another twenty minutes past that before she slowly started the prolonged process of opening her eyes. Although she was still sore and tired, her headache was gone, and she felt somewhat better, wrapped in Brittany's warmth. She slowly reached to touch Brittany's hand, though she didn't entwine their fingers.

Brittany just watched as Santana slowly woke up. She knew she needed hours more but at least she was moving with a little more fluidity. Brittany still felt the guilt from before settled heavy in her chest but she pushed it away for now. She nuzzled Santana's neck, letting her speak first. She would wait as long as she needed.

She had to wait a long time. Easily another ten minutes passed before Santana finally spoke, her voice foggy.

"Where's Berry."

"I don't know," Brittany whispered. "There wasn't a note or anything in the kitchen." She ran her hand up and down Santana's side, wanting to try to bring her some tactile comfort. "I need to go remake us lunch, the food won't be any good."

"I don't want to see her," Santana mumbled, but what she actually meant is she doesn't want Rachel to see her like this....and like this with Brittany. She didn't comment on Brittany telling her that she'll make lunch, giving another sigh.

"You have to eat," Brittany said softly. "You haven't been and you've lost weight and the last time you did this it was scary. I know that you have to be going through something if you're cutting weight like this again. I am not letting you waste away."

The words rushed out of her, a slight edge of panic in them.

Santana lifted her head, actually turning her neck to look Brittany in the eye. She hated when Brittany referenced that time in her life, back before junior year, over that summer. If it was up to her, they’d both forget it and never talk about or mention it again. She wanted to reassure her, to tell her that she was fine, that Brittany was worrying over nothing, but she knew Brittany would see right through it. She never has been able to lie to her.

"I know every inch of every part of your body, Santana. I spent years learning where your curves where and what they felt like against me, against my hands. Don't lie and say you're fine when I can feel you aren't. Don't do that."

Santana's cheeks flushed, and she bit her inner cheeks, her eyes shifting to the side.She couldn’t argue with this. She knew she lost weight, but she figured for as long as no one said anything, it wasn’t enough to matter.
"Don't worry."

Brittany snorted. "When have you ever known me not to worry about you?" she asked, her hand finding Santana's cheek. "You and I hurt each other. We both did the wrong things. And now we have to fix it. I didn't do much better in Boston, but I didn't let myself stop eating while I melted down."

Brittany's fingers felt cool against her skin, and Santana wanted to close her eyes again, to let herself melt back into her. She breathed out again, making herself look Brittany in the eyes.

"It's been months. Why now."

"Because I got into NYU. I couldn't just leave MIT. I wanted to about a week after I got there. But I had to make it through the fall semester so I could come to NYU and make something of myself. I couldn't just run away again like I ran away from Lima," Brittany whispered, leaning in she kissed the last traces of the dried tear tracks off Santana's face, visible on her face even after her sleep. "And I missed you. So much. Sometimes I couldn't go to class because I missed you too much."

Santana didn't respond. These were the right words, words she wanted to hear, and yet they hurt, because they were the wrong timing. Why couldn't she have said this two months ago, when she needed her most? And yet how could she ask her why she wasn't there for her? How could she voice those words?

Brittany stroked Santana's jaw with the pads of her fingers.

"I bought the ticket and I went to the airport. But I couldn't get on the plane. I couldn't go back and hear every talk about him. It was too much. It was too real, and I’ve never done reality well without you." Her voice cracked slightly as she closed her eyes. "I trusted them to take care of you. I thought by now they would know what to do if I wasn't there. I have never felt so guilty for being wrong. I am so sorry I wasn't there, Santana. I am so sorry."

Still Santana didn't know what to say. She wanted to tell her that she didn't need her to take care of her, that she didn't need anyone to take care of her. She wanted to tell her that she's been fine. But instead what came out in a badly cracking voice was "Someone took his jacket. It was mine and I don't have it now. I don't have anything."

Brittany reached for Santana's hand, bringing it to her lips. She wanted to vow to find the jacket but she didn't. She would do all she could to find it but she wasn't going to tell Santana until after she did.

"You have me," she whispered, her voice barely audible. "You have me."

Santana was barely daring to hope that this was true. It would hurt too much if it wasn't one day. She tried to find a way to say this, but all she could do is squeeze her hand hard.

Brittany leaned in, brushing her nose against Santana's. She didn't want to kiss her yet but she wanted to show the connection was still there.

"You don't have to decide if you want me back right now. But I'd really like you to let me draw you a hot bath and make you some lunch. Would that be ok?"

Santana paused, then nodded slowly, letting her head fall forward to rest against Brittany's. It had been so long since she had let herself be taken care of, since she'd even tried to trust someone enough to openly show that she wanted or needed it. It was so hard sometimes to be cared for, to be loved, that it almost seems preferable to behave as if she didn't want or need it at all, rather than hurt when it was not given.

Brittany just breathed in the same air as Santana and held her. She didn't want to move, didn't want to think about anything. She just wanted to provide as much comfort in this moment to Santana as she could. She wasn't there when Santana needed her. She failed her as a best friend, the one job she always thought she was best at. But maybe now she could make up for that failing. Maybe they could rebuild stronger than before.

Santana too was breathing her in, soaking up the moment of Brittany's presence. Part of her was terrified about what could happen if she let her go, if Brittany pulled away. What if she never came back?

"Pick out some pajamas to change into after your bath. I will go get it ready."

Brittany leaned in, brushing her lips over Santana's as lightly as she could. She wanted to make sure that Santana knew where she stood and now that she did she would let Santana decide how to handle it.

"I'll set up your bath. Then while you take it I can remake us lunch and change your sheets."

Changing sheets...Santana hadn’t done that in months. She hadn't eaten lunch in almost as long, at least not normally. She sat up slowly, her muscles protesting the move, and resisted her desire to touch her lips, where Brittany's kiss lingered.

Brittany walked out of Santana's room, heading to the bathroom. After straightening everything up as best she could without a deep clean she filled the tub with warm water, adding a small bottle of bubble bath she had in her own bag. She lit a few candles to make the room as relaxing as possible. She hoped a good long soak would help ease Santana's tense body and let her mind sort bits of itself out.
"The bath is ready ba - er – Santana,” she called as she paused outside of Santana’s curtained off area of the loft, unsure if she should re-enter.

Santana hadn't gotten undressed yet, so Brittany wasn't intruding on anything private. She didn't notice the slip of her almost calling her baby; she was too lost in her own thoughts. Slowly she walked into the bathroom, giving a small smile at Brittany's efforts, and sank into the tub. The warmth of the water and the sweet scent of the bubbles relaxed her quickly, and she closed her eyes, leaning back in the tub and dozing off again.

Brittany stripped Santana's bed, using some Febreze on her comforter before putting on clean sheets and pillow cases. Whenever she was nervous she cleaned or neatened things. She had been like that since she was a little girl. At least right now she was putting the nervous stress to good use. She saw Santana's childhood bear on the floor beside the bed. The bear was named Oso, and it was chewed, almost bare of fur, and filthy from all the snuggles Santana had given it from the time she was a baby. Brittany smiled, her heart squeezing with a deeper rush of love for Santana. She had always thought it was adorable that the girl who tried to come across as so independent and badass was nineteen years old now and still kept her stuffed bear close. The bear had been with Santana longer than anything else.

She carefully set him on the newly made bed. Once she finally got the bed remade she cleaned up Santana's room as much as she thought Santana would tolerate. Finally she headed to the kitchen, trashing her first attempt at lunch she made the meal again, hoping this time Santana would eat it.

Santana continued to doze lightly for another ten minutes or so, until her chin and then her nose started to sink under the water. When she got a mouth and nose full of bubbles she came awake with a snort, coughing and spitting it out with a confused, groggy scowl. She sat up all the way and starts to rinse out her hair.

Brittany looked at the candle she put in the middle of the table once more time. She didn't want any pressure to fall to Santana but on the other hand she wanted her to feel special. Like someone was willing to take the time for her again. She decided to leave it flickering as she went to knock on the bathroom door.

"San, lunch is ready," she called though the door. How had they gone from taking baths together to talking though doors?

Santana was in no hurry to get out of the bath, let alone eat. She gave her a slightly loud "Mmm," in response, but took her time in continuing to rinse her body and hair. It was with slow, languid movements that she got out of the tub, put her hair in a towel, and dressed in the first robe she saw, hanging on the back of the door. It was Rachel's and had little pink and purple hearts all over it, which Santana would normally mock relentlessly, but she didn't care at the moment.

Brittany jumped up from the couch when she saw Santana. "Do you want to eat first or change first?” she asked, putting her hands into the back pocket of her jeans to keep herself from fidgeting. The longer she and Santana went without really talking to each other the more and more nervous she felt. It felt so awkward and unnatural to her, when they had never needed to speak at all around each other before to feel at ease. Santana was letting her stay, but still Brittany couldn’t read her very well at all with what she was thinking or feeling.

Santana didn't want to do either. She didn't want to eat, especially in front of Brittany, who she knew would be watching every bite like a hawk, and she didn't want to change when that would require decisions and effort, and besides, her clothes were all dirty. However, with her wet hair and near nude state, she was chilly, and she wrapped the robe more tightly around herself. Berry would kill her for wearing it naked but whatever, like she cared.

"I'm fine."

"Don't lie to me,” Brittany said with surprising intensity, taking a step closer and keeping her suddenly icy blue eyes directly on Santana’s. “You can lie to everyone else and they will buy it because they don't know you. But don't lie to me. I know you. I can see you are hurting. And I know that most of that is because of decisions I made. So don't lie to me."

Santana knew this was true, but that didn’t mean she wanted to talk about it. Hugging herself a little more closely, her brow furrowing, she tried to deflect.

"I meant with changing or eating. I'm fine in this robe and I'm not hungry. I'm supposed to work in a few hours anyway."

"Oh," Brittany said softly, seeming to accept this. "I'm sorry." She paused, then added, “But you need to eat something, Santana. You know how you get when you forget to eat and then it snowballs. Do you really want to repeat what happened in high school?"

And there she was, saying it outright. Santana hated when Brittany brought this up. Hated it. If she had her way, she would never mention eating or food or weight or definitely, definitely not how this had all affected her in high school, ever. She could understand her concern, but couldn't she just pretend none of it existed?

No one else, with the exception of Quinn, was aware of how Santana had struggled in high school...to the point that the summer before junior year, she had actually been hospitalized for malnutrition and dehydration. No one but Brittany and Quinn knew that her time in the hospital had not been for the sole purpose of her breast implants; she had, in fact, only been given them at all after promising her parents that if they allowed her to get them, she would like her body enough to "stop being dumb about eating."

What her parents hadn't realized was her increased eating and slight weight gain had only lead her to have more anxiety for her body, and hadn't decreased her efforts to control her weight at all. But Brittany bringing this up now was nothing she wanted to think about or remember, and she looked away from her, shrugging.

"You know I took my boob implants out the summer before senior year."

Brittany took a deep breath to try to figure her thoughts out. How did you get to someone who put walls up meant to keep you out? And how did you not go too far with someone you were used to not having boundaries with?

"If you showed up in Boston and I was living like you have been living, how would you react? I can't see you hurting and not try to make it better. You're not eating and unless Rachel and you have been throwing major parties you and she or both of you are drinking too much judging by what I cleaned up in the kitchen." Brittany ran a hand though her hair as she tried to plead with Santana. "I wasn't there and I'm sorry, Santana. But I am here now. You just have to let me help."

Santana didn't even want to think about how she would have reacted if she walked into Brittany living her life. It would have scared her to no end, and she wouldn't have accepted it for a moment. She'd be reacting much more intensely than Brittany was and she knew it. Still, it felt different when it was her life they were talking about. It was hard to give up control entirely, when so much could happen to lose it again.

"I'm eating."

Brittany walked over to Santana and slowly undid the robe. She looked over Santana's body, her eyes silently tracing where the missing curves should have been.

"You are always going to be the most beautiful woman in the world to me. But you are missing so many of your curves. You aren't eating enough, Santana, and you know that. Deep down you know it." She ran her finger tips over Santana's ribs, feeling them far too well. "Please let me take care of you like I'd let you take care of me."

How could she resist this? That look of such concern in Brittany's eyes, the gentle touch of her fingers on her skin? How could she deny the truth of her words?

Santana shivered, swallowing hard, and averted her eyes, but she could still feel her in every way. Finally she almost whispered, "It's fucking hard."

Brittany slid her hands over Santana's hips, missing the fullness they once had. She missed the way Santana looked when she was healthy and eating like she should. She missed more the look in Santana's eye when she ate without any hesitation, the pride and confidence in herself that glowed from her from the outside in.

"I know," she whispered, her hands stroking over Santana's skin as tenderly as they could. "But I am here now and I am not going to leave you again. I am going to be here for you. You don't have to stand alone anymore. I will be right next to you with my arm wrapped around your waist to hold you up when you can't stand. I will be your support."

Santana bit her lips, feeling her eyes fill again, and she looked down, then slowly looked back up, meeting Brittany's eyes. Brittany was still looking at her with love and understanding, like she thought she was attractive, like she wanted nothing more than for her to be okay. She slowly stepped forward, again letting her head come to rest against her.

Brittany's hands moved up and down Santana's back as she held her. “We survived. We could have moved on from each other but we never did. Because you’re my person and I’m yours. Because I can’t live life well without my person. Because the point of living is to find your one true love, to figure out how to make it work even when the world tries to break you apart.”

Brittany felt a few tears fall but didn’t try to stop or hide them. “I don’t know how bad things have been but I can guess. I need you to give me permission to be together. To be your Brittany. For you to be my Santana. I promise that if you let me in this one last time we're going to get all of the unicorn wishes I promised to you."

Santana could feel Brittany's tears dropping on her head, and it made it that much more impossible to be able to resist her. Her arms went around her, and her own tears began to dampen Brittany's shirt as she fought her fears to be able to respond. Finally she nodded slowly.

"Thank you,” was all that Brittany could bring herself to say.

Her arms tightened a little bit around Santana as she just breathed with her. She could feel each time Santana took a breath and soon the two of them were breathing in time with each other. This moment was the start of something new, the start of them being together as adults. She knew it wouldn't be smooth but Brittany would never give in to easy with someone else over hard with Santana.

Chapter Text

"You need to eat,” she said softly, her thumb rubbing over the base of Santana’s spine. “ I won't make you call off work but I am going to walk you there and I'm picking you up at the end of your shift too."

Santana rolled her eyes at her, but didn't protest. She couldn't make Brittany not do it, after all. She tried one more time, very half heartedly, to deflect her, burying her face in Brittany's chest.

"I'm comfortable right here. Don't want to move."

"If you eat half of the grilled cheese on your plate before you're working I will do all your laundry for you," Brittany bargained. She hoped an offer of doing something she knew Santana didn't like would work. "And when we get back I will let you have some sweet lady kisses."

She shifted a little to nuzzle Santana's neck. "I missed those, you know."

Santana considered this, thinking of just pretending to eat it and really throwing it away, but then shoved the thought aside, sighing, and nodded. "I missed it too," she admitted softly.

"Yeah?" Brittany asked, a little of her hopeful nature slipping in to her tone. "You missed having me there to roll you on your back and kiss you until you are breathless and then laugh for a full half hour over the first silly thing one of us says after?" She nuzzled Santana's neck, trying to lift her spirits.

Santana's lips curved into a smile, and she nodded again, her skin tingling. "Maybe."

"Maybe if you eat everything on your plate I will reward you by eating something of yours." Brittany was far from above using pleasure to make Santana do things that were for her own good. "It's been too long since I caused you to shiver for me."

That was definitely an enticing reward. Santana smiled a little more, giving her a light pinch. "You don't play fair at all."

"You're one to talk." Brittany titled her head a little, moving in range to give Santana the ability to kiss her. "You always somehow made your Cheerio skirt a little bit shorter when we were fighting to break me down."

"That's just logical strategy," Santana told her, smiling a little more. She noticed the lips near hers but didn't move just yet, though her head inclined a bit closer too.

"That is you exploiting my weakness for your legs. Making me unable to think because I could see your thighs."

Brittany moved her fingers up and down Santana's spine, barely putting any pressure at all as she went…definitely not fair. Brittany knew all too well about Santana's weakness for her spine being stroked and played with. She shivered even at this light touch, pressing more firmly against her, and she was happy to note that Brittany seemed distracted again.

"Be a good girl and eat for me so I can give you a reward. Because I haven't handed out a reward to anyone in nearly 6 months," Brittany told her, pulling back and fixing her eyes on Santana’s to note her reaction to this.

At this, Santana's eyes narrowed, and she pulled back too, searching her face. "You haven't had sex in six months?"

"I haven't had sex in 8 months. Six months since I've done anything more than kiss." Brittany winced a little bit. She knew no one would believe that she of all people would have been able to go so long without sex. "It's December and the last time I had sex was April, so yeah 8 months."

Santana stared at her, unbelieving as Brittany would think. She didn't think she'd lie to her, but it seemed unreal to believe, for sure.

"How? What about Guppy Face?"

"We broke up in April before I went to MIT, remember?" Brittany stroked the back of Santana's neck. "I went on a date in June with one of the guys from my dorm hall. He was sweet and charming and nice. I let me touch me. But it didn't feel right. So I just stopped dating. Besides, they kept me really busy…12 hour days, most of the time. I didn’t really have time to see anyone, let alone get to know them."

Santana didn't remember. She had tried not to notice or think about anything to do with Brittany's romantic life...she never would have thought this possible of her.

"Weren't people all over you trying to ask you out? I mean, you're you."

Brittany laughed softly, giving a nod. "Yeah, I got hit on a lot. Like all the time. And I flirt a lot because I'm me. But I didn't want to just date random people, I didn't want to just hook up with anyone who would have me. I did that in high school and it didn't make me feel great. So I just took care of anything I needed myself. And like I said, I was busy….and I was thinking still of you.”

 

Santana considered this, stunned. Brittany had grown and changed in a way even she hadn't known or anticipated, and a part of her felt ashamed that she hadn't realized this.

She looked her up and down, before offering, "I haven't had sex in two months." Since breaking up with Dani, after Finn.

"How was it being with someone who knew what they were doing? I mean college girls trying something new can't be all that great and I was mostly making it up as I went." Brittany held no judgement in her tone, she truly just wondered if it made a different to Santana that Dani was more experienced.

Somehow it seemed different to Santana, talking to Brittany about Dani, not like it was in high school to tell her about Puck or Finn. She shrugged, keeping her answer vague and light, not very comfortable.

"I mean, I liked her, she was good. But…you know."

"You were the best I ever had. Just you know, in case your ego wants to be stroked,” Brittany shared with her, her tone still neutral. Santana couldn’t tell, looking at her, whether she was having the same difficulty with this discussion or not.

Oh, definitely her ego likes stroked. And every other part of her too. Normally she'd say so, but things are still a little strange and raw between them now, so Santana just smiled. "You always were a genius in a lot of ways."

"Oh yeah?" Brittany pressed a little more firmly to Santana's spine as she held her close. "Go eat for me. And then you and I can get our cuddle on or whatever else you decide you're ready for. I've waited this long, I can wait as long or short as you want me for."

Santana made a face into her chest, but pulled back reluctantly. She toyed with the idea of whining for something less fattening, but when she looked up at Brittany almost slyly, something about Brittany’s expression made it pretty clear she wouldn't get her way. She walked into the kitchen to examine the sandwich left for her.

"I promise that it's good. I had one when I was making yours. And I made the soup like you liked in high school."

Brittany sat down across from Santana, trying not to watch her too intently. She didn't want to make her uncomfortable as she continued to talk to her, obviously trying to keep her distracted.

"So yeah, I kind of got into NYU."

She had shared this with Santana before, but she hadn’t really gone into detail, and she wasn’t quite sure that Santana had really taken this in.

Santana picked up the sandwich and started her usual ritual when she was nervous about eating, which was that she started picking the food apart as inconspicuously as she could. For every small bite she took, she pinched off two more pieces to be left on her plate or pushed to the side to possibly be later concealed. It was a habit she was almost unconscious of.

When Brittany told her she got into NYU, she looked up quickly, distracted. As Brittany had suspected, although she has already been informed of this, with all the intensity going on between them, it hadn’t quite sunk in until she told her for the second time.

"Right…what are you there for? What is your major?"

"I'm stating the BFA program for dance," Brittany said proudly. "I want to do something with it and I don't know what yet. So going through this program will give me the contacts I need to either be a dancer or to be a choreographer. I’m still going to take some math stuff on the side but that's more for me than anything else."

Santana smiled at her genuinely, truly glad for her. "That's great, Britt. I'm proud of you." She paused, picking off another piece of crust, then added, "So...you really are staying here then?"

"In New York or in your apartment?" Brittany asked. "Because I just sent NYU a check for nearly a third of my savings so I need to stay in the city to go to school. And if you wouldn't mind me living here I can pay part of the rent. I want to be with the person I love."

Santana paused, part of her still fighting her urge to just say yes, to throw her arms around Brittany and never let go. She bit her lip, stopping at eating as she looked up at her.

"I really want to say yes but..." but she was scared. But that has never been anything she could easily say aloud.

"If I don't live with you I'm going to have to find an apartment. NYU doesn't have dorms." Brittany wasn’t above using the facts to influence her. "I'd figure it out, I guess. Quinn offered me her spare room even if it would be a nearly hour and a half commute to get from New Haven to the city every day for classes."

Once Brittany started laying it out to her like that, there was obviously only one solution. It was New York City, and Brittany barely knew her right from her left, let alone directions to anywhere complicated. It was fairly surprising, now that she thought about it, she had managed to track Santana down in her apartment. Santana didn't want her living alone, where she might be unsafe, especially after Finn. She didn't want her to commute that far every day either, and that left one choice.

"Britt...you can stay. I just...might need some time and some space. But you can stay."

"I can sleep on the couch and during the day if you don't want me around I can go to campus and work on my form or work out. I need to get into better shape." Brittany made a slight face. She was still in great shape for a normal person but to her she had let herself go. "I promise that it won't be weird. Well it might but I'll really try not to make it weirder."

How had they gotten to this point that this was even a question? Even as best friends it had never been anything but obvious that they would share every bed that presented itself to them, cuddling and giggling half the night.

Santana shook her head, telling her, "No, it won't be like that." She hoped.
Brittany blushed as her hand slipped over to Santana's. "You want me to share a bed with you? Hold you every night and keep the darkness away?"

There was nothing that Brittany wanted to do more than to hold Santana and keep all of the darkness away for her even if it only existed in her own thoughts. But she didn't want to assume that Santana would accept her so quickly back into her bed. Even if she'd already been there that day. Even if they were talking about sex already.

"I am trying not to pressure you here, San. If you want me to just be how I usually was with you then I can do that and I would love to, always. But you have to tell me if I push too far."

To be how she usually was...the way she's been today, already, in the small bursts that Santana had allowed it. To hold her and hug her and touch her, to kiss her and call her her baby, to give her every piece of herself she could manage to provide. Did Santana want this? It was all she wanted in the world, all she had ever wanted? But for her to take it now, against her fears of losing it all over again, would be almost as scary as telling her to leave entirely.

Eventually she reached to squeeze Brittany's hands, exhaling.

"How about...we take it one day, one hour at a time. And see how we feel."

"I know what I want, San."

Brittany wanted love, and in a few years, marriage and a few years after that, kids. She wanted fights over paint colors and if Santana's bear really got to sleep in the bed with them. She wanted laughter at 3 in the morning and fights at 1 in the afternoon. She wanted to make love on rainy Sundays when life could just stop for a day. She wanted it all, and she hoped Santana could see that in her eyes as she said to her, "You have to tell me if it's too much. Because I'm all in. I've seen the world Santana and I am sure now more than I have ever been that you are at the center of my world."

This was too much for one day. It was somehow everything Santana ever dared to hope for in the darkness of sleepless nights and everything she feared, in the most doubtful parts of her soul. In one day she's been confronted with the past and present and future all at once, called out on her current weaknesses and held up for future strength, given love and affection and apologies and hope, and it's so much her head was still spinning.

Santana took another breath, shaking her head as she told her, "I'm just...there's so much in my head right now, and...and my heart."

"You're scared and that's ok. It's ok to be scared of what might happen, Santana. This isn't junior year. You aren't keeping me as a secret because you don't want people to know you're gay. This kind of scared is something I can't hold your hand and tug you through. But I can hold your hand and let you lead us to the other side. So that's what I'm going to do. You set the pace and I'll keep up." Brittany turned her hand over under Santana's and started to stroke her wrist lightly. "Now finish up all the little bits you took off your sandwich. You do it without thinking, I know."

How is it that Brittany can always find the perfect analogy to make everything seem to clear? Santana's fingers reached out to grasp hers, and she gave her a slightly bigger smile. That is until she mentioned the sandwich. Rolling her eyes, she picked up one piece and ate it. Some of it was without thinking, yes, but some of it was on purpose too.

"Rolling your eyes might work on less awesome people , Miss Lopez , but it has never worked on your favorite unicorn," Brittany teased, taking one of the torn off pieces and dunking it in the soup. "After years of the Santana Lopez and Quinn Fabray eye rolls I have become immune to their power. But they are very cute."

Santana rolled her eyes again, just to spite her, but she couldn't help but smile. She knew Brittany wasn't going to let her get away with continuing to pick at her food, let alone hide it, and as well intentioned as she knew this was, it only increased her anxiety. She really was going to make her eat it and sit there and watch until she did, wasn't she?

Brittany signed before pushing back from the table to give Santana space to sit on her lap.

"Come here babe."

She gave Santana a tender smile, patting her leg. If she put Santana on her lap she wouldn't be watching Santana eat. She could stroke her spine and distract her from her anxiety as she finished her meal.

It was like junior year all over again. Santana knew this, knew exactly what Brittany was doing, and although a part of her was embarrassed that Brittany thought she needed it, embarrassed that she did need it, she was even more relieved that Brittany just knew and was offering. She got up slowly and sat on her lap, leaning back against her, and with Brittany's hands on her back, she was able to focus more on finishing.

"I am really nervous about my classes," Brittany told her, wanting to focus on something other than Santana to give her a bit of a break. "I haven't really danced in over a year. I mean last year in Glee I danced but it was never as complex as what we use to do. Mike wasn't there so I didn't have my dance bro to play off of. And you weren't there and you were always my favorite partner. Mostly because I like watching your hips when you move."

Her fingers dug slightly into Santana's spine as they moved, giving her the pleasurable sensation she knew Santana liked.

Santana wasn't really listening to what Brittany was saying, so much as the soothing cadence of her words. She finished the sandwich, enjoying her touch on her spine, and then leaned back into her again, fighting the sleepiness that had taken over her suddenly and powerfully again.

"Why don't you go lay down while I clean up?"

Brittany already had a plan forming in her mind but she needed Santana to be passed out for it to happen. There was no way Santana would let her do it willingly. Thankfully she waited tables in Boston so she wouldn't be totally lost. And dancing and singing wasn't a problem.

That would involve getting up, and again, Santana was not on board with this. Muttering something not quite intelligible, she yawned, curling up more fully on Brittany. Brittany couldn't help snorting as she moved to wrap her arms around Santana fully.

"Go to sleep, Santana. I've got you."

She nuzzled her neck, breathing in the clean scent of the bubble bath Santana used. She just wanted to make it better for her. And that meant Santana sleeping while she took her shift.

Her head tilted back at a slightly awkward angle against Brittany's shoulder, Santana did that. She was warm, fed, and bathed, and she had Brittany's arms around her. How could she not sleep, considering?

Brittany sat there for a good hour just holding Santana and making sure she was in a nice deep sleep. She finally got up and tucked Santana into her bed. For a moment she just sat there and watched her, stroking her neck with the pads of her fingers.

After making sure Santana was really asleep Brittany grabbed one of her uniforms and changed into it. It would be a little short but she would make it work. It wasn't like her Cheerio skirt wasn't shorter. She left two notes, one next to Santana and one on the door so if Santana missed that one she'd see one before she rushed out. Heading out into the city, she hoped she could be back before Santana woke up.
88
Santana was almost three hours late for her shift before she did wake up. By the time she pieced together the fact that she was late, she had already seen the note. Exasperated, she nevertheless couldn't help but smile as she dragged herself up and started to dress. Brittany was nothing if not stubborn.

Pretending to be Dutch, well more Dutch than she actually was, in order to get Santana's boss to feel sympathy and a connection with her so she can work her shift and make sure that Santana is still got paid today had to be one of Britney's more crazy ideas. But so far her shift at been going incredibly well. She was making incredible tips, mostly because she was getting in a mostly male crowd at this point. It was later at night and the dinner rush had ended.

 

Brittany was finishing up with a customer when she heard the front door open, its chime announcing a customer ringing out. She turned her head to see Santana enter, coming up close to her. Giving her a smile, she told her, “Your boss thinks I’m from the Netherlands and I’m new to this country. And I’m taking your shift as a thanks for you helping me in this new country. So roll with it. Also I’m making crazy good tips today.”

Although Brittany had written to her that she was taking her shift, Santana had not exactly expected this to go down well. How would it look for a random blonde stranger to show up and announce she was working for Santana tonight? She'd be lucky if she wasn't fired. But once she had gotten herself to the diner, prepared to brace herself for the ax, she had been somehow not as surprised as she expected to see Brittany not only in her too small outfit, but also waiting tables as if she actually sort of knew what she was doing, without anyone challenging her. As the girl approached her, Santana blinked, then shook her head at her, smiling in spite of herself.

"You can go home now."

"I could," Brittany nodded. "But I'm enjoying myself. And you could use a night off. Go home, put your feet up, enjoy a night where you're making money without doing anything." Brittany took Santana's hand, lacing their fingers together. "I am going to be working in the math lab next semester. I am not going to be able to flirt with cute guys and do numbers. Well in dance class but that's way different. I'm having fun. It's just for tonight anyway."

: Santana hesitated, looking down at their joined hands. She felt physically better after her two long naps, but she was still somehow tired, and she really didn't feel like working. But she also didn't want to leave Brittany. Part of her was afraid that if she went home, Brittany would never return.

"I'm not leaving you again. After the shift is over I'm coming home."

How far they had fallen, when Santana couldn't trust that Brittany would always find her way home again. And home had been, for quite some time, at Santana side. She stood there trying to figure out if there was anything else she could say to make Santana’s mind stop and just give her a break.

"Love you,” Brittany tried, her eyes on Santana’s.

And still, Brittany seemed to know what she was thinking, without her needing to say it. Somehow that was reassuring more than anything else could be, that even distance and time maintains this. Santana gave her a her a small smile back, and finally pulled away.

"Okay...."

Brittany smiled, glad she was able to get Santana to agree.

"I will bring home dinner. I haven't eaten yet this shift. Mostly because I'm worried if I do this uniform isn't going to hold me."

Santana's smile became more genuine then, and she reached out a hand impulsively, brushing it over her arm.

"I won't complain if you popped out."

"Maybe when I get home I can eat a cracker and the top will fly open,” Brittany grinned, barely stopping herself from reaching out to grab hold of Santana’s hand and pull her in close to her again. “Sound good?”

Santana smiled, then with some mischievousness tapped the case holding cookies.

"Want one?"

"As much as my tips for the night would go up, I shouldn't. I only have a few more hours, then I can go home, get out of this and into bed with you. I forgot that not all jobs mean I get to sit on a table and do math in crayon."

"Spoilsport."

A part of Santana was amazed that she was sort of flirting with Brittany, right there in the diner, as she took over her shift, no less. But it also was natural and right. She could hardly stop herself.

"This whole adult thing sucks. I miss back in high school where making out with you was like always number one on my to do list," Brittany laughed softly. The feeling of flirting with Santana again was making her feel slightly high, but in the best way.

Santana nodded emphatically, agreeing.

"So...you'll come home after." Even though Brittany said this already, she still needs the reassurance.

Brittany nodded, willing to tell Santana as many times as she needed. "Yup. And if you are in the mood when I get there I might be persuaded to cuddle without the uniform on for a while. Skin to skin contact is still my favorite way to cuddle and sleep."

Santana's smile was a little more full on this time, and she ducked her head a little, reaching to squeeze Brittany's hand. Finally she backed out of the diner and headed back home.

Chapter Text

“I was thinking about something last night after you fell asleep.”

Santana had been feeling a strange mixture of content and unsettled in the past few days. She couldn't deny how good it felt to have Brittany with her, rarely far from her side. She was sleeping better at night, feeling less anxious in the day, and coming home from work, reaching for alcohol wasn't her first thought. But part of her shrank back from really trusting and believing that this would last, that Brittany wouldn't snatch it back from her at the last moment, and it was enough that she couldn't fully enjoy. She still had difficulty eating, having seized control of the one thing she could always have an effect on, her body, since so much else seemed up in the air and beyond her ability to control.

Lying with Brittany in bed, hip to hip, her head near her shoulder, she looked over at her as Brittany spoke. "What?"

"You and I have never really been out on a date together. I mean in Lima we'd go to dinner and then go back to your place or my place and have sex or take a bath together. But we have never really done the dinner and a movie or dinner and something. We always had homework to do too or cheer practice first."

Brittany's fingers stroked Santana's shoulder as they laid together. She could never get over just how much of a thrill she got from seeing the contact in skin tones. It was like ice cream with caramel sauce.

"So what I'm asking is will you go on a date with me?"

"We have too," Santana protested, moving herself a little closer, more firmly into her hand. "We went to Breadstix before...but yes. Okay. We can." She looked up at her under her eyelashes deliberately. "Drinks on you?"

Brittany bit her lip, her hand slipping down to Santana's waist. "God you know what it does to me when you look at me though your lashes San," she muttered, feeling every moment of the long months since she felt someone touch her. She tried to push that away, not wanting to put pressure on Santana. "Dinner on me. I want to take you to dinner and then to the museum. They have a star gazing thing that sounds super romantic."

Santana smirked a little bit, noting her gentle insistence on this date including dinner, and didn't comment. She knew Brittany was worried about her in this way. She made no promises, but nodded instead. "You like it because that part in the Lion King, don’t you?"

"You know me too well for my own good."
Brittany dipped her head, kissing Santana's cheek. Her hand stroked slowly over the skin exposed when he t-shirt road up a little.
"Can I tell you a secret?"

She left a slightly goofy smile form on her lips. She missed this playful, holding each other in bed thing. So many afternoons of their senior year were spent tangled up like this. Some of her favorite memories in the world.

Santana's muscles twitched slightly in response to her, and her lips curved up at Brittany's kiss. She was a little distracted by her touch, so she was slow in answering.

"What?"

"I'm in love with you," Brittany whispered with that same goofy grin on her lips, tucking a pierce of hair behind Santana's ear. "Totally in love with you. With the way that you laugh and the way that you pout. I'm in love with the little yawn you give about 6 at night. And God am I in love with the way you stretch each morning, cracking your back, before you get out of bed. All of you. I love it all. Good, not so good, Lima Heights, ballet girl, tomboy. I am hopelessly, unchangeably in love with you."

Santana's smile softened further, and she met Brittany's eyes, touched by the sincerity she saw there. Tentatively she reached out, laying her hand against her cheek.

"Do you love when I don't wear socks because I think they're stupid and then rub my cold feet against you?"

Brittany couldn't stop herself from nodding. "I sorta do even if you're feet at like blocks of ice. Because it means you're in bed with me. And you in bed with me means that I have done something right that day and I am not banished to the couch."

Santana poked her toes against her just to be playful, one dimple showing in her cheek.

"Well, that's my only flaw, so you're in luck."

Brittany playfully rolled her eyes. "You drool in your sleep sometimes. But lucky for you I think it's kinda cute. And I've had other fluids from you on me so a little spit isn't going to gross me out."

"I do not," Santana protested, disgruntled at the suggestion. "You talk sometimes!"

"I dance sometimes too," Brittany smirked. She knew her night time things. More than a few times growing up, her sister shook her awake at 3 in the morning with her complaints. "You ground against my hip one night. Though I am still not sure you were sleeping."

Santana's face flushed, and she tried to smirk, hiding it. "Definitely not." She had been, though.

"Do you miss sex with me?" Brittany asked, tilting her head a little. "I don't want you to feel any pressure. Just being next to you is enough for me right now. But do you miss it?"

Of course she missed it. Santana had never felt as close to another person as she did with Brittany, having sex with her, and with her increased need now to find ways to assure herself she can be close to her, that even when they are apart, she hasn't left forever, her desire for sex with Brittany has definitely been in her mind. But she has held herself back, afraid of what could happen if she let down this wall.

She sighed, giving a small nod. "Of course."

"Good, not just me then." Brittany ran her finger tips down Santana's side, settling her hand back on bare skin. "We don't have to do anything. A few sweet lady kisses and some private time in the shower and I can make it through just about anything."

She missed Santana's weight on top of her after. The feeling of nothing between them, of connection.

Santana's hand reached for Brittany's, guiding it slowly over her stomach. She was quiet, pressing it up her towards her breasts. Brittany's hand opened, cupping Santana lightly. She looked at Santana's face while she stroked with the pads of her fingers. Her other hand gripped the bedsheets, trying to keep her grounded. Santana's eyes closed, her heartbeat beginning to speed up in response to Brittany's touch. She opened her legs slightly, a wordless invitation for Brittany to settle over her.

Brittany moved slowly, giving Santana as much time to stop her as possible. She hadn't expected her question to spark this; more so she wanted to make sure she was still sexy to Santana. She settled over her, her lips instantly finding a small patch of freckles on Santana's neck. A throaty sigh escaped Santana's lips as she bared her neck to Brittany. She shifted again, relaxing under her, one hand slowly drifting up Brittany's side.

Brittany knew how to make Santana feel good. Years of training when she was at a healthy weight, an unhealthy one, when she was angry and drunk and when she was happy and sober and everything in between taught Brittany how to bring pleasure from the depth of Santana's being. She took her lip, her lips slowly marching across her throat.

"Mine," she whispered as her hand slowly moved under Santana's shirt.

This was definitely what Santana liked. Being talked to, hearing verbal affirmation paired with physical touch, was the sexiest, most connecting thing for her about being with Brittany in this way. Her spine rolled slightly up in response to her touch as she groaned again.

Brittany moved one hand between Santana and the bed, two fingers dragging up and down her spine.
"You are so beautiful," she whispered, her body starting to wake up from its long vacation. "Those black shorts you wore last night nearly make me rush to the bathroom. Total tease, baby."

Each of Santana's vertebrae rose and came back as her back continued to arch in an almost wave like motion with Brittany's touch, and she gasped in response to her, even giving a near hiss of enjoyment. She rocked her hips into Brittany's, fumbling for her wrist to wrap her fingers around it. She didn't pull Brittany's hand to her shorts' hemline, but she was open to her touching for sure.

Brittany moved her hand away from Santana's breast where it had been playing. She leaned back off of her enough to toss her own shirt on the floor before locking eyes with Santana.

"Can I take your top off? I really want to take your top off."

Santana nodded immediately, even lifting herself up on her elbows to try to assist her in having better access. Brittany tossed Santana's shirt on the floor next to hers.

"The best view of New York. That's what I have right now."

She bent down, placing wet open mouthed kisses all over Santana's chest. She loved her breasts, for years she had. The silicon having been removed only making her more attracted to Santana. She found the small scars, using her tongue to trace them.

Santana had always been self conscious of her breasts. She had thought them too small, embarrassingly so, when she was a young teenager, then, after having had implants, the condescension they had earned her had embarrassed her even more than their previous size had, to the point she had begged for her parents to remove them after only one year. Now the scars left, along with their renewed rather modest size, is something she is self conscious about as well. So for Brittany to still compliment and seem to genuinely find them attractive, even after all she's put them through, is something she appreciates.

Brittany was a fan of tits. Always had been. And there was no pair she had thought about, dreamed about, studied, more than Santana's. As her tongue traced over scars and around nipples, lips sucking softly and then not so softly, she found herself more and more turned on.

"My favorite things to play with. Even more than my iPad."

She winked up at Santana, lifting herself up to kiss her. Her breasts pressed against Santana's as her hand snaked between them, toying with the band of Santana's shorts.

Already Santana was getting pretty worked up. She was breathing audibly, and when Brittany kissed her she returned it enthusiastically, sucking on her tongue and lower lip and biting down not quite so playfully. She scratched her nails over Brittany's back and shoulders, pressing her closer to her.

"Do you want me to go down on you or use my hand?" Brittany asked, doing her best not to break the kiss.

She would enjoy either option. One offered a more explosive orgasm and the other the ability to kiss. Neither option would leave Santana unfulfilled, at least in Brittany's own opinion of her talents.

If she uses her hand, then she doesn't have to be separate from Brittany's mouth on other areas.

"Hand," Santana managed, muttering this into her mouth. She didn't want to pull back even to come up for air.

Again Brittany shifted, arching herself to give her room to push off her shorts and to pull down Santana's. Her fingers were slightly hesitant as they moved slowly around Santana's belly button, floating slowly southward.

"I'm crazy wet," she muttered against Santana's lips, nipping at her bottom lip.

Santana had already soaked through her underwear, without even being touched yet at all. Her hand twitched with the desire to reach to pull Brittany's hand down further.

"Someone is needy tonight," Brittany whispered as she stroked Santana over her underwear. She moved her fingers lightly, wanting to tease her a little bit. "Someone needs to get off with her girlfriend or she might explode, is that right?" Her lips moved to Santana's neck again as her hands lowered Santana's underwear.

Normally, the word "needy", even in the sexual sense, no matter how true it might be, would tense Santana up again, not liking the connotation. But tonight she was so turned on that even this didn't get to her like it normally would. She moaned again, gasping out Brittany's name as her nails dug into her skin. Brittany shifted herself so her underwear joined Santana's on the floor. A thigh moved between Santana's for her to grind on as fingers started to press between her thighs.

"I love you."

She started to suck on Santana's neck. The hand not touching Santana between her legs was used for both support to keep Brittany up and to rub Santana's spin near the spot between her shoulder blades.

"I haven't been this turned on in a year, maybe since that night in your room senior year. The night where I passed out for like 90 seconds after I came."

Santana rubbed herself nearly frantically against Brittany's thigh, sharp cries escaping her continuously now. Her juices were dampening Brittany's skin, slick against her, and as she lost more and more inhibition, she didn't care in the moment how open and vulnerable she really was, how she was putty in Brittany's grasp.

"Fuck …Santana…."

Brittany ground down against Santana's thigh. She took one of Santana's hands and slid it where she wanted it, pressing against her. She didn't move as franticly as Santana did, barely able to hold back from the near frantic pace Santana was demonstrating.

"You are so wet. Is it for me, are you wet because of me?" she asked, lips moving to glide over Santana's breasts.

"Fuck," Santana breathed, the words ragged with her rapid breaths, her chest heaving.

She slid two fingers inside Brittany, letting her guide her hand where she wanted it, as she continued to rock herself against Brittany at a fast pace, building friction until she was sure she really was about to explode. Brittany whimpered as she rolled and rocked her hips.
"Santana."

She kept breathing out her lover's name, wanting her to understand just who was causing such a reaction. She both wanted Santana to feel loved and she wanted her to feel sexy. Not always easy to do though grunts and finger thrusting.

"The first time I ever had a real orgasm it was with you… No one else knew how to touch me. No one can get me this wet. Just you. Always you."

It's this that pushed Santana over the edge. Hearing that Brittany, as many people as she's had sex with, has only really been turned on by her, sent a rush of adrenaline through her that ended in her climax, crying out Brittany's name. She squeezed her hips as she pushed up against her, wanting to feel herself as close to her as she can in this moment.

The press of Santana to her, the way her fingers hooked, the cry of her own name all compounded the arousal inside of Brittany. With a few second lag behind Santana she came, her mouth hanging open as she grunted Santana's name out, her hips moving as if she were on a dance floor. She slumped to Santana's chest, for a moment just laying limp.

Santana too remained limp and relaxed against Brittany as her breathing slowly began to even out, her body warm and pliant beneath the blonde's. She was smiling, her muscles occasionally twitching with delayed response to her pleasure...and then as her lazy, nearly stunned thoughts began to sharpen, anxiety began to stir.

She's just had sex with Brittany. She's had sex with Brittany for the first time in years, the first sex that's mattered in years, and it was amazing, just like she remembered. It was amazing and what if it never happened again? What if this was it? What did this even mean? What if they loved each other just as much as before, and she gave herself over to her feelings for her and she still lost her again, or if she lost herself and she wasn't good enough for her, she's too much for her, she pushes her away or makes it all wrong and it's all her fault?

As this panic began to flood through her veins, pushing up to choke her throat, tears started to stand behind Santana's eyes, and her lazy hold of Brittany became a clutch. She turned her head so her face was buried against her neck.

The suddenness of how quickly she was being clung to saddened Brittany more than it surprised her. She hoped the sex would cement how much she wanted Santana and not raise up fears of loss inside of her. She wrapped her arms around Santana and rolled them both over, wanting to put Santana on top where she wouldn't have to worry about her weight crushing her.

"I'm not going anywhere. I love you. I am in love with you. I am right where I want to be. I am your girlfriend. You are my girlfriend. We're safe Santana. You're safe."

Santana kept her face in Brittany's neck, a few tears escaping. She felt needy in a way she couldn't voice, and although she heard Brittany's words and tried to accept them, she was still teary, sniffling against her skin. She molded herself into her as close as she could get, her heart beating fast against the blonde's.

Brittany started to stroke up and down Santana's spine. The way she pressed now wasn't the way she pressed before to tease. She was doing it to soothe, to connect, to remind Santana she was real and solid.

"Well sometimes I go out by myself and I look across the water," She sang the words to the song she always sort of felt was their song.

Santana could feel the reverberation of Brittany's voice in her as she sang, against her own skin. She swallowed, her face still pressed against her, soaking up her warmth, and mouthed the next line against her skin. Brittany gave a small smile as she supplied the next line. She missed Santana's singing voice, feeling the warmth of her vocals. There was nothing to her sexier than Santana wearing one of her shirts, sitting on her bedroom floor with her, singing along to a song on one of their iPods.

Santana's grip on her loosened, and she relaxed gradually, the tears stopping. She didn't lift her face, though, and she didn't move away, wanting to remain tucked in against her. Brittany kept stroking her back much like she would have done to Lord Tubbington if he were laying on top of her.

Chapter Text

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that was top 3 best orgasms of my life."

Santana smiled, finally breaking her silence. "What was number 2?"

Brittany felt a shy smile appear on her lips. "The first time we were together and sober. Sophomore year, I think. The first time you touched me and I knew it wasn't the alcohol in your blood. I knew you wanted me. I knew it was you doing it and not Puck egging you on."

Santana's hand settled over the small of Brittany's back and she rubbed her thumb over it gently. "I remember that."

"Do you remember the hickey I had to hide for like 17 days you left on my neck?" Brittany asked softly. "Because I had to get a brand new concealer just to keep hiding it."

Santana snorted then against her neck, grinning. "I will never forget that. My best accomplishment."

"Do you want to know what my number 1 is?" Brittany asked, her hands resting on Santana's ass and the back of her neck.

Santana nodded against her, against tucking her face into her neck's crook as she adjusted herself over her slightly. "What?"

"Do you remember the night you asked me if we were dating? And I told you we better be because I ordered shrimp?" Brittany asked softly. "That night. That night because I had everything I wished for on the last 3 birthday cakes. I was dating the woman of my dreams. And when you touched me that night it felt different than it had before even if I thought we were already dating."

Santana hadn't known then that Brittany had wanted her for so long. She tightened her grip on her, inhaling sharply, and breathed her in. Brittany was trying so hard now to make her feel special and loved, to prove to her that she will not leave, and she tried to take this in and believe.

"That was my favorite too."

"I held you all night. I didn't move or sleep. I just held you. I didn't want to close my eyes and risk having it all be a dream. It felt so much like the dreams I use to have junior year. When never felt right and I'd dream of us together. But the sun came up and you were still in my arms. Then you asked me to make you pancakes. And for the first time in my life I was sure I found the person I'd marry one day."

Brittany whispered the last part out, not wanting to scare Santana. She didn't want her to think she was close at all to asking her to get married. She wasn't ready yet.

That last part caused her to tense up again before she made herself try to relax. She squeezed Brittany's arms, breathing out, and tried not to think of that at all. It was difficult enough to get through the aftermath of sex right now, let alone thinking ahead to any possible future.

"I'm not ready. I don't plan to ask you until at least 25. Or until I'm done with my degree," Brittany reassured her. The idea of marrying Santana was amazing but she had things she wanted done before a ring rested on either of their left hands.

Santana gave a small nod in response to her. Her fingers entwined with Brittany's, and she squeezed, relaxing against her again after this comment.

"I don't start classes until the end of January. But on the third Monday I start at the math lab," Brittany muttered, wanting to let Santana know how her life would work for the next month. "I'm pretty much living off my savings until I start being paid to be smart."

"That's cool," Santana told her in a murmur, tracing her knuckles with one finger.

She didn't tell her that she herself was struggling to make rent. She was having to pay off some debt she had accumulated, and living in New York, even in a cheap loft, was not at all affordable. The three jobs she was holding at the bar, strip joint, and diner were not exactly equal tip makers, and lately, she was sucking at making good tips on all of them, because she hadn't felt like actually trying to endear herself to anyone.

"I can cover my third of the rent. That should help you and Rachel out… do you want to give joint gifts this year? It's one of the things I always sort of liked about being a couple. You can give gifts to someone from the relationship as a whole."

It was like Brittany could read her mind. She couldn’t, could she?

"You don't have to," Santana told her, but she sounded perfunctory even to her own ears. Honestly, it had put quite a strain on them both when Kurt moved back to Lima, even though he swore it was only temporary.

"If I'm going to live here I'm paying my share of the rent and the bills. It's only fair." Brittany ran her hand though Santana's waves of hair. "Besides I worked a lot in Boston in between classes and the other stuff I was into. I have a lot saved up right now and I'll be making really good money for a college job when I start the math lab. Besides we're 20 now, both of us, it's time we moved into the adult portion of the relationship."

"I don't know what being an adult has to do with buying gifts together," Santana said, but again this was half hearted. She didn't mind it, but she did feel like she needed to at least verbally resist.

"Yup." Brittany nodded. "Buying gifts and apartment stuff and food together. All part of the deal." She traced shapes on to Santana's back as they laid together. "All of the stuff that is boring and mundane when you do it alone but when you do it with your super hot girlfriend it's fun."

Santana had to admit that shopping with Brittany is much more entertaining than looking for the boring things her friends and family like on her own. Her muscles rippled slightly in response to Brittany's tracing, and she gave a small shiver, moving in closer against her.

"Okay, I guess so."

"You guess so?" Brittany chuckled as she kissed over Santana's shoulder. "I already got you a gift. So don't go through my computer bag. And it's wrapped so if you do you won't see it." Lazy kisses were again pressed to tan skin. "Do you want to go home for Christmas or stay in New York?"

Like she could answer a question that involved thought with Brittany stroking her shoulder, kissing her skin. Santana's brain shut down on any thought outside of this as she managed in a gasp, "'Kay..."

"God you are easy. I should ask you to spill all of your secrets while I kiss your skin. It's like that potion in Harry Potter that makes you unable to lie." Brittany nuzzled Santana's neck, her hand drifting over her spine. "Do you want to go again or should I stop now?"

Oh that would be so unfair. So. Damn. unfair. Because she thinks that Brittany is absolutely right. Of course she didn't want her to stop touching her, kissing her, but the most she could manage was a faint head shake and another throaty noise escaping her at Brittany's touch.

Brittany slipped out from under Santana and moved behind her, pale skin resting over tan as she started kissing up and down Santana's back. It was like one big erogenous zone on Santana and she knew it.

"Are you really happy I'm in New York, baby? Are you happy I came home? Because where you are will always be my home."

So. Unfair. Brittany knew damn well that Santana couldn't resist her focusing on her back like this, especially not when she dragged her lips over the base of her spine. Breathing rapidly, she found herself answering hoarsely, her voice seeming outside of herself more than chosen by her to be spoken.

"Yes...yes...."

"That's my girl." Brittany rested her chin on the base of Santana's spin as she looked up, her fingers digging in just slightly as they moved. "How much porn did you watch when you were waiting for me to come home, San? How many nights did your hands wander and your thighs shake?"

There was no way she could give an entirely honest answer to this, because the answer was pretty much every night she didn't actually have sex with a live person. Santana informed her of this, her thighs actually quivering now from Brittany's attention.

"A lot...just...a lot..."

"Yeah?" Brittany started kissing up her spine, moving her longer frame up over Santana. Her breasts pushed against her back as she moved. "I burned out two vibrators in Boston watching our tape every night. God, the way you look when you cum is magical. More magical than even a unicorn." She ran her teeth over the base of Santana's neck. "Are you hurting financially right now?"

Santana couldn't watch their video, not when Brittany was gone. It had hurt too much, brought back too many memories, and it would have made her even more depressed and angry that she wasn't there in person.

When Brittany nipped her lightly, Santana writhed beneath her, crying out, and only subconsciously heard and answered her question.

"Yeah..."

"Santana. I want you to think about the question I’m going to ask you now and answer honestly." Brittany used a tone of voice rarely heard by anyone outside of Santana in their bedroom. "Because if you lie to me then I stop touching and I start tickling you until you have blue balls for the next week."

Santana knew she would, and she knew too what torture this was for her. She would burst out in helpless laughter and never get her itch scratched satisfactorily at all, and Brittany would stick with it. Swallowing heavily, she waited, trying harder to listen this time.

"Will." Brittany pressed a kiss to the back of Santana's neck. "You." The second kiss was paced half way on top of the first. "Let." Another kiss was pressed, this time a little lower. "Me." A forth kiss pressed, this time teeth nipping skin. "Help." The teeth nipped a little hard. "You?" The lips giving the kiss sucked softly, leaving a hickey.

Santana's inner thighs were damp, and she squirmed at each kiss, until her legs were twitching and jerking by the time Brittany started to nip her skin. She was almost panting now, her hands fisting the sheet beneath her, and again she answered without full concentration, on impulse.

"Y-yes..."

"That's my girl."

Brittany knew Santana would never agree to help without a little motivation. And there was no bigger force between them than the love and passion they shared. A hand slipped under Santana, two fingers and a thumb going to work. Brittany's hips rocked against Santana's butt as she started nipping up and down her spine.

"Sing for me Santana. I need to hear your voice."

Santana hasn't sung since Finn's memorial, when she can help it, and on a few occasions since the diner. It was difficult for her to sing now without becoming overly emotional, and no songs were coming to mind. With Brittany's fingers inside her, her skin seeming to be almost at one with hers, she was brought back in time to one song, only a few words sticking to mind that she gasped out, barely above a whisper.

"Well I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've built my life around you..."

Brittany pressed her body closer to Santana's, a few tears leaking out at the fear in Santana's voice. There was a pain that came with her singing that scared Brittany. Honest to God scared her. Her fingers never stopped moving though as she moved her head to rest on Santana's shoulder as she moved against her and moved without her.

"But time makes you bolder, children get older, and I'm getting older too."

"And I see my reflection in a snow covered hill," Santana whispered, her hips continuing to move in rhythm with Brittany's in time with her finger's thrusts. She fumbled for Brittany's hand, covering it with her own as she guided her, wanting to touch herself at the same time.

“Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

Brittany’s voice cracked as she felt Santana’s hand covering her own. A whimper escaped her as she felt Santana press up against her to fit her hand between the bed and her body. A shutter ran through her as her body took in the sound and sight under her.

“I . . . never let go of my hand, baby,” she begged slightly before she came, her hand stuttering in its smooth motion for a second.

Santana didn't want to. She never truly had. It took her longer, another couple of minutes past Brittany, but when she came a few minutes later it was satisfying, trembling through her up her spine and down her limbs. She lay back, wanting Brittany to be over her, weighting her down pleasurably. Brittany made no effort to move her hand.

"I don't do well when I don't have you,” she told her softly. “ I don't know how to interact with the world on my own. My brain works differently and sometimes I get scared. I get scared and I shut down. I did it when you were in Kentucky and I did it when I was in Boston. I know you're scared of opening yourself up again but I'm scared of not ever holding your hand again. It's the only place I've ever truly felt normal."

Santana gets scared too, and shutting down or lashing out when scared are the only ways she's ever really known how to cope. Except with Brittany. With Brittany she has dared to let herself be soft and genuine and open so wide it hurts, even if she doesn't quite know how to say this in words.

"You have my hand now."

"I have your hand now."

Brittany pressed a kiss to Santana's shoulder before her head went back down. For a moment she did nothing but breathe and feel Santana's heart beat though her back.

"Do you know the song, She Keeps Me Warm?" she asked softly.

Santana's breathing was slowing, her eyes growing soft, half shut beneath Brittany as her body went loose and limp beneath her. When Brittany spoke, the soft tickle of her voice in her ear and the soothing sensation of her heartbeat against her back made her smile.

"Yeah...you're doing a good job with it."

"I want to sing that for you sometime. I learned how to play it and I want to sing it to you. You sang me a song once in the Glee room and I never really got to return that favor…. the first line is so us, San. You are safety and home to me."

"Sing it," Santana told her, eyes fully closed now beneath her.

It's something of an understanding between them, even before now; Santana, who is easily cold in air conditioned buildings, cool nights, and early mornings, has always "stolen" Brittany's warmth from her.

"She says I smell like safety and home. I named both of her eyes “Forever” and “Please don’t go”. I could be a morning sunrise all the time, all the time yeah. This could be good, this could be good."

Brittany stayed on top of Santana and let her body heat soothe her girlfriend as she sang. The ideas that she was physically warming Santana up always made Brittany feel extra special.

"And I can’t change, even if I tried. Even if I wanted to."

All her life, Santana's tried to change. She's struggled with herself, her body, her sexuality, her skin color, ethnicity, popularity level, and how to make others like or love her. Nothing has ever seemed enough, nothing she has done has ever seemed to matter, until Brittany. Brittany made it all almost meaningless.

Brittany continued with her a cappella version of the song. “My love, my love, my love, my love. She keeps me warm, she keeps me warm.”

She slowly faded out as her fingers pulled out of Santana’s body. One hand stroking the other woman’s thigh, she closed her eyes, loving more than anything how Santana’s body slowly leeched heat from hers, how the other woman’s eyes half closed, her breath deepening against her skin.

Chapter Text

Brittany looked at herself in the bathroom mirror one last time. Her dress was flowy and black, the fabric shifting just the way she wanted around her knees when she moved. She had heels on, 3 inches so she could walk if Santana wanted to later. She had her hair back and her makeup on. She was ready.

She was also nervous.

Even if taking Santana out on a date was something she shouldn’t be nervous about. The few phone calls she made earlier to call in a reservation and a favor made her hopeful Santana would enjoy the evening she planned. Brittany had planned dinner at a beautiful Italian restaurant and then a private show at the museum. Just them and the stars.

She exited the bathroom, moving to the living room to wait for Santana to come out. “Ready when you are San.”

Santana was nervous too. Somehow this seemed very important to her, going on a real date for the first time in the six years she's known Brittany. She couldn't mess this up, she couldn't do something that would make it fail, and she had to look perfect for her, act perfect for her. As illogical as she knew this was, and as much as she knew, deep down, that Brittany loved her exactly for who she was, at her worst and best and everything in between, she still wanted to try hard for her.

She had been fussing with her hair for thirty minutes, unhappy at the way it was waving rather than curling, and she kept looking at her thighs and stomach in the mirror, insecure at the tightness of her dress across them. Finally she exhaled, opening the door, and stepped out.

"Okay." She looked Brittany up and down and her smile softened as she took her in. "You look amazing."

Brittany looked up from her phone to thank Santana but as she did her breathe was taken away.

“Whoa.”

Santana looked amazing. Brittany usually thought she did anyway but this was a whole other league. She moved from the couch over to her girlfriend, dipping her head to press a cheek to Santana’s cheek, careful not to blemish her makeup.

“You look beautiful, Santana. Out of this world beautiful.”

Her heart fluttered inside of her chest, her hand slipping down to find Santana’s. For a moment Brittany just stood, taking in all that was a dressed up Santana.

“I got us a table at Fitzcarraldo,” she finally regained her senses, able to think after all the blood rushed out of her head upon seeing Santana dressed so beautifully. “And then a little treat for you. But the after dinner entertainment is a surprise.”

She grinned, hoping that her idea worked as well in real life as it did in her head.

Santana flushed at Brittany's response, a smile curving her lips, and she looked down, at first somewhat shy by her reaction. She squeezed her hand, telling her sincerely, "You're more than beautiful. You're the most gorgeous woman I've ever seen in my life."

With Brittany' hint of a treat and surprise, she raised her eyebrows, smirking. "Ohh?"

"I try," Brittany shrugged, though her smirk gave her away. "I was looking at their menu while you were finishing up. The tasting menu sounds amazing. But all the food sounds amazing." She was excited about this, not just because she hoped the food was so good Santana didn't even think about not finishing her plate. "Oh, I got you something too." She kissed Santana's hand before grabbing some roses she had hidden under her jacket. "For you, Miss Lopez."

Santana's eyes lit up, and her expression melted, dimples flickering in and out of view. She took the roses, her eyes still soft, as they were the first ones she's ever been given. Coming forward, her hand cupped Brittany's cheek as she kissed her.

"Thank you so much."

Those dimples were always Brittany’s downfall. Their appearance made her weak in the knees, but she kept herself from melting too far into the floor.

“Those dimples, I know I’ve done well when I get those dimples. I got them the last time I gave you flowers, your prom corsage.”

For a moment she let herself remember how much that night meant to her. She let herself remember how dancing with Santana in front of a room full of their friends and peers made her so proud to be Santana's girlfriend.

“Ready to go, honey?” she asked, her eyes searching Santana’s.

Santana nodded, but she was not really ready, not until she found a vase and put the roses in water and carefully set them in the center of her and Rachel's messy table, pushing everything else aside so it was not crowded. Reaching for Brittany's hand, she walked with her. Brittany sat in the back of the cab, Santana at her side. Her hand interlaced with Santana’s, the joined hands settled on her thigh.

“You know I thought by now I’d be used to it. Being able to hold hands. But every time we do it feels so good. I like that holding your hand is enough to make me grin for an hour

Santana felt the same way about it. Every time Brittany touched her, hell, every time she looked at her with a certain look on her face, it made her feel soft and strangely open in a way that was sometimes scary, but always amazing. She smiled at her, rubbing her thumb slowly over the back of her hand as she looked down at it.

"I guess since it's us."

"I think being so open with holding hands and stuff feels good because we put so much energy into hiding it for so long." Brittany pressed a tender kiss into Santana's temple. "Now the world knows just who I belong to every time you take my hand. Or grab my ass."

Santana's eyes were almost glowing as Brittany kissed her, soaking up this affection. She grinned, leaning her head on Brittany's shoulder. She wanted everyone to know. She didn't want Brittany to ever touch anyone but her, ever.

"That grin looks good on you babe."

Brittany rested her head against Santana's. She turned quite as the driver brought them closer to the start of their night.

"Did you bring your fake id or are you going to just be Santana tonight?"

To answer her question, Santana reached inside the small purse she had with her, producing her newer, more expensive fake ID- the one that also identified her as Santana Lopez. She winked, waiting for Brittany to catch on.

"I'm impressed." Brittany looked closer at it. "Better photo than your last one. It looks like a real ID photo and not something someone hot glued on. But then most bartenders look at your smirk and not the ID." She handed it back before pulling out her own. "Susan Brittany Pierce. The guy that made it for me was pretty high in his defense."

So they're drinking tonight then. Santana noted this without comment, examining Brittany's.

"Shall I call you Susie? Or just Susie Q? Oh that should so be Quinn."

"I called her Lucy Q once. She looked at me like I grew a second head before she started laughing. She's really sort of grown since high school." Brittany ran a hand over Santana's thigh, enjoying the skin on skin contact. "She helped me out a lot when I was in Boston."

Santana was definitely enjoying the contact too. It's about all she could do not to push Brittany's hand up her skirt, in fact. She gave a slight shiver, swallowing as she asked her, "How did she help?"

"She and I would go see each other sometimes on weekends. I'd lay in her bed or she'd lay in mine and we'd just talk. About you, about Beth, about high school. She and I have a long history together, all three of us do." Brittany's hand traced things on Santana's skin as she spoke. "It was nice having someone who knew how bad I had it for you and how long."

Santana was quiet, thinking of this. She had been avoiding Quinn for some time now, more or less since they had sex, but much more so when Quinn didn't come to Lima for the memorial. She wondered if Quinn had told Brittany they had sex, and what Brittany thought if she had. It was strange for her to think of the two of them talking about her when she was not there.

"She told me about you two," Brittany said, as though reading her mind, still fingering Santana’s thigh. "I'm not upset. I was because I worried that she might try to take you away from me. She's about the only other person I was ever threatened by. I mean she is beautiful and smart and she knows you nearly as well as I do. I never slept with her so I can't judge her there though."

"I am so not talking about Quinn in bed with you," Santana said quickly, holding up the hand not entwined with Brittany's and giving an uncomfortable laugh. "As long as she said I was awesome and I rocked her world, that's enough."

Brittany snorted, unable to help herself. "She did mention how you were, but she made me swear I wouldn’t tell you her thoughts." She leaned in, kissing Santana's cheek to show there were no hard feelings. "I will say I sort of wish I was there too."

"Ha, that would have really been a fun night," Santana had to smile at this too, grateful that Brittany seemed at ease. "All we have to do is get her drunk again, start a rant against men, and she'd totally go for another round. Guaranteed."

"I'll have to keep that in mind when she comes to visit," Brittany shook her head her laugh flowing easy. She liked how quickly they managed to solve this. "Just tell me I'm better. You know, for my poor ego."

Instead, Santana ran her fingers up Brittany's neck, through her scalp, and then over her lips before kissing her.

"Do I have to tell you?"

Brittany whimpered at the gesture. "You are really too good at making my brain go fuzzy. Remind me to have sex with you before I try to do my math work so I don't end up answering Santana's boobs to all the problems,” she winked, pulling back to grab money for the cabbie once he stopped.

Santana winked, realizing her slip of speech, and runs with it. "Okay, I’ll totally remind you to have sex with me."

She has never understood why Brittany still seems so enraptured with her boobs, now that they're so imperfect to her, but the girl still seemed to bring them up a lot. Getting out, she reached to take Brittany's arm in hers.

It didn't take long for them to be seated, Brittany across from Santana. The menus were the same as the ones online thankfully.

"Everything sounds really, really good. I'm going with either the roasted lamb or the fish stew. What about you, San?"
Santana flipped through the menu, torn between the food that does indeed look amazing, and her struggling inclination to try to keep her intake down and the calories as low as she can manage. She took some time to answer.

"I'm not sure."

She didn't want this to become a damper to their night. She knew how hard Brittany was working to make this a wonderful night and she wanted it to be, for them both, so badly. Brittany just nodded, not wanting to make Santana feel pressured.

"Do you want to share a bottle of wine or are you getting something else?"

Usually alcohol was a safer topic than food. Though it sometimes depended on if they were talking about what to get or how much was consumed.

"That sounds good," Santana said. She flipped through the menu some more, starting to get more anxious by the sheer number of choices, and looked up at Brittany. "What do you think looks good?"

"Why don't you get the fish stew, there has to be a joke in there somewhere, and I get the lamb and we share?"

Brittany was fairly sure they would share some of their meal anyway. This way a soup let Santana have a little more control. She could sip the broth if she felt the need to without having to really eat a whole lot. But if she wanted to eat she had that option too. Grateful for this suggestion, Santana smiled at her, her shoulders relaxing unconsciously.

"Okay. Oh, there's totally a joke, in fact, I think it's a sequel song of another metaphor I can think of."

Brittany reached for Santana's hand, weaving their fingers together. "Thank you for going on a date with me. I was pretty sure you were going to say yes but I still felt nervous asking you. You're kind of the most amazing woman I know."

"For saying yes? I'd be the stupidest woman you know if I said no," Santana countered. "Thank you for doing this. You're trying really hard, for me...aren't you?"

"I am." Brittany nodded shyly. "I like being your girlfriend, Santana. I love it if I'm being honest. I love being the person that gets to hold you and plan dates for you and buy you flowers. I love it because it's everything we whispered to each other on the nights we let ourselves think of a future together. Those were the best nights of my life. But they aren't really anymore. The best nights of my life now are every night I get to slip in behind you and pull you against me. And yeah, I sound like the people we use to make fun of in high school. But maybe we weren't the smartest kids at 15."

If Santana had felt soft before, her heart was a pile of melted goo in her chest now. She dropped her eyes, blinking several times, and reached for Brittany's hand, pulling it against her cheek, then to her lips.

"No...we definitely weren't very smart. But you're a genius now, so you have...you are...making up for it."

Brittany blushed just like she did every time Santana called her a genius.

"I have an IQ that is higher than all but 6 people alive right now. They made me take the tests. And when I was done and they kept calling me a genius I was confused. Because I didn't really feel like one. But when you do it I feel so warm inside." She felt her heart beating quickly in her chest just like every time she locked eyes with Santana after telling her something like that. "You have always believed in me. When I win some big math prize and all the cameras are pointed at me I am going to gush so hard over you. Prepare now, Miss Lopez."

Santana can't equal what Brittany has told her in words. It seemed impossible to let her see how much that means to her, how much Brittany means to her. Instead, she leaned in to kiss her again, stroking her cheek with the hand cupping her face. When she pulled back it was only because the waiter was waiting to take their order. Brittany ordered for both of them, a fan of the gentlewoman act. Her dad always ordered for her mom and she thought it was kinda romantic.

"I do have some really cool news. News I think you're going to like.”

"That I'm getting a really huge reward that lies between the sheets?" Santana asked hopefully, sitting up a little straighter.

"I was hoping you would let me make you feel really good after our date. We're both kind of the type to do that on a first date after all." Brittany stuck the tip of her tongue out at Santana. "But no. Not the news. NYU is giving a gala in October for women in STEM. I'm going to be speaking at it."

"Can I give requests?"

Santana stuck her tongue back out at her, playfully doing so between V'd fingers and ignoring the looks of other customers around her. She dropped her fingers and the bawdy expression when Brittany kept speaking, breaking out in an excited grin.

"Brittany! I'm so proud of you, you're so freaking amazing."

"You and I both get to put on super nice dresses and go to this thing. I am going to need you there to keep me from going full crazy Brittany." She tried not to comment on what Santana did. She really tried. "I might do that as long as you don't get us kicked out before we eat. I'm starving."

Santana rubbed her toes slowly over Brittany's ankle beneath the table, snaking them up. "I'll have to be more sneaky in the future."

Brittany shook her head in amusement. "I am thinking of getting Ash an iPad for Christmas. She keeps hinting for one and Mom and Dad aren't getting her one. What do you think?" She moved the subject off sex even as her foot slipped from her shoe to mirror Santana's actions.

"I think you're trying to distract me and for once you suck at it," Santana informs her. She battles for foot dominance under the table, grinning.

"I'll suck at something," Brittany muttered under her breath, giving Santana a look. "I would love to have a conversation about our sex life, San, but you usually don't like it when I do that in public."

Santana laughs appreciatively at the comment, shaking her head. "That was when I was sixteen...times have changed. It's funny to scandalize OTHER people now."

Brittany laughed deeply. The waiter brought the wine, something Brittany was going to need if she was going to have this conversation.

"Alright Lopez, bring it babe."

"Oh, really? Is that what you want?" Santana took this as challenge. She took a long swallow of the wine, eyebrows raised. "You really sure about that, what with all the trouble you went to, to make us look like fancy ladies here tonight?"

Brittany leaned in to make sure only Santana would hear the next words out of her mouth. “Usually to be a fancy lady you have to be wearing underwear. And the trouble I went though was only to make the two of us have a good time. You wanna play with a little bit of fire, I’m game.”

She sat back, swirling her wine in the glass before taking another sip. Santana leaned forward too, wine glass in hand, and whispered back to her throatily.

"Are you sure I'm not wearing underwear? Maybe you should check."

Brittany’s lips twisted into a wide grin as she leaned forward, her nose brushing against Santana’s.

“I was talking about me. I’m not wearing a thing under my dress.”

Her foot snaked upward, the wine and passion making her bold. She pressed the heel of her foot between Santana’s thighs as she flexed her ankle to add pressure.

“Hmm, nope, don’t feel anything.”

Santana actually was wearing a thong. She widened her eyes at Brittany's remark, breaking out into a wide grin, and when Brittany's foot moved between her thighs, she inhaled sharply, her cheeks flushing.

"Try harder."

Brittany laughed as she twisted her foot a little, feeling the scrap of fabric. "Not sure if it counts when it's made of so little fabric."

This felt good. Teasing each other, enjoying the moment. How many nights in Boston had she hoped once day they would be here again?

"Well you could find a way to relieve me of it, since it doesn't count at all. I want to match."

Santana winked at her, shifting forward so her crotch was pressed more firmly against her. Brittany tried to figure out just how to rid Santana of the offending bit of clothing without anyone finding out.

"You should use the ladies room while I refill our glasses."

"Nope, that's cheating," Santana smirked, shaking her head. "Do it HERE."
Brittany leaned forward as far as she could go. "Put your feet in my lap and move your chair in as much as you can." Her arms could just reach Santana if she would move her chair in as much as possible. "I think I can slip it off."

This was more than a little conspicuously weird, but Santana didn't care. She scooted forward, bracing her feet on Brittany's lap, and tensed up in anticipation, already grinning, near giggles from the thought of her toes scrabbling for the thin strap of her panties. Brittany managed to lean forward without making it too clear to anyone what she was doing. She slowly slid back, bringing the scrap of fabric with her. She bent and dropped them in an empty side pocket of her purse.

"Now we match."

Santana was more than turned on now. Swallowing hard, shifting noticeably in her seat, she licked her lips, taking a breath.

"You're talented, babe."

Brittany just gave her most innocent smile. "What can I say? Being flexible had untold advantages." Her left hand moved to rub Santana's ankle, stroking slowly. "Are you having a good time tonight, San?"

God, she can only get sexier. Santana swallowed again, her body unconsciously curling towards Brittany as though asking for further touch, and wastes no time nodding.

"I'm having an amazing time."

Brittany bit her lip, her fingers ghosting over Santana's skin. "That was all I wanted tonight. Us to have an amazing time in the best city in the world." Her free hand moved to the bottle of wine, pouring a bit more in each glass. "Have you thought about going back to school?"

Santana shivered, wanting to press herself more firmly into Brittany, wanting to be touched everywhere, with exactly that soft degree of pressure. She sipped the wine almost having forgotten that it was there, or where they were at all. Brittany's question brought her back to earth a little though, and she sighed, taking another sip of wine.

"Sort of. Not seriously."

"You're gifted at a great many things Santana. It would be different this time, but the choice is yours."

Santana was not convinced. All she knew is how miserable and unhappy she had been in Louisville, how she had been so unfocused and uninterested in her classes she had stopped going, and in NYC, she'd have so much more competition. She won't be one of the smarter ones or even one of the prettier or more talented ones, she was sure of it, and how would she be able to keep pushing herself knowing that?

Brittany cocked her head, her fingers still tracing over her ankle.

"How is it that someone as amazing as you are can doubt themselves so much after constant proof of their talents?" she asked, honestly unable to see Santana any other way than as the most amazing person she knew. "You're brilliant and both a gifted singer and dancer. You can act too. Not to mention you have movie star good looks."

Santana smiled a little, self conscious at all this praise, but knowing Brittany was sincere.

"Everyone else is in New York too, you know."

"Not like you." Brittany would never be convinced of that. "You forget that I have seen you on stage standing a foot away. I know how brightly you shine," she added as she ran her hand up Santana's calf.

Santana gave her a little smile, but she was still not entirely convinced. Her nearly two years of not being in school, watching what seemed to her like everyone she knew in high school sailing past her with their successes, had made its mark on her, and so she changed the subject.

"Are you sure you won't tell me my surprise?"

Brittany let go of the conversation.

"I will give you a hint." She brought her sexy smile out again, her fingers rubbing Santana's calf like she might do to her back. "It involves something I love to do while laying on my back. And no, not that."

Santana had no idea if it's not sex. She tried to think, not easy with Brittany still rubbing her skin.

"...stare at the ceiling after eating a pot brownie?"

"I only did that like a few times. It has to do with science."

This really stumped her.

"Watching a bonfire and throwing firecrackers into it?"

Brittany shook her head, breaking into a grin.

"That was two hints and you didn't get it. One more and if you don't get it then you'll just have to wait." She brought Santana's hand to her lips. "Summer between Junior and Senior year, my back yard, every Tuesday night."

And now Santana got it. How could she ever forget? Smiling, she shook her head back at her.

"Where are we going to have space to spread out and look at stars here?"

"I might have called in a small favor with someone I worked with at MIT to get the star theater at the American Museum of Natural History reserved for a private show for the two of us. Lima Ohio during the summer so we'd see the same stars we did that summer."

Brittany truly was amazing. She had obviously tried so hard and put so much thought into the night, trying to make it as special and romantic as possible, and it was all Santana could do not to let herself tear up in response. She reached for her hand, squeezing hard, and then leaned in and kissed her lips, not caring who was watching.

Brittany's hand moved to Santana's cheek, stroking as she leaned into the kiss. "I wanted us to have a little bit of home tonight," she whispered when the kiss broke. "Those nights were so perfect that I thought bringing a little piece of them here might be romantic."

Home is what Santana has been wanting to leave for as long as she could remember. Home is where she was desperately afraid and unhappy, where she's had some of her deepest sorrows and hurts. And yet she understood what Brittany was trying to do for her and loved her all the more for it.

"You make everything perfect. You don't have to try."

Brittany toyed with Santana's fingers. "You are my favorite person in the world Santana. I love you but I really like you too. We're best friends. We know each other, warts and all. And one of the things you should know by now is I'm never going to stop trying. Because you deserve a partner that keeps trying with you. And who can take your thong off in the middle of dinner without getting us kicked out."

She winked, leaning back when their food came out. Santana felt a stir of nervousness and tried not to look at it.

"I haven't tried with you though," Santana protested, squeezing her fingers back. "I haven't done anything to keep up with you."

 

"You have done everything I've ever asked of you," Brittany pointed out. "I asked you to come out and you did. I asked you to hold my hand and you're doing that right now. I asked you to protect my heart and you did that too. I'm a simple girl Santana. All I need is your hand in mine and your heart beating in my chest."

She didn't look down at the food, her eyes locked with Santana's.

"You have done everything I've ever asked of you." Brittany pointed out. "I asked you to come out and you did. I asked you to hold my hand and you're doing that right now. I asked you to protect my heart and you did that too. I'm a simple girl Santana. All I need is your hand in mine and your heart beating in my chest."

She didn't look down at the food, her eyes locked with Santana's. And this melted Santana all over again. She looked down, her face alit with the softness of hearing her words, and tried to reconcile them as being not only true, but enough. To believe and trust she's enough. She looked up again, holding her gaze.

"I'll try to always be your heart...if you keep yours close to mine."

It took a lot for her to say this out loud, but she didn't look away.

"I promise."

Brittany felt like she was saying a vow to Santana here and now. Nothing made her happier than the idea of making a vow to the person she loved more than Lord and Lady Tubbington put together.

"You and I were always better together than apart. Like peanut butter and jelly."

"Nope, peanut butter and chocolate," Santana corrected with a squeeze of her hand and a smile.

"See, you're a genius too." Brittany grinned back. She turned her attention to the lamb in front of her, smelling like heaven. "This looks amazing, so does your stew."

Santana looked down, smelling the food subtly. Still a little nervous, she took time to put a napkin in her lap and get her silverware situated. She watched Brittany, waiting for her to start eating first, more getting a small spoonful.

Brittany cut into her lamb, cutting a bite off. "Ohmygod," she muttered, a hand in front of her mouth. Her eyes closed as she took in the flavors one by one. "This is so good I might leave you for it."

"Hey!" Santana said indignantly, but she laughed, enjoying Brittany's expression. In spite of herself she's curious about the taste.

Brittany cut another piece, offering it to Santana. She knew this was a gamble so she cut the piece small. She hoped Santana would take the bite but she promised herself not to scold her if she didn't.

"It melts in your mouth."

Santana hesitated, then slowly reached to take the bite. She ate it, and her face relaxed into a smile.

"It is good."

"Right?" Brittany beamed at her. "We're coming back here again. Maybe when Quinn comes up next weekend we can bring her?"

"Quinn's coming up next weekend?" Santana looked up, raising an eyebrow. "Don't we have enough people in the house?"

In all honesty, she was uncomfortable at the idea of being around the blonde and having her see how bad things have gotten in the loft with her and Rachel.

"I didn't ask her to stay at the loft. I wouldn't have without you and Rachel being ok with it." Brittany shook her head. "She has to come to the city to meet with someone to interview for a summer internship she wants. She's staying in a hotel though I would like her to see the loft and hang out with us some while she's here."

Santana shrugged, and started toying with her stew, not really eating it, as she replied.

"You know how she is with Berry, it's disgusting. Let's just avoid all that."

Brittany snorted at the comment but then her face softened. "Honey, do you not want to see Quinn?"

When Brittany calls her honey, she's getting serious and Santana knew it. She tried to avoid a direct answer.

"I don't want to see her making goo goo eyes at Berry, that's for sure."

"For like 3 years she watched us make goo goo eyes at each other and hand to try to sleep though us "cuddling" at sleep overs. I'm pretty sure that you can handle her undressing Rachel with her eyes for a day or two." Brittany quirked an eyebrow, trying to keep her tone upbeat. "She is our friend San, tell me what's really up."

"See, here's the difference. We are hot and awesome, and anyone undressing Rachel in any way is committing a crime against humanity."

Santana's voice was slightly sharper than she intended it to be. She poked at her stew some more, and then looked up at her quickly, trying to keep her voice light.

"Nothing's up. I just said."

Brittany took both of Santana's hands in hers, leaning over the table.

"You are so awesome that sometimes you make me unsure of my own name when you pull out your awesome and show the world." She snuck a quick kiss before leaning back. "Oh! You will never guess who Facebook messaged me last week. Matt."

Santana accepted and returned the kiss, but she was still thinking about Quinn. She barely raised an eyebrow in response to her comment about Matt.

"Yeah? Why?"

“He is getting married and wanted to know if I could teach him how to dance for the wedding. I guess he remembered how good I was and didn’t have anyone else to ask. But I won’t be back in Ohio in time. I hooked him up with a friend of mine though.” Brittany smiled, remember sophomore year and how much fun it had been when they let themselves have fun. “Do you think our 16 year old selves had any idea what we were in for with that group of people?” She snapped a little piece of Santana's fish. "I think I knew it was different than Cheerios even a few weeks in."

Santana smiled, thinking of Matt, missing him. She had genuinely enjoyed being around him.

"It would be cool to talk to him again." She thought back to her first few weeks of Glee club, remembering how disgusted yet intrigued she had been, how fast her heart had softened for those dorks. "I don't know what they did to us. There's something hypnotic in all that singing."

"I am really glad Sue made us join. Even if she was just doing it to try to end the club. It was the best thing that even happened to me. Because it lead me to you being my girlfriend. And it let to tonight." Her hand once again snaked up Santana's thigh. Her nails scrapped lightly against the back of Santana's left thigh. "Those girls that walked into that room wouldn't believe they could one day be sitting here. For all my unicorn magic even I would have a hard time seeing this. But we're here. We are here and together and because of that you and I can do anything. And I'm getting sappy but guess what? I like being a sap."

Santana totally loved it too. Everything the other girl was saying is exactly what she feels, much better worded than she could have managed. She grinned back at her, loving the happiness in her girlfriend's eyes, the feeling in her heart that so perfectly matched.

"I can tolerate it, since you like it so much."

Chapter Text

The room they would be spending the next few hours in already was lit up with the same star pattern they spent months looking up at. As promised in the center of the room was a nest of blankets and pillows. Brittany toed her shoes off before moving to her knees in the center.

"I am really good at calling in favors."

Santana didn't even know where to begin with this. She stood still for a moment, her neck craned up, then turned in a slow circle, taking everything in. Slipping her shoes off, she followed Brittany into the pillow pile, unsure of whether to slip between her legs, lay her head in her lap, or lie down with her, head to head. Brittany just smiled as she looked into Santana's eyes.

"You know why I do these things for you? Because you deserve them. You deserve sweet things and loving words. You deserve the moon and all the stars in the sky."

She shifted to her back, her arms open, letting Santana decide herself how to lay. It seemed so surreal to Santana, to hear Brittany to say this, to know she meant it so sincerely. She was the only person in Santana's life, with the exception of her mother, who has ever said these sort of things to her, who has ever looked her in the eyes and seemed to truly believe her to be worth this sort of sweetness. To think that she was a person who would respond well to it, one worth giving it to. Without Brittany, she wouldn't be, she is sure of it, and even with her it's not quite real.

Swallowing, her face open and soft, Santana lay beside her, resting her head on Brittany's chest.

This was how Brittany liked it. Santana's head against her chest, her arm around Santana's waist. She breathed in and out slowly as she looked up at the stars as they slowly danced though the shy.

"We met on August 11, 2009. Almost 2000 days have past since I first laid eyes on you."

Santana remembered. She traced her fingers over Brittany's arm, nodding slowly as she recalled aloud.

"It was Cheerios try outs, freshman year."

"It was." Brittany nodded as her fingers draw on Santana's back. "I was so nervous I wasn't going to be good enough. I mean I knew I could do the flips and stuff but I was so scared of Sue. I heard from one of the girls if you didn't make the team you had to move out of Lima."

Santana's skin reacted even to this light touch. She curled a little closer, drawing her leg slightly overlapping Brittany's as she remembered aloud too.

"Yeah. That was Hayley Atwell, she was such a bitch. Almost as much as the three of us, but she had nothing on us once the Unholy Trinity rose up in power." She rolled her eyes, remembering the captain at the time. "She kept making these comments that she thought I couldn't hear about how we better hope that I'm one of THOSE flexible Hispanics and all the rice and beans won't make for unpleasant pyramid experiences, and I was about one more syllable from using my flexible foot to shove it into her face or up her perky little ass."

She had been trying with everything she had to keep to herself then, already keyed up and nervous, worried about everything from her hair to her weight to her performance to that catty Hayley, and she had separated from the other girls, shooting them glares to attempt to mask her nerves and intimidate if they glanced towards her.

"I came over to you first, didn't I?" Brittany tried to remember that day. "I think I knew that if I didn't you'd be all alone. And I didn't want you to be alone. Even then I think I knew that you were going to be really important to me if I let you." She turned her head, nuzzling the top of Santana's head. "I knew deep down in my bones if I said hi to you that I would never want to say goodbye." She muttered as her fingers danced along Santana's back. "It was something about the color of your eyes. It was like the best chocolate in Amsterdam."

"I was mean to you," Santana murmured back, her voice apologetic even as it lowered, nearly a smoky purr in response to Brittany's attentions to her. She continued to rub Brittany's skin lightly as well, smiling. "I don't even remember what I said, but I was being a bitch. But you just kept talking to me like you didn't even hear, and it was so NOT what everyone else does that I didn't even know how to react to it...and then I just sort of, I don't know. I looked at you, and you were pretty and hot but I wasn't jealous anymore, and I just didn't want to be mean to you anymore. I didn't even really know why. It just went away from me."

"You had a crush on me. It's ok. I had a crush on you by then too," Brittany explained softly. "I had a huge crush on you by the time we had lunch. It's why I made you the bracelet out of the ribbons I had in my bag. I wanted to see how you'd do if I gave you a gift," she explained, her fingers digging in a little more firmly. She loved how much Santana reacted when she touched her back, making her want to do it more and more. "By the end of the day I knew I wasn't going to feel for any other girl the way I felt for you."

In hindsight, it did seem obvious that she had a crush, but at the time, Santana wouldn't have been capable of admitting it to herself, let alone identifying the feelings to Brittany. She smiled, remembering aloud, "Hayley made some comment about fulfilling the special needs quota and I said something about we've already done that with her as captain for the past two years, and then I went to go take your arm but you held out your pinkie instead. And I didn't know what you wanted but you just kept holding it out and it seemed weird to take it with my whole hand, so I just put mine out too."

Brittany held her pinky out for Santana to take, she missed the gesture even if she really liked being able to hold Santana's whole hand.

"Sometimes when we were at practice I would check you out. Quinn caught me a lot. That's why when she was captain I was the one usually holding you up. She knew I liked to put my hand on your ass," she muttered, blushing a little at the smirk Quinn had on her face when she told her that a few months ago. "She was trying to help us get together. I think she thought you'd be less bitchy if we were having regular sex."

Santana linked their pinkies, feeling a rush of closeness to her in her heart at this small gesture, just as she always has. She looked up with surprise at Brittany's confession, shaking her head.

"No way. I thought she was all prim and proper at first, until she fucked my boyfriend and got pregnant, obviously. But even after that, I didn't think she actually LIKED us together so much as sort of tolerated it."

"Puck was never your boyfriend. He was the cock you use to bounce up and down on to prove just how straight you were. You two never had a real relationship." Brittany pulled Santana a little closer. She didn't like talking about the guys Santana "dated" when she was trying to keep her act up. "You really think she was that deep a sleeper she didn't hear us fooling around at sleep overs?"

Santana removed her pinkie from Brittany's to wrap her fingers around her whole hand, trying to reassure her wordlessly. She snickered, thinking about Quinn. "So there was a reason she slept with her head under her pillow and it wasn't to keep spiders from getting in her ears."

"Nope. She knew we'd never be able to help ourselves if we were lying next to each other," Brittany muttered, letting Santana change how they were holding hands. "She told me she didn't mind it because if we were comfortable enough to let go with her in the room we must have trusted her to keep our secret."

"Oh, no way did Quinn Fabray say that!" Santana turned her head to look at Brittany, astounded. "Nope, don't believe that...how drunk was she?"

"She was sober. We were cuddling," Brittany smirked a little bit. "She's not quite as good as you but if I had to cuddle with someone beside you it would totally be her."

Santana sat up all the way then, more astonished than ever. "You did not cuddle with Ice Bitch Fabray. No way. When did this happen and where is videoed proof."

Brittany rolled her eyes, grabbing her phone. She pulled up a selfie they took together, both in tank tops with the covers hiding if they were wearing anything else.

"She and I cuddled a lot when we came to see each other. We didn't really do anything together, some neck nuzzling and I gave her a few topless back rubs because of her back issues. But it was never a sexual thing."

Santana stared at the picture, jealousy digging deep claws in her heart. She heard what Brittany was saying, about them not being a sexual thing, and she knew she herself slept with Quinn. But she also heard neck nuzzling and topless back rubs and that's enough for her jealousy to flare up sharp, along with her insecurity. She didn't say anything, but squirmed uncomfortably.

Brittany couldn't help the little giggle that escaped. "I don't like that you feel uncomfortable but this is kinda fun. I mean usually in our relationship I'm the one that is jealous. I kinda like knowing that you care enough to be a little jealous of me." She ran her hand down Santana's spine in hopes of calming her down. "She's not you Santana. She's not you at all. I only want you to be my lover. Just you."

"She has bigger boobs than me," Santana muttered to herself , unable to resist, "but mine don't have stretch marks. And she's got a bigger ass."

But all three of them knew that Quinn's ass was pretty damn amazing. Actually, Santana was pretty jealous of it.

"She is beautiful Santana, I'm not denying that." Brittany took one of Santana's hands and put it directly over her heart. "But you feel the pounding in my chest? I don't get this with her. I don't get turned on when she rests her head on my shoulder. I don't whimper when she walks away from me. I don't want to buy every toy I can find and spend a week just seeing how many orgasms I can make her have before she can't walk anymore. You. You are who I want. And your breasts and your ass are the perfect size for my tastes."

Santana spread her fingers slowly, feeling Brittany's heartbeat against her palm. She relaxed at her description, her lips curving back into a smile, and she rested against her, breathing out a sigh.

"What if they change size?"

"Like because you get a little curvier or because you want to have surgery again?" Brittany asked, not wanting to agree to something when she wasn't sure what was going on inside Santana's mind. "I am not a huge fan of a Kim K ass babe."

"Hey, no hating on Queen K," Santana said mildly, squeezing her hand. "You know. If I lose or gain weight, I'm not the same size anymore." She said this off handedly, but she's listening carefully, watching her.

"As long as whatever you do is being done for health and not because you are skipping meals than whatever size you are is perfect for me," Brittany said softly, kissing her temple. "I hope you feel the same for me. My boobs are going to shrink a little and my hips will too once I start putting in my dance hours again."

Santana put up a hand to cup Brittany's breast experimentally. "Nah, it will all be good here."

She didn't comment on Brittany's words to her about her own body, preferring to let that go if she will let her. Brittany shifted a little bit, moving her hand to rest on Santana's thigh.

"If it were up to me, and I know it isn't, you'd look more like you did senior year. God you looked good, you always did though, at prom. You could lift me up then, do you remember when I made you give me a piggy back ride before we had sex for like three weeks?"

Santana grinned, remembering this, and how much she had enjoyed it, despite her efforts at pretending it was sacrifice.

"You used my hair like a mane."

She looked at Brittany's hand on her thigh, covering it slowly, and tried not to mentally calculate how much of her hand it covered.

"I love when you wear your hair naturally. It's beautiful." Brittany leaned in, giving Santana a soft kiss. "But you have always been beautiful to me. Because I guess I don't really see you with my eyes anymore but with my heart."

Santana kissed her back, closing her eyes. She felt then like she could see Brittany no matter what, wherever they are and however far apart, and she will always smell and feel and taste her too. Brittany has become her, in some ways.

Brittany leaned forward a little, her hand stroking Santana's thigh. "Thank you for going out with me tonight. For being my girlfriend. For loving me. I know we have a lot of history and some people might not have taken their ex just showing up as well as you did. And they might not have wanted to try things again. But you did. And for that I will never stop saying thank you."

Brittany's hand on her thigh was soothing, and Santana lay back against her, reaching for her free hand again with hers. She squeezed it, her eyes cast not to the stars, but to Brittany, because to her, she was much more amazing to watch.

"I'll always take you back."

"I hope you never have to again," Brittany whispered. "I don't want you to have to take me back Santana. If you do that means we broke up again. And I can't have you sing me a love song and then tell me we're over." She held tightly to Santana's hand. "You are more important to me than Lord Tubbington."

These were all true statements, ones Santana couldn't deny. She didn't want to have to take her back either, to lose her for even a second. Brittany's declaration of being more important to her even than her cat was huge from her, and unbelievably, it was that statement over all the others that caused her eyes to fill.

"You're the most important person I've ever known."

Brittany took a ring off her pinky and slipped it on to Santana's right hand, a Claddagh ring.

"No, not asking you the big question. I just want you to keep this for me for a while," she muttered, kissing Santana's shoulder. "We use to borrow each other's jewelry all the time. Think of it like that, or a promise ring or whatever. I just want you to have something of mine on you when I can't be there always during your day."

And now one tear actually escaped, seeping out the corner of her eye and starting to streak down her cheek. Santana shrugged her shoulder quickly to wipe it, holding up her hand to examine the ring more closely. She wondered if Brittany got it because she knew her obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and especially the other slayer, Faith.

"Thank you...I promise, I'll keep it on as long as you want me to have it. Promise."

"The heart facing in on the right hand means you're heart is taken but not engaged or something like that. I looked it up," Brittany admitted softly. She wanted to do something that had meaning to others as well as to the two of them.

Santana had automatically put it on in this way. Looking down at it, she didn't adjust it, giving Brittany a small smile. Brittany kissed Santana's shoulder again.

"I know we never really let ourselves plan a future because we didn't know what it would look like after high school. And we're both sometimes a little bit scared when it comes to making plans. But right now all that matters to me is you're holding my hand in whatever future I have. And we still have crazy awesome sex."

"Oh, that's a given," Santana shrugged, smirking a little. "No sex we have is anything but crazy and awesome." She took a breath, making her voice more serious as she met her eyes. "I want to always be holding your hand. Literally and otherwise. I don't know how but somehow."

"I finish school, become a super famous dancer, you figure out your shit and become super famous and hire me to be your personal dance maker upper. We tour the world together. Easy, right?" Brittany gave her a hopeful smile. She wanted to go all over the world to dance but only if it meant Santana was there too.

It sounded like a good plan to Santana. Maybe miraculous in her case, but inevitable in Brittany's.

"If that's your dream, you'll make it happen."

"That's not my dream, that's my plan," Brittany chuckled. "My dream had nothing to do with what I do for a living," she muttered softly, nuzzling her girlfriend's neck again.

Santana bared her throat to her, letting her have more access to her as she murmured, "What is your dream then...?"

"Marriage. Kids. A brownstone on a street our kids and us can walk down and a back yard they can play in. 50 or 60 or God willing 70 years together. Holding your hand as we lay in bed together and go one after the other so we don't have to be alone. A heaven where we get to relive the best moments of our life time together, hand in hand." Brittany's arms held tightly to Santana's waist, praying she wasn't going to scare her.

Hearing Brittany's dreams chokes her up again, and Santana rolls her eyes up to the stars, trying to stay composed. This is exactly what she wants, and yet she's so afraid to hope for it, let alone put it out there in words as a goal for her life. Instead she just squeezes Brittany's hand hard as she swallows, picturing this clearly.

"One day science is going to let me or you carry a baby made just by me and you," Brittany whispered softly. "And if we can afford it I'd like to do that. But if we can't or it's not ready in time then maybe we can use my cousin? He's mom is my mom's twin so he's like my half brother. And it would be close. I want to know what my nose and your eyes look like together even if I wouldn't love a baby you or I had any less just because of blood."

Santana nodded, hardly even realizing that she was. Eyes shutting, she imagined a baby that was the best of them both, leaving out all her worst parts and taking all of Brittany's good ones instead.

"A little girl," Brittany whispered. "With your voice and my dance moves. A fighter like you and loyal like me. Funny like you and protective like me. Willing to go to the ends of the earth for a friend like you and silly like me. And she will be loved. Because we'd do it right. No judgement if she liked girls or girls and boys or just boys. No making her feel like being a tomboy was wrong or that she was stupid. Our little girl will be so lucky to have you as her mami."

Santana could see this, all of this, so clearly in her mind. A little girl just like Brittany said, so wonderful and amazing, so strong and fully herself without fear of ever trying to be anything else. Her daughter. She wanted that then so badly she almost forgot her general self proclaimed aversion to children.

"One day Santana, we'll get out little girl." Brittany hugged herself to Santana. "And I'm like a total stud so I can totally knock you up."

She pulled back and grinned, wanting to see those dimples come out. Just as Brittany had hoped, Santana's dimples come into view with her smile. She shook her head, denying.

"Oh no, I'm the stud here."

"Yeah?" Brittany licked her lips. "Are you sure about that? Because I'm pretty sure you're a bottom and not even a power bottom."

She winked, if she had dimples herself she knew they would be out. Santana's mouth dropped open, mock offended, even though she knows full well she's right.

"Lies. Lies and slander."

Brittany raised an eyebrow. "If I told you to top me I'm pretty sure you'd have to goggle a how to guide babe." She leaned back against her hands, her hip pressed to Santana's.

"NOT true!"

Santana was actually slightly offended at this. Just to try to prove her point, she sprawled over top Brittany, pinning her wrists down as she situated herself, where she was straddling her. It was not an easy, fluid, practiced movement, though. Brittany couldn't help the groan that escaped as she looked up at Santana.

"Would you like me to call you Miss Lopez now?" she asked, a slightly cocky smirk on her lips.

"No, I wouldn't like it. I demand it," Santana blustered, still trying her damnest to be a top.

She rocked her hips against Brittany, already running through the list of all the scenarios she's seen in similar movies and pornos to try to copy. Brittany bit back a laugh at the look of concentration on Santana's face.

"You might want to shift a little, Miss Lopez, so you are grinding against my thigh. Right now I think you air humping is frustrating you more than teasing me."

"Hey, Miss Lopez doesn't take orders from you!" Santana barked, but her face was flushed with embarrassment. She did shift how Brittany said, trying to be subtle about it.

"Baby there is nothing wrong with being a bottom," Brittany tugged a little at the grip Santana had on her wrists. She knew she was stronger and if she wanted to she wouldn't have too much trouble getting out of Santana's control. "If we were both tops this wouldn't work. I love touching you and watching you feel part of me."

"I’m totally a top when I want to be," Santana insisted.

She didn't let go of her wrists, but now she couldn't remember what she was supposed to do with them. She couldn't be holding onto Brittany with both hands and also using her hands to touch her, obviously, but if she let go with just one hand how will she balance herself? And if she can't hold onto her with her hands how will she pin her just with her legs or hips?

"Sure you are." With that Brittany rolled them, one of her hands pinning both of Santana's as her thighs wrapped one of Santana's legs, her knee pressed tightly between Santana's thighs. "Teaching time. You use one hand to hold both of the bottom's wrists like I am now. And if you can angle it so your wrist acts as a support it shouldn't hurt them." She moved her free hand to cup one of Santana's breasts. "You want to use your knees to do most of the work to keep you upright though and drive it against your bottoms pussy."

Okay, so maybe Brittany knew what she's talking about. No, there's no maybe in this equation. She definitely knew. Santana swallowed, her body already responding definitively to her attentions. She wasn't even concerned with proving a point or trying anymore, she was too interested in feeling what Brittany was currently doing to her.

Brittany bent down, kissing Santana slowly. "I love you just the way you are. You want to learn how to top me, I will teach you. But don't do it because you think you have to. Do it because it gets you off like it gets me off." She ran her free hand over Santana's ribs. "Do it because the thought of pinning me down makes little tremors of pleasure shoot all over your body like it does when I think of pinning you. Do it because when your hips grin against my thigh you are thinking up 15 other ways to tease me like I do with you. And if you wanna stay on your back then I will very much enjoy being on top of you for the next 70 years, Princess."

Her body was reacting as much to Brittany's words as to her hands and hips now, and Santana's breathing came faster and harder as she arched up to grind against her in exactly the way Brittany had said. She reached to lock her arms around her neck, capturing her lips with hers, but didn't try to buck Brittany off the top again. Brittany allowed Santana's arms around her neck, sucking on Santana's bottom lip. Her hand that wasn't supporting her moved between Santana's thigh and started touching her.

"You like when I use my hand, don't you?" She whispered. "Or is my mouth better at making you feel worshiped?"

Santana loved both, obviously. But it's Brittany's mouth that really drives her wild. She reached for her, running a slightly shaky hand through her hair, and gave it a gentle tug to indicate that she should move her head down.

Brittany liked the way Santana shook as she touched her. The way that she was unable to control just turned on she was already

"Lay back and let me take care of you."

She leaned forward to press a tender kiss to her lover's lips before slowly slipping the dress higher and higher until she was completely exposed. With a smile and a wink she's slowly moved downward until she settled between Santana's thighs.

It's completely slipped Santana's mind that they're in a public place, sort of. She gasped as Brittany moved her dress up, also completely forgetting even attempting not to prove that she's not the bottom she is. She let herself be taken care of, let herself be stroked and kissed, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Brittany wasted no time before her fingers and mouth moved together in a well choreographed dance. She knew where to stroke, where to lick, to bring forward the pleasure she wanted to gift to Santana. Her movements were firm yet tender, two fingers curving to hit inside of her as her lips and tongue took care of her clit. Santana's body knew exactly how to react to this, and yet every time, it seemed entirely new, shocking and thrilling both at just how strongly Brittany affects her. She arched up, continuing to cry out softly at first, then more urgently as she dug her nails into Brittany's shoulders, pressing herself closer.

Brittany slipped a hand between Santana and the blanket, pressing and pushing on the small of her back while her lips and fingers worked. She wanted to not just get Santana off but prove to her that she was the best at doing so. Even if the competition was mostly in her head. Thinking about Santana and Puck always made Brittany a little more aggressive.

This combination of fingers on her back, just at the base of her spine, paired with her lips and fingers inside her, has Santana's head spinning, all the blood rushing to her face. Her breath became pants as she started to voice Brittany's name, her tone loud, urgent.

Brittany slowed slightly, wanting to save a burst of speed for the final seconds. Her eyes were closed as she shifted her head, changing the angle of her tongue. For a few moments she moved at the slow pace before shifting into a higher gear. All at once her lips, tongue and both hands pressed, pushed, sucked and flicked at a manic pace.

Every time Brittany seemed to be giving her a break to relax, she started something new and changed it up, and it was driving Santana over the edge. When she upped her speed, Santana's eyes popped, and she gave a near scream of pleasure, gripping Brittany's shoulders hard enough to leave marks. She rocked her pelvis into her frantically, thrusting up to meet her harder, faster touch, and when she came, she felt almost electric with it.

Brittany moved over Santana after working her though her orgasm. She settled against her, curves fitting together. All the hard and soft places of their bodies just fitting together like they were made out of the same piece of marble.

"I love going down on you." She pressed a kiss to Santana's lips after using the back of her hand to wipe her face off. "Knowing I can make you feel good makes me feel sorta high."

Santana just breathed, clutching Brittany hard at first, then more loosely, loving to feel the other girl's heart beating fast against her own. She kissed her back, hard, still breathless as she trailed her lips down her neck.

"Let me do you."

Brittany nodded, whimpering slightly as her neck was assaulted. She carefully rolled them, her hands finding Santana's bare hips.

"I love you," she muttered, baring more of her neck to Santana. "God I love how you are like a 15 year old boy when it comes to my neck."

Santana didn't take her lips from Brittany's skin long enough even to repeat she loves her back. She licked, nipped, and sucked at the skin of her throat, dipping her tongue into the hollow of her throat, before beginning similar attentions to her collar bone, shoulders, and upper chest. Brittany brought her hands to Santana's ass as she moved. She didn't want to play with her back too much and get her worked up again. Though she might have to after they get back home.

"I am going to need more cover up."

Doesn't bother Santana in the slightest, that's for sure. Secretly she thought it incredibly sexy when Brittany is barefaced, sweaty from dance with her hair straggling out of a ponytail, or just having woke up, squinty and sleepy. She cupped her breast with one hand, rubbing her thumb over the nipple first gently, then more rapidly, before attaching her lips to it, teasing.

"San - tan - a." Brittany managed to grunt out, her right hand moved to press against the back of Santana's neck while her left hand stayed planted on her ass. "Fuck, you're going to kill me. I'm going to burst into flames and take this whole place up with me."

"Hot," Santana murmured against her breast.

She shifted her attentions to her other breast, her hand slipping around Brittany's side to her ass, and squeezed, digging her fingers in to massage. She continued to make her way slowly down her stomach and over her hips, working towards her thighs.

Brittany both loved and hated being teased. On one hand she didn't like to give up the control but on the other hand it always felt amazing when Santana took her time. The feelings she managed to bring forth always made Brittany's toes curl.

"I might cum before you even get down there at this rate," she moaned, arching a little against Santana's efforts to tease her.

Santana took this as a challenge. Skipping her vagina entirely, she shifted herself down to Brittany's thighs, beginning to slowly lick their inner slopes. She stimulated high up by her inner crotch without ever touching her vagina, rubbing fast, then slow, while continuing to lick the sensitive skin of her thighs.

"Not a challenge," Brittany groaned, feeling Santana stroking her labia without giving her clit any of the attention is begged for. "God you are such a tease. I love it though….”

Still deliberately avoiding penetrating her, Santana sucked the skin of her inner thighs, writing her name with her tongue over each. She lightly scratched her nails over Brittany's ass, as her finger continued to ever so lightly stroke her labia, barely touching at all.

The little whimpers and moans coming from Brittany started to grow more and more urgent. She shifted her hips a little bit as she tried to get Santana's lips or fingers to give her more attention.

"Totally not fair right now. I gave you amazing head."

"Yeah, but you'll get a totally amazing orgasm," Santana told her, undaunted. This is a challenge to herself and she takes them damn seriously.

Brittany tightened her hand on the back of Santana's neck.

"You are going to make me pass out and then you'll have to carry me to the taxi," she whimpered as she shifted down a little, trying to get her clit grazed. She was sure if she just got a little bit there she'd cum.

"No, I wouldn't do that to you, baby," Santana breathed, punctuating each word with a flick of her tongue.

She kept this up for another thirty seconds, concentrating solely on Brittany's labia and inner thighs. Then, with one quick dart of her tongue, she touched her clit, giving her just a little bit of mercy.

The sound that came from Brittany was nearly unhuman. She arched, her whole body tensing as an orgasm ripped though her. She grabbed hard to Santana's neck, her nails drawing a little bit of blood before she relaxed, falling back down against the blankets.

"Holy shit."

Her neck stinging slightly, Santana grinned, licking up Brittany's fluids from her legs as she took her time coming up for air. She rubbed Brittany's shaking legs, kissing the tops of her thighs, before slowly pulling herself up, draping over top her with great satisfaction.

"See, totally a top."

Brittany growled softly as she kissed Santana, tasting both of them together. "You're not even a power bottom. You're just a tease," she muttered as she moved her hands around Santana's waist. "I shudder to think how much you'd tease me if I had a cock."

She snorted at the image before resting her face against Santana's neck. Santana grumbled, giving her hip a little push, even as she stroked Brittany's hair gently, cuddling in close to her.

"I could have won awards for that, back in the day."

She continued to stroke her hair for another minute before saying with a slight pout, "I am too a top. I just totally topped you."

"You went down on me, not the same thing," Brittany teased, enjoying the feeling of Santana on top of her. She moved her hand to lightly stroke the side of her back. "And we both know that in your heart you only want to be a top because you think it's more badass. But I am pretty sure there is nothing more badass in this world than getting to lay there like a pillow princess while you're super hot girlfriend does all the work."

"I'm on top of you right now!" Santana protested, the pout becoming a scowl.

Never mind that she's being stroked as she's on top of her and the most badass thing she's doing at the moment is cuddling while naked. She does like the way Brittany has phrased this, though. It might not sound badass, but it definitely doesn't suck either.

Brittany just laughed, shaking her head at her girlfriend.

"You are so cute sometimes that I swear my heart stops for a second." She kissed her cheek before nuzzling her neck. She breathed in the scent of the two of them post sex, sighing a little. "We should go home. Get into bed and sleep. I am going out with some dancer friends tomorrow and you have to work."

Santana continued to scowl, not liking this reference to "cute," but it melted into a smile when she was kissed. She mumbled another protest at this suggestion, shaking her head.

"No...stay here. Here is good."

"We have to leave before my friend gets here to clean this up. If he wants in to two very naked women he might get ideas. And I do not want him to have ideas about the two of us."

She kissed Santana tenderly before shifting out from under her. Very reluctantly Santana sat up too, starting to get dressed. She frequently stops to touch and look at Brittany, and by the time they are ready to go, she is looking forward to their next stop- bed. They might not get it on yet again tonight, but badass as it might not be, snuggling up to her girlfriend is pretty amazing too.

Chapter Text

Brittany hummed to herself as she cropped up the onion and ham for the omelettes she was preparing for Santana and herself. Santana was still sleeping, not having to get ready yet for her double shift at the diner. Brittany turned when she heard someone walk in.

"Hey Rachel, coffee is fresh if you want some."

Santana had been sleeping much more, much more restfully, and much harder since Brittany had started sleeping in the same bed. She was no longer listening for Rachel to start crying, as she had for the first month after Finn, and she was no longer being kept up by her own nightmares or inability to rest. For once she was able to sleep in and wake up fully rested even before her coffee, although coffee was indeed still very much needed to keep her crabbiness in control.

Rachel, on the other hand, had after the first month gotten right back into her routine. She had announced both to herself and to Santana that although she deeply loved and mourned Finn and always will, it was time for her to move on with her life and show her love and pain through her passion in her singing and career. Having thus made this decision, Rachel had thrown herself full tilt into her schoolwork, Funny Girl, and even diner performances, when she was working, and she didn't let anything distract her focus. It was what kept her feeling sane, what kept her getting through each day, and she didn't let herself be distracted to notice anything else. She woke up at six, worked out, practiced her scales and songs, attended class and then rehearsals, and went to bed exhausted each night, often without exchanging more than a few words and glances with Santana.

Which made it all the more annoying that frequently, when she got home, the house was a mess, Santana was drunk or hungover, and she hadn't bothered to buy groceries, again. She didn't mind Brittany moving in with them; after Kurt had moved out, rent had been difficult to swing, and Brittany at least was cheerful and usually put Santana in a better mood too, and she did occasionally clean up after herself.

Having already showered and gotten dressed for the day, Rachel gave Brittany a smile as she came to get some coffee, rolling her eyes.

"It's nice that someone other than myself will actually do things for others around here now, rather than simply sleep and then leave without even bothering to offer to make coffee or complete other roommate niceties."

Brittany's grip on the knife held strong for a few seconds as she tried to suppress her anger.

"Don't talk about things you don't know about. It's not nice and I really don't want either of us to break this little bubble we're living in," she muttered, adding the onion to the egg. "I'm going shopping before I go out tonight. Can you make me a list of what you want?"

Rachel's eyebrows rose, and she held up both hands, making a slight tutting noise as she shook her head.

"Well excuse me, I suppose you haven't had your own share of coffee yet this morning. No, I have been buying my own grocery items as of late, it seems to be more sufficient than waiting for others to offer. Never mind that I have an incredibly busy schedule and I really don't have the time to go buy groceries since I work, go to school, and rehearse while some people simply work, it still gets done, but thank you for the offer, Brittany."

She went to make a cup of coffee for herself. Brittany flipped the eggs on the plate, glad they were done so she didn't need to keep an eye on them. Rachel had never been very good at understanding things unless they were spelled out. So Brittany would do just that.

"I have cleaned this apartment three times in the week I've lived here. I always make sure we have at least the basics in the house both for me and Santana and the stuff you eat in case something happens. And I have been extremely nice about being woken up by your dying whale sounds you make every morning.”

Brittany crossed her arms over her chest. She was not letting Rachel off easy this time. They were all adults now, not little kids.

“And honestly the fact you didn’t know or care how bad Santana was before I got here pisses me off. And you know how hard it is to piss me off,” Brittany added. “She was barely eating, drinking way too much and doing things I’m not sure that I want to fully know about. She was in a bad place. If you couldn’t be bothered to take care of her you should have called me. You should have called me and let me do it. She isn’t who she was in high school Rachel. She’s let you in and you’ve done nothing but take advantage of how far she’ll go for a friend.”

"Oh, I wasn't referring to you, Brittany, I do appreciate how helpful you have been since you've been here," Rachel told her as she went to sit down at the table across from her. "It's Santana who can be rather slack..."

She started to sip her coffee, but when Brittany went on, clearly not finished, she set it down, narrowing her eyes with defensive confusion.

"Saying I sound like a dying whale is very rude and inaccurate, but then, you have always been a little pitchy, kind of like Quinn, so I guess I can't expect you to know any different. And I don't know what you're talking about with Santana. She's been fine. Yeah, she drinks and parties too much, but that's just how she is. It's annoying and it's not the healthiest thing in the world, but she's fine, Brittany."

: “You don’t know her at all,” Brittany whispered, shaking her head. “Do you not see how thin she was? Did you not notice how she didn’t sing anymore? Did you not see how she needed someone to protect her from herself?”

She felt a great deal of anger toward Rachel but she also felt pity. Santana was the best friend in the world and Rachel had no idea. She had no idea the gift she was tossing away.

“You lost someone you loved and I am really sorry. Even if you were broken up it had to have hurt. I know if it had been me in your shoes I might not have made it though. But other people loved him too. And other people didn’t make it out. You lived with her and you didn’t see it. You didn’t see any of it because for some reason you think she’s cold and dead inside. She was killing herself Rachel. She was killing herself and begging for help and you missed it.”

She felt her eyes well up with tears at the thought of how she first found Santana.

"Brittany, that's crazy," Rachel said flatly, still shaking her head. She took another swallow of her coffee, tapping her fingers on the table as she sighed. "I know you love her and it's been a while, but that doesn't mean you have to get crazy over it. Santana's been fine. She seems to be having too much fun sometimes, actually, as much as you probably don't want to hear that."

Brittany took in and let out a deep breath to try to keep herself from planning the murder of Rachel Berry.

“You really wanna play the game of who knows Santana Lopez better? Because I win that game every time it’s played. I beat Quinn and her parents and her. I know her inside and out Rachel. I know her favorite color and her favorite song, I know how she cries and what makes her laugh. I know her, heart and soul and body. And I’m telling you that when I got here she was in a very bad place. And I’m working to get her out of that place.”

She paused and tried to find a way to make Rachel understand.

“I love her more than anything in this world. I love her more than you love Barbra or theater. Think about that for a second. Think about how much you love those things and then think about all of that love and worry and devote and put it in one signaler person that you have watched fucked over and over by people calling themselves her friends. That’s how I feel right now. That’s how upset I am.”

She closed her eyes and shook her head, trying not to break down. She could after both Rachel and Santana left for the day.

“You don’t know her Rachel. You don’t. But if you want to try to get to know her and try to understand her then I’d be happy to help you. But if you don’t want to or don’t care enough to try then do us both a favor, stop pretending.”

Blinking across the table at her, Rachel's mouth opened, then closed. It was obvious how upset Brittany was, how passionate about her convictions for Santana. And it was true that the blonde has always seemed to know instinctively how to handle the Latina in a way that had seemed strange and mysterious to everyone else around them. Was it possible that she was right?

Rachel's brow furrowed slightly, and she took another swallow of her drink, averting her eyes as she finally responded.

"Of course I want to know her and understand her, Brittany. I care about her. But she doesn't make that easy. And I've had a lot going on and she's...she can be very frustrating. It isn't as though she's shown any indication of being upset or bothered."

Brittany grabbed her coffee, putting the eggs in a warm oven to keep them warm while the smell worked on waking Santana up. She still had some time before Brittany would have to do it.

"She didn't eat, Rachel. That's why there wasn't food in the house. She wasn't eating. She was drinking herself drunk every night because she couldn't handle her feelings."

Rachel attempted to process this, still frowning. She had noticed Santana being drunk more often, of course, and she supposed in hindsight she was skinnier, but she had assumed that she was just having fun and being irresponsible.

"Feelings about what? About..." She trailed off, then swallows, saying his name. "Finn? But...they weren't even close. It's not like she loved him."

"Of course she loved him," Brittany sighed. "He would always have a place in her heart. But I think it was more than that. For the first time she lost someone who was our age. It could have been Kurt or you or Quinn." She paused again. "Or me." She shook her head as she sipped from her mug. "She was facing the loss of a man that caused her so much pain and she loved him anyway because she secretly loved everyone in Glee. Deeply."

This, about Santana, coming from Brittany, Rachel struggled to accept. She thought this over, drinking her coffee, and then said, "Well, if this is true, and I am saying if because it just doesn't seem right to me, then what is it that I'm supposed to do, because Santana never wants my help with anything."

"Talk to her. Not at her. Don't decide that she should do this or that. Let her decide and if it doesn't work out be there without judging her. Offer to watch movies with her that have no singing in them. Let her use your shoulder as a pillow. Let her make jokes about you and make some back. Just be her friend." Brittany didn't have a problem being a good friend. It was like a super power.

Rachel was really staring at her now. Shaking her head, she laughed, somewhat disbelieving.

"Brittany, the only person Santana would ever want to use as a pillow is you."

"If I'm here, that's very true. She likes to sit on my lap and use me as a heating source. She gets cold super easy." Brittany smiled at the feeling she could warm Santana up. "But I'm telling you, if you start trying with her, after a few weeks, she'll open up. She wants you two to be friends."

Rachel had actually noticed this, about Santana being cold easily. She was constantly bickering with her about turning up the heat and stealing her extra blanket off her bed, all the while walking around without socks on in a tank and boi shorts. She continued to regard Brittany, thoughtful.

"You're telling me that Santana wants me to watch movies with her and...cuddle?" Her tone betrayed exactly how unlikely she thought this was, still.

"I am telling you that she wants to be friends with you and these are some ways to show her that you are willing to open yourself up to her. It will take a while before you can go to level two." She explained, refilling her mug. "Quinn is only to level like 6 or 7 and she's known her as long as I have."

"There are...levels?" This, Rachel couldn't resist knowing about. "Is there actually a written chart or does this only exist in your head? Are you sure this isn't some way to make me look silly?"
Brittany just chuckled.

"It's mostly in my head after watching her with people over the years. I am pretty much in the inner circle so I don't have to worry about my level anymore. I'm pretty sure once you become her soulmate that happens." She handed Rachel a vegan muffin. "I'm a troll, I can't deny it, but I wouldn't make you look silly if it would hurt Santana."

Rachel started to eat, still considering this. It still struck her as incredibly strange to even consider being...CUDDLY...with Santana, but Brittany did seem sincere. She sighed, then asks more quietly, "Is she...better now, then?"

"I think so," Brittany nodded, looking at the finger that was bare now that her ring was on Santana's right hand. "I am trying to get her healthy again. To take some of her pain away so she can be healthy. And I think the orgasms help too."

Rachel sputtered, spitting out her next mouthful of coffee, and held up both hands again in protest, vehemently shaking her head. "Not. Necessary."

"One come on," Brittany chuckled. "No one can say that when Santana is getting sex steadily that she isn't nicer. Even I can't deny that she can get a little bitchy when she is going without."

"Like you'd know that," Rachel rolled her eyes. "When has she ever been around you and not been getting sex, and can we stop this conversation now?"

"Junior year," Brittany whispered, looking out the window. "For the first month or so of my time with Artie. I held out. And then I couldn't. She was hurting and I knew I could fix her."

Okay, this was not stopping the conversation. Very uncomfortable, Rachel stood, clearing her throat.

"Well. I suppose then that with the...you two will certainly..."

Not able to complete the sentence smoothly, she brightened, glad for the distraction when Santana shuffled, tousle haired, rather resembling Grumpy Cat in expression, into the room.

"Right, and here she is, and there is coffee and I have to be going."

"The voice, lower. Now," Santana griped, rubbing at her eyes as she stumbled forward.

Rachel shot a look at Brittany as though to say see? Brittany just got up from her chair, kissing Santana good morning before grabbing their plates from the oven.

"You have a long day," she explained as she set down Santana's plate. "So I made you a western and one for me too. And coffee."

She grabbed Santana a mug full. She wanted to take care of her girl as much as possible before she went to work her double.

The grumpiness eased considerably when Brittany kissed her, and it was almost entirely gone when she saw the food and coffee. Santana had already eaten several bites before she remembered to worry about eating, and only then did she slow down, considering the rest of it more carefully as she analyzed its contents. Rachel was watching her furtively, but not exactly subtly, looking her body over as well as the way she was now examining the food, until Santana felt it and looks up, her cheeks reddening.

"What, Wannabe Lesbo?"

"Be nice Santana," Brittany said, her hand finding Santana's under the table. Best part of being in a mixed handed relationship was the hand holding while eating. "Rachel and I were talking about doing a movie night. We're all roommates and we should bond together. It's that right Rachel?" She looked up, giving her a hopeful smile.

Santana took her hand willingly enough, relaxing a tad. She looked suspiciously at Rachel, who gave her a slightly awkward and forced smile.

"Um, yes?"

Brittany was about to suggest something when he phone went off, a photo of her and Quinn popping up.

"Got to take this. Q usually doesn't call this early unless she had a bad night with someone."

She answered the phone, getting up and leaving the room. It wasn't long until she returned.

"God her luck with women is just as bad as her luck with men. At least a woman can't knock her up though."

For Santana, "not long" seemed an eternity. She fidgeted, her face growing steadily more thunderous even as she rapidly drained the coffee, and Rachel was smart enough to beat a hasty escape to the bathroom. When Brittany returned, she half glared, her voice very stiff.

"So she calls you crying about a bad sex life a lot, huh? Is that when the neck and boob nuzzling goes down, so she can be COMFORTED?"

Brittany just raised an eyebrow. "Oh so we're bringing that tone back?" she asked, her hand going to rub Santana's knee. "Honey you have nothing to worry about. I mean yeah Quinn and I are really close now but you and I are together. We'd never do anything like that now. I might cuddle with her but we'd both have clothes on. And there would be no boob nuzzling."

Unaware that Brittany had just strongly and repeatedly encouraged Rachel to cuddle her, Santana turned her face away, moving her knee out of her grasp as she crossed her arms over her chest.

"You don't see me cuddling Stretch Marks."

"Because you and she haven't been in the same bed since you two had sex. So it would be hard to do," Brittany said evenly. "She's Quinn, Santana. She's the third member of the Unholy Trinity. She's our best friend. You really think I'd leave you for her or cheat on you with her? I have never in my life cheated on you. Ever."

Santana doesn't really think this, so much as she feared it. Everyone had seemed to prefer Quinn in high school and think of her as the smarter, stronger, prettier one, the one who was the all American blonde, and she was the bitchy sidekick. She couldn't blame Brittany if she did prefer her. She shrugged.

"Baby." Brittany moved closer, her hand finding Santana's again. "You think if I wanted Quinn I wouldn't have already slept with her? I had more than a few chances and I never took them. Because she isn't the one I have wanted since I was 14. You are. Quinn is an amazing friend but she's just a friend. You're my soulmate."

Santana has never said it, but she loves it when Brittany calls her baby. It always makes her feel softer inside, loved and protected. She kept her eyes down, but didn't pull away this time.

"Okay...she needs to find her own soulmate though."

"We're working on that," Brittany chuckled. "I'm her wing woman when we go out. It's funny to watch her try to flirt with women. She's worse at it than you are. You might have every male in the tri state area around your finger but you were never great with hitting on women. Thankfully with me you didn't have to be," she teased, wanting to shift Santana's mood. "I like you're a big dork."

Santana was slightly insulted and indignant, just as she had been when told she was a bottom. She narrowed her eyes, pouting unconsciously.

"I'm amazing with hitting on women."

Brittany leaned in, kissing her pouting lips. "Sure you are stud. Now finish your breakfast and go take a shower so you can go use your amazing flirting skills to rake in those tips." She leaned back up so she could start eating her breakfast. "I am going out tonight. I should be home by 2 or 3."

Of course, Santana had let her believe that her shift at the diner was a double, rather than inform her of the truth, that she'll be working at the diner first, then the strip joint in the evening. She gave her a little smirk, then started eating again, though she was developing a system of only eating every third piece of ham and scraped out a lot of the cheese and also blotted each bite on her napkin before eating it.

"You watch. My amazing flirting skills will get me rolling in dough and not some dudes flab abs either." She frowned at Brittany's mentioning, partly relieved, since she won't be in until then either, but also concerned. "You're going out with friends, you said?"

"Yup. They are dancers. We're going out, seeing who will be the last one standing as we try to out dance each other."

Brittany was looking forward to being with a group of people that could dance just as long as she could. She hated when her friends had to stop only a few hours in.

"We're getting dinner first and then bar hopping. We're hoping to go to at least 7 different places. One of the girls is from here so she knows the best places to go to dance."

Bar hopping? Alarm bells rang off in Santana's head. What if someone threw herself at Brittany, or himself? What if she did get off with someone else? It didn't even cross her mind that she might end up where Santana works; all she wasworried about is the possibility of a drunken Brittany cheating, or having someone try to force themselves on her. After all, Brittany had said bar, not strip joint.

"San?" Brittany didn't like the look that crossed her girlfriend's face. "Come on Santana. I am not going to do anything with someone who is not you. In all our time together we have only cheated with each other. Never, ever, on each other." She pointed out, her hand holding Santana's a little tighter. "And I'm not planning on getting drunk, just a mild buzz.

"I know," Santana mumbled, nodding.

She does know, deep down. Still, she's barely got Brittany back, and it's difficult to swallow the insecurities that want to immediately leap back up into play. She made herself smile, squeezing her hand.

"I know. Have fun."

"I'll even wear underwear tonight," Brittany gave her a slight smile. "The ones that are really unsexy."

For Brittany, that is indeed a concession to her. Santana's smile was more genuine now as she answered.

"I'm working late anyway. It's okay."

"Yeah? Maybe if you get home and I get home about the same time you and I can keep Rachel up with some vocal warm ups of our own?" She wiggled her eyebrows, enjoying a moment of silliness.

"Maybe, yeah."

Santana had no intentions of this without a shower first. She didn't want Brittany to realize she smelled like smoke, sex, and beer and was slick with sweat and body glitter.

"But you have to shower first." Brittany made a little bit of a face. "Because after a double you smell like the fryer and that is not sexy. The body wash you use is very sexy though. And I checked, it's eatable so I can lick you all over after."

Santana made a face at her even as she took up her plate, having eaten about half the omelette's outside and a third of its contents, which for her, is quite a lot compared to what she's been eating.

" You have to shower too, because your sweat might be sexy but if you rub up on some skank, it ain't."

"I will make sure I am showered and naked in bed when you get home. Maybe with one of your Christmas gifts to open early." She shrugged, biting back a smirk. She was really ready to use one of them with Santana, on either end of it.

Santana's eyes lit up, and she grinned for the first time this morning. It would definitely give her something to look forward to. As she went to fix her hair and brush her teeth, she thought to herself that maybe she'll make it through the day easier, knowing Brittany waits for her at its end.

Chapter Text

The real crowds don't start coming into the joint until at least 11, and Santana always dreaded the sudden shift in atmosphere. That meant more money for her, sure, but it also meant less breaks, more time spent dancing, and a steadily increasing feeling of shame, embarrassment, and eventual numbness as the night went on, with the only thing able to calm her down enough to go to sleep after being drinking. She knew she wouldn't be able to do that with Brittany waiting up for her, not without a lot of explaining to do, and that as much as anything else was stressing her out that night.

She tried to think of nothing but tips and the music, nothing but moving her body as sexily as possible, but she couldn't help but be distracted. Although she couldn't be touched, dancing in her cage, she felt eyes on her at all times, heard the shouts and catcalls, and she felt so exposed, every inch of her open to leering and ridicule. Before getting in her cage and in between each set, Santana found herself checking herself out in the mirror, as much of her as she could see, worrying about how she looked to the patrons and unable to look herself in the eye.

She knew Kurt and Rachel thought it was stupid, demeaning, and ridiculous for her to work here, and she knew deep down they were right. She couldn't stand if anyone else were to find out too. It was bad enough to have people look at her, dressed only in a G-string and heels, but each time she had a break, everyone seemed to think it was their prerogative to "accidentally" brush or even grope her as well even as she was trying to go backstage or to one of the dressing rooms. She couldn't flip out on them, throwing drinks in their faces or hitting out, without risking being fired or seriously hurt. She couldn't do anything but grit her teeth through the night, knowing how badly her feet and back would hurt after, but not as much as her pride.

Brittany was having a great time. She hadn’t been out with this group of dancing friends in forever. They all went to NYU so Brittany was able to use them to get the inside dirt on the best professors and the best times to use the spaces. After dinner they started at a small club but soon got tired of the music and moved to another and then a third. After the third club one of them suggested a strip club he knew with some cage dancers. It was mostly for lady lovers but they couldn’t stop men from going in there. While it wasn’t Brittany’s favorite idea, but she agreed after hearing the music was one of the best they would find. Santana wouldn’t have a problem as long as she didn’t touch or do anything she didn’t want to do anyway. She hoped.

As they walked in the club she made a bit of a face. The women dancing in the cages were mostly naked anyway and the ones on the stage were fully naked. She watched a moment but it didn’t feel right. She headed to the bar when she caught sight of someone in one of the cages. Someone she knew. Someone she was currently dating.

“Santana? What the fuck?” Brittany wasn’t known for her swearing but seeing Santana in a pair of heals, a g-string and nothing else on made her feel like she was going to vomit.

It's always been Santana's way to get through each shift by only focusing on one person in the audience at a time, not really looking at them, but rather through them, so she won't have to see everyone all at once. If she can pretend there's only one person there, it's not quite as bad as an entire crowded room. She had already chosen her person, an overweight woman with blue hair and several tattoos, simply because she could snark in her head quite a lot about her appearance. But her focus was shaken up the moment she heard her name called.

There weren't that many Santanas, even in New York City, and that voice...no. No way, not possible. Not here, not now...but it was. There was no way to unsee her girlfriend, only fifteen feet away from her, and looking at her with such a look of disgust that Santana's stomach felt like it was dropping to her toes. She actually stopped dancing, grabbing onto the bars of the cage to support herself, as she blinked down at Brittany, reeling, unable to gather her thoughts, not even hearing the jeering from some of the audience at her halting.

Brittany had never had a panic attack before but she felt like she was having one now. Her throat closed up and her chest tightened. For a moment she lost her ability to hear and her eyes darkened. She turned and walked over to the bar, ordering a double scotch before downing it in a single gulp. When the burn of the alcohol did nothing to keep her numb, she walked out. She needed to leave the room before she pulled Santana down from the cage she was currently in. She stood in the alley next to the club, her back against the wall as tears slipped down her cheeks.

Santana couldn't focus either. There was no way she could keep dancing like nothing happened right now. Screw tips, screw her shift, screw everything. She needed a break and she needed it right now.

Not caring that she just started fifteen minutes ago in the cage, not caring that it was the middle of a song, Santana fumbled to let herself out of the cage, almost falling in her haste to escape. She didn't reach for a cover up or even her top, she just half ran, heels clacking, towards the dressing room. She was sure her manager would be on her ass in a few minutes once he figured out she was ditching mid song, but at the moment, she was too shaken to care. She didn't know if she was going to vomit or cry or simply go into a fit of anxiety, but she didn't feel like she could stand for long, let alone dance in front of everyone.

Brittany saw her...she SAW her like this. Even Rachel and Kurt had never seen her in action…how could she ever look her in the face again?

Brittany stood next to the club for what felt like forever. She couldn’t bring herself to move, even if all she wanted to do was run. She couldn’t bear to leave Santana here alone even if she had never been more pissed at her before. Santana not only lied about what she was doing tonight but she lied about having this job at all. She kept this from her because she knew what Brittany would think if she told her.

That pissed Brittany off. The fact Santana knew she’d be uncomfortable with it so she just didn’t tell her. She pulled her phone out and sent a text to Santana, asking her when her next break was and telling her where she was. She stood in the December air, hoping the scotch might soon kick in.

It took Santana ten minutes of being chewed out and threatened with being fired by her manager, another five of her lying about severe and sudden menstrual distress, and another ten of being told that she should simply go home, and her next two shifts' tips now belonged in his pocket, before she had gathered herself enough to be ready to leave, and only then did she gather bravery to get her belongings from her locker in the backstage area, dress herself back in her waitress uniform, and completely and totally avoid checking her phone, because she knew very well who might be leaving messages on it. Santana decided to exit out the back alley rather than through the front door, just to try to avoid seeing Brittany and anyone else as much as possible.

Brittany looked up when she heard the door open. She saw Santana in her diner waitress uniform, the red a contrast against the dark of the night and Santana’s skin tone. She walked over to her, her long legs eating up the space between them. Without so much as a word spoke she bent down and wrapped Santana up in her arms, giving her a bone crushing hug.

“I am so upset with you right now, more pissed than I have ever been at you, but I know you,” she said, the tears falling still even after all this time. “I know what it must have done to you to do this job. I know it wasn’t something you wanted. God Santana, I’m so sorry you felt you had to do this.”

She shook with the force of her emotions. But she knew no matter how upset and betrayed she felt right now, Santana was the one taking her clothing off in public for money. Whatever other people thought of her, Brittany knew her, and she knew damn well it was something Santana had always feared might happen to her. How terrible must she feel, now that it had become true?

Oh god, no. This had been exactly what Santana was trying to avoid, for as long as she could...Brittany. The moment she saw her girlfriend standing in the alley she had been trying to escape from, like SHE was the one with the third Mexican eye, Santana's breath caught, and she reached back for the door, meaning to back into the building, away from her. But the door automatically locks once shut, and you can only get back inside if you have a key. She was stuck here with her, and she couldn't escape whatever Brittany wanted to do or say.

She expected her to confront her, to yell at her, or even to just look at her with complete disappointment. But instead Brittany was reaching for her, wrapping her in her arms. Her assurance of her anger was nevertheless wrapped in emotional force as she told Santana she was sorry. And she seemed to understand. And she was hugging her, holding her, not pushing her away or telling her she was pathetic or stupid...she was holding her. Apologizing. Brittany was apologizing to HER.

Any defenses that Santana had tried to bring to mind, any explanations or brushing aside, and all that was left then was her feelings. Shame, guilt, grief, self loathing all crashed in on her, and as much as she hated herself for responding in this way, she clutched back at Brittany, beginning to sob.

Brittany used her larger frame and stronger arms to make sure Santana stayed on her feet. She just held her, nuzzling her neck and placing soft kisses there to make sure that she felt that Brittany was there and had her. She closed her eyes and moved a hand along her back in hopes of calming Santana down enough to keep her from breaking down totally in the alley.

“Let me get us a hotel room tonight. We can order room service and talk without Rachel around,” she offered, wanting to go someplace where they could speak privately and that was warm. “There is a place a few blocks from here. You don’t have to walk far, honey. Just a few blocks and we can get you in a warm bath.”

Santana nodded, taking in shallow breaths, trying to pull herself together. She managed to stop the tears, though they were still very close to surface, on a hairline trigger. Pulling back from Brittany, she didn't cling to her or even reach for her hand, though she wanted to. Right now, she didn't deserve to touch her. She didn't deserve her to be kind to her. She wanted to tell her that she was sorry, but she couldn't form the words.

Brittany walked the 4 blocks with Santana before getting them a room that she knew would cost her more than it should. She got Santana set up in the room before she walked two blocks down to a convenience store. She bought both of them a pair of sweats, t-shirts and hoodies. She returned in less than 20 minutes, walking over to Santana.

“I’m going to go get a hot bath started,” She brushed her hair out of her face, wanting to make sure that Santana could get warm and get the smell off of her. “Can you undress and come in when you’re done?”

 

For the entire four blocks walking, the settling into the hotel room, and the entire eighteen and a half minutes that Brittany left her alone, Santana still couldn't bring herself to speak. It was all so much to take in and try to process at once, and she couldn't even begin to handle her thoughts, let alone her feelings. She tried with increasing desperation to swallow them, which took more and more effort, and her body responded less and less efficiently, until by the time Brittany returned, her muscles were so tightly drawn she felt like a ball of nerves, like it would hurt to even be touched. She couldn't stand for Brittany to look at her, let alone touch her, she didn't deserve that, so when Brittany took her hand, she tried to pull it back.

"You don't have to do that for me. Please don't."

Her voice was scratchy when it finally emerged, and she had to try hard again to blink back tears. Brittany withdrew her hand but didn’t move away from Santana.

“You are my girlfriend, taking care of you when you have a bad night is my job. That’s like number one or two on the list. You and I have to have a long talk about a lot but right now I just want to get us both cleaned up and changed so we can get warm and in bed.”

She wanted to hold Santana, to rub her back and use the tricks she knew to make her feel comfort. She couldn’t stand to see Santana this way, she hated the fear in her voice, the emotion in her eyes.

“I love you Santana. Being pissed doesn’t change that.”

Santana didn't understand this. Brittany was mad at her, and she had every right to be. She has lied to her, she was doing something that both Kurt and Rachel have made clear is degrading and embarrassing, and she was almost cheating, in a way, letting everyone who paid for it see her mostly undressed and having their fantasies over her. She almost wished that Brittany would yell at her or be mean to her. It would make so much more sense than talking to her gently, touching her with kindness, taking care of her.

"You shouldn't," she repeated, still hoarse. "You should stop."

“We tried that. It didn’t work,” Brittany reminded her softly. “We tried not feeling what we do for each other and it was the hardest months of my life. Feeling what I feel for you, being your girlfriend, that is what makes me life awesome,” she muttered, kissing her forehead before standing up. “Undress and come in the bathroom. I’m not asking, Santana.”

She turned and walked into the bathroom, preparing Santana’s bath the way that she liked it. She knew most people wouldn’t act like this but she wasn’t most people. Santana needed love and understanding, not anger.

When Brittany said something in this way, an order rather than a request, there could never be protesting on Santana's part. It was impossible to tell her no. With shaking hands she undressed, hating what she was wearing, hating that Brittany had seen her dressed in this and knew that others had seen her too, night after night. She avoided looking down at herself or in the mirror, feeling more shaken up knowing that Brittany was about to see her naked now, after knowing exactly what she's been doing, than she had been to go on stage before hand. As she eased the bathroom door open, going inside, her legs were trembling and she was biting her inner cheeks, still fighting to hold back tears.

Brittany turned her head and gave Santana a reassuring smile. Slowly she got to her feet and walked over, kissing Santana’s cheek softly.

“I am going to sit behind you and hold you, alright? I am going to hold you and you can talk or not talk or cry or not cry. But you need my arms around you right now.”

She searched Santana’s eyes, hoping to see some spark of emotion in them. This was not the night she had planned but it was the night she had. It was a night where her love was being tested but she knew it could be worse. It could have been so much worse. She turned and started undressing herself before getting in the water, her hand held out to Santana.

Santana still could not believe this. It seemed more than unreal to her, it seemed miraculous that Brittany could smile at her now, let alone want to touch her. She stared down at her extended hand, then stepped forward to take it slowly, stepping into the tub. She was still shaking as she tried to sit upright, keeping herself from touching Brittany as much as possible, although she didn't have much room not to. She didn't want her to smell her or think about how she got this way. She chewed her inner cheeks, still concentrating hard on keeping control.

Brittany grabbed a wash cloth and slowly started to run it over Santana's back, down her arms and over her chest. She moved slowly to make sure each bit of skin got washed clean. She wanted to rid Santana of the smell of the club and the glitter and sweat on her skin.

"There. Now you're clean again," she whispered, her arms wrapping around Santana and attempting to guide her back against her chest. "I know you're hurting Santana, please let me make it better."

As Brittany ran the washcloth over her skin, each part that it touched twitched and jerked beneath, despite her gentle touch, her nerves on end. Santana didn't mold back easily against her chest, not because she was deliberately resisting so much as she just couldn't relax. Still rigid, she shook her head at her, denying what she was telling her, or maybe just trying to tell herself that she was fine, that this was not happening, that she could still maintain control. But the truth was she couldn't, and when Santana broke, her entire body shuddering with the intensity of her tears, she couldn't even begin to try to stop.

"I'm sorry," she wept, her head lowered towards her chest. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

Brittany sat up, her arms around Santana’s waist. “I’ve got you,” she said over and over again as she kissed the back of Santana’s neck and tried to keep her from breaking apart too much. The water sloshed a little bit but Brittany’s focus was on Santana. “I know you hated it, Santana. I know you too well to think you wanted to do that job. It’s ok. I forgive you. I forgive you, Santana.”

 

"D-don't," Santana wept, her shoulders jerking and trembling with her gasping cries, even in the embrace of Brittany's arms. She shook her head, her chest alit with pain as she cried, still not totally melting back against Brittany. "Don't forgive me, don't...I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

That was all she could manage before she lost it entirely to tears, shaking so badly her teeth started to chatter. Brittany was starting to become worried at the force of Santana's sobs. She didn't like just how strongly this was affecting her even though she had done everything in her ability to try to soften the pain that her girlfriend would be in. Brittany had a feeling that the pain she was in now didn't so much have to do with being caught but being caught by her. All of the shame that she felt around the job hitting her at once couldn’t help either.

She used her strength to pull Santana back against her, her chin moving to Santana shoulder.

“I know you didn't want to do that job. I know you didn't. And I also know that part of the reason that you had such trouble with food lately is because you were doing that job. So you're going to stop. You're going to stop doing that job because it's not good for you. You're hurting yourself by doing it. So you're going to stop.”

If the job was something that didn't affect the way that Santana saw herself, even if it made her uncomfortable, Brittany wouldn't be so firm in telling her she was done there. But it was affecting so much more than their relationship. It was Santana's health and mental well-being. Brittany was not willing to take a gamble on either of those things.

Santana could hear Brittany's words, but she couldn't really respond to them. She hung limply in her arms, crying heavily, until she was barely able to draw breath. Gasping, she coughed, starting to be frightened at her own emotional outburst. She tried to sputter an apology for this too, frightened as well that Brittany was going to give up and let go.

Brittany didn’t let go, she did however shift. She moved back a little and started to use her right hand to stroke Santana’s back. Up and down her spine as she had in times of pleasure and pain. She hoped the action would restore some of Santana’s control.

“Breathe slowly for me, baby. Nice and slow. We need to get your breathing under control. That’s my girl.” She kept her tone light, trying to keep in control of her own emotions.

It took some time, but slowly Santana's frantic breaths settled a little, and she calmed just enough to simply be crying without as much force. She was exhausted from the effort as she let herself slump against Brittany, her face against her neck. Every so often she mumbled against her that she's sorry. It's the only word she can come up with now.

Brittany kept her arms around Santana, rubbing her back as she hummed softly. She hoped that just the skin contact would make Santana feel better, stronger, warmer. Her lips sometimes pressed against Santana’s hair, trying to reassure her.

“I love you Santana. This doesn’t change the fact that we’re still together. I’m not going anywhere.”

Again Santana heard her, but she struggled to believe it. Slowly she calmed a little more, her heart beginning to slow its beats to match Brittany's. She was quiet, only sniffling occasionally, and then whispered, barely audibly. "Why would you even want me now?"

"Why wouldn't I want you now?" Brittany countered. "You lied to me and I am upset about that and we'll talk about it. But you aren't somehow less of a person because of the job you will be quitting. You are still my Santana. You are still my world." She shifted a hand to the small of Santana's back.

But to Santana, that was exactly the case. She was so much less because of this job, because of what she has been doing for nearly eight months, almost every night. She had fulfilled the sneered expectations of half the people she knew, or what felt like it to her, growing up, and she hasn't shown them at all like she always vowed she would. She's become exactly what she always feared she would be, only worse.

She shook her head at her, taking in a shuddering breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't...I didn't want you to know. I didn't want anyone to know. I didn't even tell Kurt and Rachel, I don't know how they found out, but when they did, the way they looked at me, the way they talked about it...I didn't ever want to see you look at me like that. I couldn't stand to see you so...so disappointed in me. So grossed out and..." she trailed off, tearing up again.

Brittany felt a flash of anger rush though her. “Rachel knew?” she asked, her voice full of anger and sadness.

Rachel Berry was going to be lucky to live to see Christmas if she didn’t watch herself. First she acted like Santana was fine and now she knew about this job and didn’t mention it? Brittany needed to have a very long talk with her.

“That is going to be a long talk between me and her,” she muttered, cupping Santana’s cheek she slowly tilted her head. “I know how much you were scared that you would end up as a striper or worse. I know how scary it must have been for you to see that coming true. I am so sorry you felt you needed to do it. I am so sorry you didn’t have me there to protect you.” She felt a few of her own tears fall. “I’m so sorry, Santana.”

Santana met her eyes, hating that Brittany was crying, that she was the one that caused it. She reached to wipe her eyes, trying still to process what Brittany was showing her...nothing but love. Love and empathy and acceptance, even when Santana had given her more reason to be angry and grossed out than ever. She wrapped her arms around Brittany, closing her eyes, and lay against her, holding as much as she was being held.

"You shouldn't have to protect me. That's my job to protect you."

"It's our job to protect each other," Brittany whispered, her hand going back to stroking Santana's back. "You are my little warrior and I love that. I love that you pick up a sword and will use it to defend my honor. I love it. But I get to pick up a sword sometimes too and defend yours. It's only fair. It's how you and me work. I protect you and you protect me. I take care of you and you take care of me."

She kissed Santana's shoulder tenderly as she slowed her breathing. She needed her words to be very clear.

"Tomorrow we're going through your books. Each and every bill you have, all of your jobs and your pay. You shouldn't need this job to make end's meat. I am going to use my giant math brain and figure this out."

Santana was only half listening, just enough to respond with a faint nod. She kept her eyes closed, Brittany's touch and voice further soothing her, her shaking now having calmed to only the occasional twitch, her crying only the occasional sniffling. Brittany kept touching Santana in hopes that it was helping her calm down. She needed her calm as they talked about something that felt rather painful to Brittany.

"Why don't we get out and dressed? I'm hungry and you should eat too."

Santana didn't want to move. It felt to her like if she did, the relative relaxation she was starting to feel would shatter. She let Brittany help her move though, although eating was again something she really didn't want to do and didn't even think she was capable of. She would do anything Brittany asked her to right now, or try to.

Brittany managed to get both of them dressed and in bed without hurting either one of them or having Santana break down. She called down and ordered a cheeseburger, fries and two milkshakes. She's hoping if nothing else she can get Santana to drink the milkshake. Finally she crawled back into bed next to Santana and laid on her side.

"I need you to tell me all of the jobs you have. All of them."

Santana didn't want to tell her this. She didn't even want to look at her. She felt her cheeks burn with mortification as she stared past Brittany's shoulder, mumbling.

"That one. The diner. And a bar."

"A bar?" Brittany asked, moving a hand under the covers to rest on Santana's hip. "Come on San. For this conversation not to be like pulling teeth you gotta help me out here. This isn't fun for me either but we gotta do it. Like eating salad before dessert."

"I told you...I'm a bar tender at a bar," she mumbled, still avoiding her eyes. It wasn't that fact so much as the fact that she absolutely hates it and deliberately lets herself be sexually harassed in hopes of better tips that she doesn't want to share. "And a waitress at a diner, and the cage dancer. That's it. That's all."

"Yeah the cage dancer thing is done." Brittany would handcuff herself to Santana before she let her go back in that cage. "I know it's unfair of me to tell you what to do but at this moment I am going to. Because it's not healthy for you and I'm not strong enough to let it happen. So yeah, you're done there."

Santana didn't protest. She didn’t think she had the strength to go back, not after Brittany seeing her. She sighed, hoping the conversation was over with, and attempted to close her eyes. Maybe Brittany will think she's too tired to talk.

"Tell me what bar you work at." Brittany loved Santana dearly but she was not getting out of this conversation that easily. "Please."

Santana hesitated, not sure if it will mean anything to her or not. "Coyote Ugly." She kept her eyes closed and faked a yawn.

Breathing in and then out slowly to keep herself from making a comment that would be neither fair to Santana or herself, Brittany bit her tongue.

"Yeah, no." She shook her head. "Because, just no."

She shook her head, getting up when the food came with a knock. She wheeled in the cart before sitting back on the bed.

"I don't know what to say right now. I don't Santana. Because you . . . I would like you to quit that job too."

"It's just a bar," Santana blurted out, trying to bank on Brittany not knowing exactly what the atmosphere of that particular bar is like. "Plenty of people work in bars. That's how most people get through college."

"Then maybe, if it's just a bar, I'll apply."

Brittany crossed her arms over her chest. She was calling Santana's bluff. If Santana really thought it was just a bar then she wouldn't mind Brittany dressing in what the staff wore and working there.

Santana sat up, all feigned sleepiness gone in an instant as she cleared her throat, trying to come up with a plausible excuse as to why this was a bad idea for Brittany, if not her.

"You don't need to work, Britt, you have lots of money."

"I work at the math lab, or I will be," Brittany muttered, grabbing a fry. "And I've been to Coyote Ugly," she added, giving Santana look. "We went last night before we stopped at your place. Trust me when I saw it loses some of its appeal if I think of you dressed like those women were knowing all I know about you."

Santana's eyes were definitely not looking anywhere near Brittany's anymore. Her face red, she shrugged, then attempted one last time to avoid this entire conversation as well as the food.

"It's just a stupid bar."

She lay back down, closing her eyes, but she was beyond wide awake and can feel her heart starting to beat fast all over again.

"You know how much I don't like that word." Brittany walked to the bed, sitting down next to Santana and holding her hand tightly. "You are amazing at so many things but you've taken jobs that don't let you show that off. Yeah you get to sing and dance at the diner but you haven't been singing. So maybe keep the diner job and if you need a second one try interning at a record company or something?"

 

She made it sound so easy. Like she could just go out there and so something like that and it would work. Like anyone would even give her a chance. Santana gave a bitter laugh, just shaking her head.

"Brittany, things don't work out like that for me."

Brittany closed her eyes and tried to come up with a plan, doing the math in her head to make it possible for them to live while taking two paths of income from Santana.

"You are going to work at the diner and as a Spanish tutor at Columbia. And in your free time you are going to start applying at music companies at a low level position to get your foot in the door."

She opened her eyes, pleased with the plan. Santana just blinked at her, not surprised, somehow, and yet it was a bit unsettling to have her life suddenly laid out at her feet like that.

"Okay?"

Brittany reached back and grabbed the burger, wanting to eat it before it got cold.

"We can split the bills and we should make out ok. As long as someone doesn't decide they need a new pair of shoes every other week we should be pretty comfortable and not tap into my savings too much. But we're going on a budget. Math is fun so this can be fun. I'll even put in rewards for you if you stick to it."

Santana still wasn't touching the food, but she looked up at Brittany, watching her, still turning this all over in her mind.

"Rewards?"

"Yup." Brittany nodded. "Like sweet lady kisses if you keep to the budget and better stuff if you save more than we have planned."

She wiggled her eyebrows, handing her the milkshake she ordered for her. Santana took the milkshake and held it, eyeing her. It still completely amazes her, how wonderful her girlfriend really is, how much she loves her. She can't for the life of her figure out why.

"I love you," She said quietly. "And I'm so sorry. I really am."

"I love you too." Brittany dipped one of the fries in her own shake. "And I know you are. I hope you know that I'm not made because you were taking your clothes off but because you lied to me about it. If you really wanted this job and it wasn't affecting your health I'd be ok with it. But you lied to me and it's not allowing you to stay healthy. That's why I was so upset. Not because you were a dancer."

Santana didn't want to talk about this. She tried to accept her at her word, swallowing, and reached to cover her leg with her hand. Brittany moved her hand over Santana's.

"Be honest, how pissed would you have been if you walked in to a club and I was dancing?" she asked, wanting to try to have Santana understand.

Santana's head snapped up at the very thought, her eyes flashing hotly. "Don't even think about it."

"Yeah, that's about how I felt," Brittany chuckled. "I know you think I'm being overprotective with asking you to quit your jobs and planning things for you. But I'm trying to help. That's all I want to do is help."

She ran her hand up and down Santana's arm, her eyes a bit cloudy. Phrased like this, Santana did understand and accept it. She still thinks Brittany's love for her is above and beyond what she deserves, but she can finally, through her example, understand. Slowly she lay down, her head on Brittany's thigh, and covered her knee with her hand.

Brittany slowly stroked Santana's hair as she laid against her. She ate her dinner, wishing Santana was willing to ask for a bite. She didn't push the issue though, wanting her to be able to get to that point herself. Brittany moved under the covers, moving to her back and hoping Santana would put her head on her chest. She wouldn't mind her just laying on top of her either. But Santana had to decide what she would let herself accept tonight. Brittany was offering her everything as she always had been.

Santana wasn't sure of this. As much love and reassurance as Brittany's given her, she was such a natural doubter that even the smallest bit of unclarity freezes her. Finally, swallowing, she asked tentatively, "Do you still want the snuggles?"

"One day you are going to learn that I always want the snuggles." Brittany guided Santana to her side again her, letting her whole body act as a pillow to Santana. "And one day you are going to learn that I will always be there. Always," she added, giving Santana a quick thwack on the ass.
Santana curled her body into Brittany, her head on her chest, one arm over her stomach, her leg over Brittany's. She smiled a little as Brittany smacked her ass, giving a brief breath of air out in faint amusement.

"Okay."

"Oh and lie to me about something this big again and I am going to put out another tape. This time the one I made of you singing Disney songs while hopped up on pot brownies and beer." Brittany wouldn't do it unless Santana really pushed her but she still didn't mind threatening it.

Santana's eyes widened, and she lifted her head with a dramatic gasp, her hand flying to her mouth.

"You wouldn't!"

"Your parents would get a copy first," Brittany smirked. "So don't lie to me and you won't have to worry about it."

She couldn't help but giggle a little bit at the reaction she got out of Santana, the most animated of the night so far. Even this was bad enough. Santana’s mother would tease her for the next millennium, and her father would simply be confused and baffled. Santana groaned, hiding her face against Brittany's chest.

"I'm finding that tape and killing it dead."

"I have multiple copies of the file. But you are welcome to try. Just don't delete anything off my computer or you won't get any lady loving for at least a month."

Brittany's arm moved around her waist. Suddenly the world felt a little bit better than it had when they came into the room. She started playing with Santana's hair again. Santana grumbled, even as her expression softened with Brittany's hand in her hair.

"I'll try, all right."

Brittany sighed as she relaxed against the bed.

"This is how every day should start and end," she muttered after relaxing for a few moments.

They were together in bed, she could feel Santana's heart beating against her side, she felt her own calm and steady in her chest. Even with all the drama of the night she still felt lucky to have this.

Santana nodded, genuinely beginning to get sleepy now. She yawned for real, her eyes shutting, then opening.

"Good night Santana." Bending down Brittany kissed her again, hoping to prove kissing her was ok. "I love you. Sleep tight honey."

Santana kissed her back this time, her eyes staying closed after the kiss.

"Love you."

Chapter Text

As easy as it had been for Santana to fall asleep, and as tired as she was, actually staying asleep had proved impossible. She had tossed and turned restlessly for the remainder of the night, unable to get fully comfortable for long even against Brittany, and the dozing she had managed had been plagued by nightmares brought on by her anxious thought. By the time the first strains of light were starting to stretch across the sky, filtering in through the window, Santana had moved past tired to worn to the point of exhaustion, and she was starting to get exceedingly cranky as a result. Being tired was the fastest way to bring out her childish side, and so she whined, burrowing against Brittany and kicking one leg miserably.

"I don't like this bed. It smells funny."

Every time Santana tossed and turned in the middle of the night Brittany shifted to try to find a comfortable position with her. Though she gave up sometime around 3 a.m. of actually getting some sleep tonight she knew that both of them at least had today off. She could take Santana back to their apartment and put her to bed will she tried to figure out some budgeting items. Her math brain was already starting to create spreadsheets but she needed to get them down while they were still fresh in her mind.

“Let’s go home then. We’ll put you to bed and I’ll work on our budgeting.”

She sat up a little, rubbing her tired eyes. Santana made a whining noise in her throat in protest, even as she rubbed at her own burning eyes, sitting up without coordination. Just because she wanted to go home didn't mean that she wanted to move to do it. Now sitting up, she pressed her face into Brittany's shoulder, as though this act was enough for the day.

"Hate morning. Hate."

"I know you do. You've never been a morning person." Brittany took in a deep breath as her arms moved around Santana's body. "But you can't sleep in this bed and I don't want you up for much longer without a nap."

She rubbed the back of Santana's neck, trying to keep herself from flopping back and trying to get some more sleep. Her body ached in protest when she moved to get up. Santana didn't make it easy on her to stand. She remained attached to her in some way at all times and barely kept her eyes open. She managed to dress herself in a hoodie and sweats but left the pajama top on before latching onto Brittany again, letting her lead and frequently mumbling another complaint about pretty much everything that came into her line of vision every so often.

If Brittany was any less tired she would've found Santana's antics adorable. But she was tired down in her bones as she managed to get them out of the hotel and into a cab. She rested the top of her head against Santana’s as the cabbie took them back to their apartment. She closed her eyes as she tried to breathe slowly enough to keep herself calm without breathing too slowly and putting herself to sleep. She didn't want to fall asleep in the back of the cab.

 

Santana had almost managed to fall asleep again by the time they pulled up in front of the house. Her head had tilted over to Brittany's shoulder, and her breathing had just started to even out when they came a stop. She protested wordlessly again, burying her face in her neck.

"Sleep."

Brittany decided not to fight Santana. She lifted her up in her arms like a groom carrying his bride over the threshold. She struggled up the stairs but she managed to get Santana to their apartment door. She sat her down before using her key on the door and bringing Santana inside in her arms again. She walked them into the bedroom and set Santana down on the bed, then crouched down rub Santana's thighs with her hands.

“Do you want anything before you go to sleep?”

Santana didn't answer. She had burrowed in again when Brittany lifted her, and when the blonde pulled apart, laying her down, she snuggled into the pillow now, eyes still shut.

"Mm."

She hadn't even woke up to see Rachel, emerging from the bathroom after her six am wake up, gawking at them as they came through the front door and manuvered past her down the hall.

She was sure that Santana was asleep Brittany walked to the kitchen. She made herself a cup of coffee before sitting down at the kitchen table. Her forehead rested against the table as she growled to herself.

“What a freaking night,” she muttered as she tried to run through everything that happened. How did the night out with her dancer friends end up with her a hotel room with Santana to calm her down after seeing her as a near stripper? Just how?

Rachel, having stood watching her in the hallway, was a bit miffed at having been very much ignored, but her nosiness won out even more so. Coming to stand in the entrance between the kitchen and living room area, she watched Brittany, eyebrows raised.

"Rough night, huh? Is she drunk?"

She was referring to Santana being carried in.

"No," Brittany said, lifting her head up and brushing her hair out of the way. "No, she's not drunk. She is mentally and physically exhausted." She crossed her arms over her chest. "Thank you, so much, for not telling me she worked as a go go dancer. Really, I plan to make sure I thank you properly for that."

Rachel blinked, already bristling at her tone. "I fail to see how it's my responsibility. I would think that would be her job, to inform you about her choices of employment. If she didn't want to tell you where she's choosing to seek employment then maybe she needs to examine her life choices, but I fail to see how that's my job to do it for her."

Brittany rubbed her temples, trying to stop a headache before it was starting. "Because she would never tell me something like that. It would make her too scared of how I would react. She was already humiliated, she didn't want her girlfriend to be too."

"Well if she was so humiliated it should have told her something," Rachel exhaled, rolling her eyes. "I tried to tell her already, Brittany. Kurt and I both, we tried to tell her she's throwing her life away and that was even before-" she stopped, swallowing, pain coming into her eyes, but she forced it down, lifting her chin determinedly. "We told her and she didn't have any of the excuses or reasons you've given for her then for making that choice to work where she does, and she blew us off. She wasn't embarrassed, even though she should be, she just didn't care what we thought. Like usual. So you pinning her refusal to be honest with you on me is very inappropriate."

Brittany just sat back in her chair and shook her head slowly at Rachel. She wondered for a moment if she could get away with murder and Rachel if she showed old videos of her being a total pain in the ass. If the jury was comprised of only members of Glee she was sure she would be acquitted and maybe even given a prize of some sort.

“Trust me when I tell you that I am upset with her and I'm not pinning anything on you. Her not telling me something that she and I have to work through as a couple. But you're her friend. You should've seen it as a red flag. Because if you were working at a place like that it would've been as much of a red flag as it is with her.”

Brittany stood up and dumped her coffee down the sink before turning back to Rachel.

“Once upon a time you told her that the only job she would ever get was working on a pole. I don't think you ever realized how much that cut deep with her. It's her biggest fear come to life. And I'm sure that she gave you some brushoff but you're her friend. You should know when she gives you a brushoff it means that you've hit a nerve.”

"Brittany, that's ridiculous. Of course Kurt and I were concerned that Santana would do something so wasteful and degrading with herself, but you know how she is, she does what she wants and she doesn't listen to what anyone else thinks when she's made up her mind."

Rachel started to rummage through the cabinets, deciding absently what to eat even as Brittany's next remark sank in. She frowned, having completely forgotten about making the pole comment until Brittany reminded her of it, and she sighed loudly.

"Brittany...so what you're saying is, she can dish but she can't take, is that it? Do you think it's possible to even tally all the rude comments she's made about me over the years? You're really going to try the guilt trip over the one time I gave it back?"

“1279 that I was there for over four years of high school and then everything sense. About 67% of them were about your nose. The rest was between your looks otherwise and your ethnicity. When you guys picked on her you didn't pick on her looks. You picked on her worth as a person. You made her feel like she was nothing because making her nothing somehow made you feel better about yourself.”

Rachel's mouth opened, then closed, and she started just shaking her head, her lips tightly pressed together before she replied, banging objects around just a little more than necessary.

"I'm sure that's the line she's given you, but really, that's ridiculous. No one picked on Santana, that's absolutely crazy to even say. No one had the nerve, the way she attacked us all first."

“You made 72 comments about her talent or her ability to perform just in the three years we had glee club. There was another 974 comments from everyone in glee club about how much of a bitch she was, or how cold she was, or how she didn't have feelings or emotions. You guys treated her like she was a bad person and she wasn't. She doesn't feed me lines, Rachel. I'm not a child.” Brittany felt her hands shake a little with the force it took for her not to slap Rachel across the face.

Rachel stared at her, finding this number ridiculously high to the point that she wanted to accuse her of just spitting out a number to say a number. And yet it did dawn on her uncomfortably that there were quite a few times she does recall of people saying exactly what Brittany just said. Instead, she sighed loudly, turning back to the cabinets.

"No one said she's a bad person. All I'm saying now is that I'm tired of being blamed for her bad choices, like they're somehow my fault or like I should just know stuff about her she doesn't choose to share. Everyone has problems, Brittany, and she needs to learn to deal with hers without making it something that runs her whole life."

'“She does,” Brittany admitted. “But friends don’t let friends do things that destroy them. You were dating a male prostitute did she just let you do it because it was your choice or did she make sure to protect you? She will do anything for her friends and she has learned that her friends won't do anything for her. Except confront her and make her feel like she's a bad person for what she decided. You can't accuse her of basically being a slut and then expecting her to accept your help.”

Rachel sighed again as she sat down with her food, starting to eat it even as she answered. "Thank you for your concern for her, however, again, it's misplaced. No one is mistreating her, it's actually frequently the other way around, to be perfectly honest, and no one is in need to protection here."

“Ask yourself this. When has Santana ever not been there when one of her friends really needed her? When one of her friends asked her to really be there for them, or even if they didn't ask, is she ever turned her back on one of her friends?” Brittany asked softly. “Now think of all of the times that no one thought to ask her if she was okay or if she needed someone.” She felt her emotions creep up. "Not if you thought she needed help but how many times you bothered to ask and really take the time to make sure she was telling the truth."

Rachel squirmed, very much uncomfortable now by being asked to do this...and more so by the answers she knows to be truth, coming to mind. She didn't want to answer this aloud. Instead she said, "I'm a little tired of constantly being on a guilt trip around you, Brittany."

"Wouldn't feel guilty unless you did something wrong," Brittany pointed out.

Rachel sighed, her voice stiff as she addressed her. "What exactly is it you want me to say here, Brittany?"

"I don't want you to say anything," Brittany explained. "I want you to just do better by her. You two could really use each other. She's an amazing friend and I think you could be too."

Rachel didn't say anything. She just sighed, keeping her thoughts to herself, as she finished her food and continued getting ready. Brittany made herself a new cup of coffee and grabbed some Fruity Pebbles. She sat back down and started playing a game of Candy crush with one hand and eating with the other.

Santana had dozed for the brief period of time that Rachel and Brittany were talking, but she stirred awake shortly, aware dimly that Brittany was not in bed with her. Even in her groggy state she strongly disliked this, and she slowly got herself out of bed after several uncoordinated efforts. Eyes only slitted open partway, hair hanging in her face, she shuffled almost zombie like to the kitchen, rubbing her hand over her face like an overgrown toddler as she moved excruciatingly slowly to Brittany.

"Alone in there...cold."

Rachel, who had started to make herself lunch to take to class, stopped and gawked at her all over again. Brittany just pushed back from the table and patted her leg for Santana to sit down on her lap. She wrapped her up in her arms, closing her eyes and just holding on to Santana for a few moments. She sort of loved when Santana put her guard down and just let her hold her.

"I will warm you up babe."

Santana straddled her, burying her face in her shoulder, and breathed deeply, relaxing.

"Left me," she mumbled again, seemingly incapable of speaking full sentences this morning. "Cold."

Rachel had stopped moving entirely now as she stared at her. The only time she had seen Santana remotely behave this way was when she was drunk, and yet Brittany had told her that she wasn't. She eyed her, then, looking at Brittany quickly, asked with some hesitation and over articulation, "Santana, are you quite all right there?"

Santana didn't even lift her head. Instead, she said into Brittany's neck, nevertheless pretty clearly, "Babyyyy Berry's talking. Make her stop."

Brittany couldn’t help but laugh softly at Santana’s antics. “I didn’t leave you honey. I told you I had some stuff I wanted to do and you wanted to sleep.”

She ran her hand up and down Santana’s back, over her skirt for now. She chuckled when Santana told her Rachel was talking and to stop it.

“Honey Rachel is our friend, remember? You have to be nice to her and she will be nice back. And being nice to our friends gets you rewarded too. Early Christmas gift level rewarded.”

"Rachel doesn't believe in Christmas," Santana informed Brittany, stifling a yawn against her neck. This didn't actually apply to what Brittany was talking about but she was tired past the point of logic. She twined her fist in Brittany's hair, shifting against her. "Don't feel nice."

"That's hardly new," Rachel rolled her eyes, but she was saying it without any venom as she continued to eye Santana, still seeming to be adjusting to viewing her in this way.

"I know you don't like being nice when you're grumpy, Santana." Brittany nuzzled her neck, enjoying the moment even if she was trying to show Rachel that Santana wasn't who she thought she was. "And you happen to be very cute when you're like this, very cute."

"Am not," Santana whispered, even as she melted like a koala bear on its mother's back against Brittany's chest, her legs dangling over hers like a kid's. "Not."

Rachel back away, frowning slightly as she considers what she's been viewing, uncomfortable new thoughts in many directions coming through her mind.

"Why don't we go back to bed for a little while?" Brittany had a lot she wanted to get done but a few hours in Santana's arms in bed wouldn't be so bad. She could get Santana to get a little more sleep and she could enjoy a power nap of her own. "I bet the two of us will feel better after a nap, won't we?"

Santana nodded against her but made absolutely no move to get up, eyes shut. Brittany managed to stand them both up, holding on to Santana's ass with her hands to carry her back to bed.

"You are very lucky you have a strong girlfriend who is willing to cop a feel and carry you, Santana Marisol,” she muttered as she walked past Rachel.

Rachel was starting to think maybe Santana was just faking this all for exactly that, attention and copping a feel. She just shook her head as she went out the door, but a part of her genuinely was wondering.

It was nearly 2 in the afternoon before both Santana and Brittany woke up from their naps. Brittany shifted a little closer to Santana, a hand stroking her back as she was often fond of doing.

"Hey beautiful," she muttered, yawning before moving forward and giving Santana a kiss.

Finally, Santana had enough sleep that when she awoke yet again, she could handle the world without resorting to her two year old self in her attitude. She blinked, not too tired to kiss Brittany back, and tilted her head to rest against hers.

"Hey."

Brittany was glad to see that Santana looked a little more awake now. She smiled as she moved her hand slowly up-and-down her girlfriend's back.

"So I was thinking. Quinn is going to be here on the 22nd and 23rd for her interview. We could invite her to spend Christmas with us instead of by herself in New Haven. She's not going back to Lima this year."

Brittany didn't want her best friend to spend the holiday alone when they were only an hour away. It was not only silly but it broke Brittany's heart a little bit.

Santana regarded Brittany seriously, considering this. It bothered her a little to think of Quinn with Brittany, but it also bothered her to think of Quinn having Christmas alone. Finally she nodded, wrapping an arm around Brittany.

"Okay."

Brittany leaned in, kissing Santana slowly. "Thank you. I know she didn't want to have to ask but spending Christmas alone would have really made her sad." She nuzzled Santana's neck, rewarding her with positive touch. "I already have a plan worked out. We're all going to cook a big meal together on Christmas after breakfast and gifts. Just like Mom use to do for us."

Santana made a noncommittal noise even as she sank under the attention of Brittany's touch. Almost purring, relaxed completely, she wound her arms around her waist. Brittany kissed her girlfriend's neck as her hand slipped down to Santana's hip.

"What are you scared of?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. "I mean with us, with me?"

Santana's brow furrowed slightly, though her body remained relaxed, and she shook her head against Brittany, trying to deflect from having to answer.

"I don't know," she whispered back.

"Are you scared I'm going to leave you for a man?" Brittany asked, deciding if Santana won't voice her fears she'll try giving some and seeing if they work or not. "That somehow my time with Artie or Sam is more important to me than you because they are guys?"

It's sort of true, what Brittany's saying. Santana has multiple fears when it comes to Brittany, but the way she phrased it wasn't exactly right. She shook her head again, then took a slow breath, attempting to verbalize.

"You might. It's easier. It's way easier to be with a guy. It's easier how people are to you and how you can have a family and...it just is. And they're white so that's easier and they're nicer...way nicer. It would make more sense."

Brittany shifted a little bit so she could look into Santana's eyes. "I've never even thought of your race as a factor in us dating Santana. Never once. You are different than me and those different bits are things I love about you. I love seeing the difference in our skin tones or your hair when you wear it naturally. I love it. I love you because of it not in spite of it." She leaned against Santana a little more. Wanting her warmth to help her make a point. "Being with Sam and Artie isn't easier. Not really. Sure they are boys and I don't get the same looks as we sometimes get. But they don't give me what I need. Not deep down. I would need them and you. And if I'm going to all that trouble why not just have you and be even happier?"

Santana listened, her brow still creased up with the fears that Brittany's question had brought back to mind. She was quiet for another few minutes before venturing, "But I don't understand how I can ever be enough for you. There's so much about me that's just...wrong."

"What do you think is wrong about you?" Brittany asked, wanting to see what Santana had to say. She couldn't address her fears if Santana didn't voice them.

Santana gave a bitter laugh, lifting her face slightly off Brittany to keep talking. "What isn't? I'm a bitch, I don't know how to be nice even to people I like without it being a huge effort. I'm a college dropout because it got too hard for me, and not even academically, it was too SOCIALLY hard for me. I'm a coward who would rather beat everyone around me down than risk someone hurting me first. I would have happily stayed a Cheerio, hating myself and everyone else in the world, rather than sing and dance and do something I really love, just because people I don't even like might make fun of me. I can't look at myself like a normal person because all I see is this girl with tiny scarred up boobs and huge thighs and a weird nose, and I have to make up jokes about how hot and sexy I am because otherwise people might think I'm not, and I'd rather them think I'm a slut than so ugly or horrible no one would want me. I'm not normal, Brittany, don't you see that? It's more than just being a lesbian, it's more than the fact that everything will be hard for the rest of the life because I'm a Latina lesbian and you're a blonde girl who could like guys if she chose. I'm the one that makes it hard. I make it hard because I'm just...I'm just a fuck up. Don't you see that?"

By the end her voice was barely a whisper, and she was blinking, trying to hold back emotion.

Brittany had to take a few minutes to try to figure out what to say to that. Santana didn't see her the way that Brittany did. She didn't see her beauty, or her grace, or the warm heart beat within her chest. She saw the worst of herself, her flaws, her imperfections. Brittany saw all of that but she saw so much good it outweighed everything negatively perceived by Santana.

“I need you to listen to me very carefully. What I'm about to say I need you to really hear me. You are not perfect. But neither of us are. Life would be really boring if we both were perfect.”

She sat up and crossed her legs before taking one of Santana's hands between both of hers as she looked down into the warm brown eyes that she loved so much.

“Let me say this all before you say anything back, ok?”

Santana took another breath, squeezing Brittany's hands. Even before she said anything she was already pretty sure she was going to get emotional, her chest was already tight.

"Okay..."

“You aren’t a bitch Santana. You aren’t. You have created a system of affection where you tease the people you love and care about. You do it to me, you do it to Quinn, you do it to everyone. Yes, sometimes you go too far and yes sometimes you act bitchy but you aren’t just a bitch. And to make yourself a caricature by painting yourself that way is just unfair.”

Brittany ran her thumb over Santana’s wrist, trying to comfort her.

“You and I had plans to be together after high school. And then I didn't graduate. Then all of a sudden the plans that we had we're gone. You had so much on your plate that first semester that I'm amazed you didn’t have a mental breakdown from all of the stress you were dealing with. I know how you work hard for your grades when you're in the mental space to do it. You're incredibly smart, Santana. Please don't think that Louisville is your only shot at college. I know you could get into Columbia or NYU or any college you want. ”

Brittany paused for a second I should try to figure out how to phrase the next part. This was one of the more tricky things to address.

“You are not a coward. Baby, you are one of the bravest people I have ever met in my entire life. I don't think that you would have been happy being a Cheerio and hating yourself and hating the world. I think at the time that we made the choices, we did the best we could. But we grew up and we changed. You are incredibly sensitive. You care about what people think of you because you want them to except you. That's not a bad thing. Sometimes you go too far with it but we all crave love and acceptance. We all want to know that people believe in us too.”

Brittany knew sooner or later they were going to have to address Santana’s body issues. Now I felt like as good of a time as any.

“You have body issues. There's no other way around it. You have suffered with an eating disorder for at least the last four years. It's better and then sometimes it's not. But it's always there. When you're at a healthy weight, probably 10 to 15 pounds more than you are now, you are the sexiest, most beautiful, most gorgeous woman that I know. And when you're not at a healthy weight I look at you and I still see that beautiful, sexy, gorgeous woman. But I get scared too when you aren’t at a healthy weight.” Brittany felt a few tears pickle at her eyes.

“And your boobs are like my favorite thing in the world. And I am so glad you got the implants out. And your thighs and nose and hips and legs and all the rest of you? I love them just as much as a person can love another person’s body. I love your body Santana. So much.” She ran a hand over Santana’s side and cupped her breast, it taking up her hand but not spilling over. “You are perfect in my hand, perfect as you are. I love how you look but you have to love how you look too.”

Brittany put both of her hands on Santana’s left hand again, holding on for dear life. “You are someone that has come into my life and changed every single aspect of it. The person that I want to share the best moments and the worst moments with. You are my future wife and the future mother of my children. I see you as someone who is perfectly imperfect. I see you as someone who I love. And your imperfections make you the person that I love. I can't help it that you're the most amazing person I know. And I'm not cannot apologize because I fell in love with you and not Sam, and Artie, and not any other guy. You’re it for me, Santana. Absolutely it.”

Never in her life had anyone spoken to Santana with such intensity and passion, with such sincere and genuine love, and all directed at her for exactly who she was, for everything she most hated about herself. It hit her so hard, everything that Brittany was saying, just how much her girlfriend really did love and accept her, just how much she truly cherished the parts that Santana could not. For the first time Santana really did believe, and it was so overwhelming to her that she couldn't have formed words for it if she tried. Instead she felt her heart wrench, her features collapse as she gave into tears, but for the first time that she can remember, they aren't out of pain. They are grateful, even joyful, disbelieving...but not pained.

"I...I love you so much."

Brittany lay down and wrapped her arms immediately around Santana. She kissed her neck slowly as she it to comfort her. She recognized the tears run not from pain or discomfort but from the flow of emotion that Santana often blocked in herself. Brittany wanted to make sure Santana felt the continuing effort of her love as she rubbed her back slowly.

“I have things that I'm afraid of too. I am not as perfect as your mind makes me out to be. Not by miles.”

"Yes you are," Santana insisted, wiping at her tears with the heel of one hand, but they keep coming. They felt strangely good to her, giving a relieving sensation, like giving release to a bladder that had been held for an overly prolonged period of time. "You're perfect to me."

"I am weird. And I sometimes say the wrong thing at the worst time. I'm not always the most focused and I let my imagination run wild. I don't always live in the real world and I can be foolish sometimes," Brittany whispered as she rubbed Santana's back, enjoying the moment even with the tears and her own doubts. "And sometimes I worry I'm not enough for you. Because I like boys too."

"You are not weird, you're wonderful," Santana said fiercely. "You're magical and your imagination makes the world interesting and beautiful and everything else too. And you're smarter than anyone I know, you're a genius. The world just isn't made for people like you all the time." She wiped at her eyes again, settling against her as her own hand rubbed Brittany's side. "You're enough. You're all I ever wanted."

"Even if sometimes I like watching girl and guy porn?" It was something Brittany never really admitted to Santana. She watched it now and then, mostly during weeks she and Santana weren't as hot and heavy as they were other weeks. "I would never cheat on you Santana, girl or guy. That is a fact."

It's not something that Santana is interested in, not without being able to make fun of it, anyway. She made a face at this, but then sighed, shrugging.

"I mean, I SORT OF have a thing for Gone with the Wind and I MAYBE cry if I'm on my period when I watch it, so...we can just sort of do those things apart from each other. Separate laptops or something?"

"Usually I don't watch porn unless I'm alone and trying to get off." Brittany chuckled as she ran her hand over Santana's back, lower this time. "I mean if I have you and you're horny too I'll take that over my hand and porn any day."

Santana smiled, glad to hear this. "So how is this a problem then?"

"It's not." Brittany shook her head. "But I don't want you to come home early one day, see me watching it and feel like because I am, I'm not happy. I am really happy with our sex life. Like orgasmicly happy."

Santana looked her in the eyes, searching, reassuring herself. "You promise you don't feel like you're missing out?"

"I promise," Brittany gave a quick nod. "You're better with a strap on than they are with what they have anyway. Trust me." Brittany gave Santana's ass a reassuring squeeze.

Santana squirmed, sucking in her breath, smiling widely, dimples coming into view. She was still mulling over everything Brittany had told her, adjusting to the idea, and spoke slowly but sincerely.

"I still will never really know why you do, but I'm really just...really happy you love me."

"Can you maybe try not to be so scared the other shoe is going to drop?" Brittany asked, kissing both of her dimples. "Because I know you will always be a little scared. But maybe if you try and trust me a little you'll be less scared and we can progress."

Santana nodded, dimpling even more deeply at Brittany's kisses. It would be perfectly fine with her if Brittany kept kissing all over her face and then further down. Brittany took the hint and slowly moved south, kissing over Santana's neck as she moved her hands to roam her chest.

"I'll make you a deal," She muttered as she ran her hand over the small of Santana's back. "Every time you clean your plate you win a chance at an orgasm."

This is the kind of deal Santana likes. She breathed in and out, her chest filling with her inhalation at Brittany's touch, even as she pushed a little, "Does washing dishes count?"

"Nope. Just you eating your meals. You eat a full plate's worth and I'll flip a coin. Heads you get an orgasm in any of three ways. And tails I get an orgasm in any of three ways. Win/win for both of us."

Brittany's hand moved under Santana's shirt to play with her left breast.

"Can I see the plate?" Santana kept pushing. She absolutely loved those stakes, and yet she still wanted to see exactly what it was she was playing for, or at least try to push for leverage. She swallowed hard, her mouth parting.

"The orange one," Brittany muttered as her fingers dug into Santana's back, as her lips wrapped around Santana's nipple over the fabric.

The orange plate was about half the size of a normal plate but still bigger than a coffee saucer. Santana considered this. Still a little scary, but...probably doable. If she had orgasms to consider. It was so hard to concentrate on outsmarting Brittany when she was distracting her so skillfully like this. Her breathing quickening, she tried to focus with great difficulty.

"Um...if I don't...do I not get orgasms or...?"

"If you don't and I don't think you tried then no, you don't. But if you try your best when you will get sweet lady kisses and if you're a good girl I'll let you hump my leg and if you cum, then you cum."

 

This was more than a fair bargain. Santana stretched her neck to kiss Brittany soundly, murmuring assent into her lips.

"You get to pick the meal that counts but we'll do the flip before bed," Brittany muttered as she shifted a leg between Santana's thighs. "BUT, and here is the big thing. You have to eat twice that day. Even if you don't finish another plate. You can't just eat one meal a day. Ok?"

Santana struggled to agree with this one. Brittany knew her too damn well. But greed for Brittany's attentions won her over, and she finally nodded.

"Okay..."

"There is my good girl," Brittany muttered the term she had used when she and Santana were in bed together for years. It could sound condescending but it was meant with all the love and respect in the world. "You wanna play now, baby, or are you still sleepy?" she asked, her thigh shifting up and down a little bit against Santana.

Sleepy was the absolute last thing Santana was. That would be impossible, with Brittany's lips on her skin and her hand against her breast. She didn't bother to dignify that with a reply. Instead she took Brittany's hand and slipped it to the top of her pants.

"Can I get a start now?"

Brittany loved sex with Santana. There was nothing in this world that made her feel as high as she did when she was seeking pleasure with Santana. After she finally rolled off her lover and to her back, both having gotten the other off as they never failed to do, she looked over, panting as she covered herself with the top sheet.

"We're getting really, really good at that."

Santana didn't bother to cover herself. On her back beside Brittany, sweating, she didn't even try to stop her huge grin.

"We should win awards."

"For that to happen someone would have to show up and watch. And when I put our tape online you got pissy," Brittany commented.

She reached over and grabbed a bottle of lotion with hand sanitizer in it. Taking a little she passed it to Santana.

"Now we need to have a big girl talk."

"Well, we could just use a voice recorder, that's proof enough," Santana teased. She used the sanitizer, sitting up, and looked at Brittany with a small concerned frown. "What? We did plenty of talk. Time to snuggle."

"Different kind of talk."

Brittany grabbed her computer and the little lap stand she used. She fixed the pillows before sitting up. She didn't bother to put a top on, letting Santana look at her boobs as much as she wants.

"We're joining all our bills. And our pay. So we can start saving for our own place and you know, a life together."

Santana did eye Brittany’s breasts appreciatively for a long moment before she rested her head against them as her personal pillow, turning her eyes to the screen.

"Oh."

She was not sure how she felt about that. Somewhat defensive, like Brittany thought she can't take care of herself, but also slightly relieved in a way. Brittany used one hand on the keyboard, her other arm around Santana's shoulders.

"Unless you have another girlfriend out there that you rather go all adult with. And if you do I plan to kick her butt, so speak now or forever hold your peace."

"Knowing you, you probably do have a peace symbol somewhere in this room you literally want me to hold," Santana commented.

Brittany giggled but smacked Santana's ass lightly anyway.

"How much do you make from the diner on a typical week? I get $750 after tax from the Math lab," She said, putting a line in for both her and Santana's pay.

....750 whattt....Santana was embarrassed to even say what she made after that. Instead she muttered to her chest, "Divide that by two."

Brittany rubbed Santana's arm as she put the numbers in.

"That gives us $4500 a mother after tax to play with."

She already had the bills she paid in so she doubled them to add Santana's part in everything. She started doing the math and nodding to herself as she moved things around.

"So after all our bills we have $850 left over. I think we should put $500 a month in savings and use the extra $350 for like nights out and shoes and fun stuff," she said, turning to smile at Santana.

To Santana, this sounded like a huge amount of money. Having almost as much for just fun as she makes in one week?

"God, I'm lucky you're such a genius." She turned her head to kiss Brittany's shoulder.

"You really are." Brittany smiled as she double checked the math to make sure it was all right. "I think we should open out a join savings and a joint checking accounts. Unless you are too nervous about that to want to. It makes it a few more balls to juggle to pay everything, but it's ok."

Brittany seemed to know what she's doing with this, and although she was a little nervous, Santana trusted her. She shrugged, reaching for her hand.

"I trust you."

Brittany bent down, kissing Santana with all the tenderness in the world.

"As long as we're honest with each other about what we spend we'll be ok. And this way I know how much your shoe habit is."

"I knew there was a dark side to this," Santana pretended to grumble. But she was smiling still as she kissed Brittany back, her hand tenderly cupping the back of her neck.

"Best part of us being together is we wear the same shoe size. So as long as you let me wear a pair now and then we're good," Brittany muttered, kissing her again before turning back to the spreadsheet. "Do you have any credit card debt? I never factored the payments for credit cards in since mine is at zero."

Santana hesitated before nodding, biting her inner cheeks with continued embarrassment.

"Yeah. I ran out of the money Mami gave me after a while and I didn't really have shit to show for it and I got a little crazy."

"How bad babe?" Brittany rubbed her shoulder again to try to reassure her. She tried not to be a little annoyed Santana blew the money when they could have put them both at least half way through school.

Santana was definitely chewing the inside of her cheeks now, and also starting to twirl a strand of her hair around her finger as she took her time in responding.

"...about....twelve thousand dollars..."

"Babe," Brittany groaned as she looked over at Santana. "How many cards is it on?" She grabbed her bag and her bank card. "We're using my savings and paying them off. If I explained how compounding interest rates worked you might start crying again."

"Six cards," Santana couldn't look her in the face right now, still twirling her hair rapidly around her finger. Crying was definitely a likelihood sometime soon if she had to keep explaining how she got herself in this mess. "I sort of used them to the two thousand limit and then I sort of forgot about having to pay back...I don't know, it just seemed like you get all this stuff free right away for a while..."

"Go get your cards and a pair of scissors."

Santana was slow to get up, but didn't outright protest or disobey. She dragged her feet about bringing them to the bed with Brittany, something between a pout and scowl forming on her lips. When she went to take up the scissors, she stopped, shaking her head.

"Can't do it. It's like cutting up a packet of cigarettes." She held them out to Brittany.

"Log it to your accounts," Brittany turned her computer around, handing Santana her card to use to pay them. "Pay them in full. Tomorrow we're going to close them all. But you have to do that on the phone."

Santana was not thrilled about this for more than one reason. Making Brittany use her money to pay off her debt was more than embarrassing, it seemed shameful to her, like a underscore of failure. But she didn't say anything. She did what Brittany was telling her to, quiet as she logged into them one by one.

Brittany cut up each card one by one. She didn't want Santana to feel bad but she also had to know that she couldn't just use the money like it was free. Not if they were going to build a future together, and not if Santana was going to work towards making a better, happier, and healthier life for herself than was possible for her before.

"I know this has to be a hit to your pride but it will be ok Santana. I still have over $75,000 in my savings. We should be good for now."

Santana was still quiet as Brittany reassured her. This too only served to emphasize to her just how badly she's messed up. The girl who sometimes literally needed help crossing a road has saved 75,000 dollars while she was in debt for 12000. How the hell had she let this happen?

"I did some modeling in Boston. MIT paid me to be in some of their overseas ads because I'm not the typical student and they wanted to appeal to a male audience," Brittany explained, seeming to read her expression and holding on to Santana's hand after finishing cutting the cards up.

Santana let Brittany take her hand. She understood why Brittany was doing this, and she knew it was necessary. Still, it was difficult to not feel guilty and ashamed for it.

"I promise I'll do better."

: "I know you will." Brittany kissed her girlfriend's cheek. "You are going to pay me back. Not in sex because even if it would be fun to play hooker I don't want you to feel gross. I'm thinking more like back rubs."

Santana nodded. "So I'll be your Cinderella, only sexier? And with less painful shoes? I can live with that."

"So.' Brittany tossed the cards in the trash, moving the computer and everything else to the chair beside the bed. "We're trusting each other, opening joint accounts, we're working on your healthy food habits and Quinn is coming for Christmas. Oh and we had awesome sex." She grinned at the last one. "I think we both deserve a reward."

Santana had to perk her ears up at this one, starting to grin back at her.

"And what exactly are you thinking of, reward wise?"

"Sweet lady cuddles, a movie, and take out for dinner?"

Brittany opened her arms for Santana. She was really proud of her. She could have fought tooth and nail for the last few hours but she didn't. She was fighting to grow but she was still growing.

Santana crawled into her arms without hesitation, entwining herself with Brittany and resting her head against hers.

"Again with the genius."

For now, she was going to push aside her lingering worries and fears and just relax with her girlfriend, letting everything else in the world fade away.

Chapter Text

Christmas Eve was Brittany’s 5th favorite day of the year, after Christmas, Santana’s birthday, her birthday and Halloween. She loved the anticipation of it, the feeling that soon there would be gifts to give and food to eat and the joy that the day brought. It was magical and this time of year people didn’t question her love of magic.

“Hey,” Brittany muttered, waking up and seeing Santana beside her.

They had been napping on the couch after breakfast, both dressed down. Quinn would be here in a bit but it wasn’t like she was expected them to be dressed up.

“Are we going to midnight mass tonight? Your family used to go every year.”

Santana usually gets rather childishly excited about Christmas too, but this year, she's almost dreaded it. It has never been the same, since she was seventeen and knew that she could never spend Christmas Eve at her abuela's house again, hearing the Christmas Story and making spiced cookies and eggnog. And this year especially Santana had been somewhat less than enthusiastic. She had little money to buy gifts, though Brittany was helping her with that, and she was too embarrassed by her current state of affairs to be willing to see her too nosy mother in Lima. She had perked up a little bit, having seen Brittany's excitement, but Quinn coming now too was also enough to put her on edge. She had no idea what to expect.

Thinking to herself, still waking up, Santana didn’t answer Brittany’s question. Brittany ran a hand up and down her back, a little concerned.
"Are you going to answer me or just stay inside that pretty little head of yours?"

Santana had indeed been lost in thought, to the extent that she entirely tuned Brittany out. She blinked, turning to look at her when Brittany rubbed her back.

"I didn't hear you."

"Do you want to go to midnight mass tonight for Christmas?" Brittany asked again.

She and Quinn hadn't spoken about it but it was unneeded. If Santana wanted to go both would join her and if she didn't, Quinn would go alone. Santana hesitated, her brow furrowing slightly as she considered. It was a tradition she had done every year with her abuela and her mother, sometimes her father too, on the rare occasions he was home. She had memories stretching back from early childhood, of herself as a squirmy little girl, itching in the dresses she had been made to wear, of dozing with her head on her mother's lap or shoulder, if she wasn't sitting directly beside her abuela, or being pinched and poked to sit up straight if she was. Bittersweet pressure filled her chest, and she shrugged, undecided. It would seem somehow wrong not to go, but it would also seem wrong to go.

"I don't know."

Brittany gave a simple nod. "You don't have to go if you don't want to go,” she whispered, toying slightly with Santana's hair. "Quinn is going to go but if you don't then I will stay with you."

Santana nodded, still undecided. It was a part of her history, and yet her present would have none of her family with her. It wouldn't be the same, but maybe she could make herself new traditions. She wasn't sure, sometimes, what she thought about religion overall. She believed in God, in a vague, wary sort of way, but the thought of him had never given her comfort or focus in her life, and she was never entirely sure if she believed because she was supposed to, or of her own accord.

Brittany ran her nose along Santana's ear and jaw, enjoying the moment even if both had things on their mind.

"I got everything to make lunch and breakfast for tomorrow. I figured we could order in tonight and do the sleep over stuff we use to."

She wanted this to work, the three of them together and laughing. She wanted them to talk about everything good in their lives and how happy they were. She wanted it to be true.

 

Santana nodded again, reaching to cover Brittany's fingers with hers, and brought their tips to her lips to kiss gently. She twined their fingers, then looked up at her, meeting her eyes.

"Do you believe in God? And all this Christmas stuff?"

She knew Brittany used to believe in Santana, but she realized then that she's never really extensively talked about the religious side of it with her.

"No," Brittany whispered. "No, I guess I don’t really. I believe in magic and I believe in the Spirit of Christmas but I don't believe God or any gods are real."

This was entirely news to Santana. Sitting up more fully, searching her face, she frowned slightly.

"Really? Why? How are you so sure?"

For a girl who believes in leprechauns, talking cats, and Santa, not believing in God seemed to Santana to be totally unexpected.

"I've never felt Him there. Not the way you and Quinn or Kitty talked about Him. I've never felt that, I've never believed in it. My parents never took me the church as a kid so I didn't have it drilled into me. And then when I'd go with you or Quinn it never really made me feel anything," Brittany explained as best she could.

Santana was still frowning a little, bothered by this in a way she couldn't quite put her finger on. She always rolled her eyes at Quinn and definitely Kitty, the way they babbled on about religion, and she couldn't say she's always been very comfortable in her skin with her religion, lackadaisical as it was, sometimes. Far from it. But nevertheless, she was bothered to hear that Brittany didn't even entertain a possibility of belief, for one reason.

"Do you think I'm dumb- I mean...silly, or something, because I sort of do?"

"No," Brittany shook her head firmly. This was the part she knew she differed from some people on. "You and Quinn and Kitty and all the rest of the people who believe, at least the ones who believe without trying to hurt anyone else, should have every right to believe without being judged for it. If you believe in God then He's real for you. And it doesn't matter if He isn't real for me."

Santana nodded a little bit, but she was still a little worried. Leaning her head against Brittany's arm, she played with her fingers.

"I don't know what I think sometimes. Sometimes I don't know how if I want to believe in Him because I think He has to really think I suck. But I sort of just do anyway. I don't know. When is Quinn coming anyway?"

"She should be here anytime. She told me she'd text when she in the cab from her hotel." Brittany kissed Santana's jaw lightly. "You don't have to not believe, Santana. And you don't have to believe. All you have to do is what feels right to you. I'll support you either way."

Not believing had never really been a true option in Santana's mind, but she wasn't sure if that was because it had been drilled into her since childhood that God was real, or because she herself had developed this belief. It was too much to think about for right now, though, so she wrapped her arms around Brittany's waist, nuzzling her shoulder.

"Do we have time to give her an awesome merry Christmas greeting to walk into?"

"Because you are turned on by my awesome red and green tank top or because you are trying to climb me in front of her?" Brittany asked, giving a smirk and a little poke in the ribs.

"Can we pick a C, both A and B?" Santana opted.

She kissed Brittany's lips, dragging her lower lip between her teeth. Brittany whimpered slightly as she moved her hand down to cup Santana's ass. She reached away from her though when her phone buzzed.

"She'll be here in ten minutes,” she muttered, turning her head away from Santana.

"So we can be fast?" Santana breathed, barely removing her lips enough to be able to make the words clear. "Super fast. Or slow it just enough for awesome timing of her coming in."

"No," Brittany said firmly. "We are not having Quinn walk in on us having sex. Not unless you want her to join in,” she added with a smirk, giving Santana a knowing look.

Santana sat apart from her a little bit then, eyeing her, making sure she's really just joking.

"Okay, all done then."

“That’s what I thought.” Brittany couldn’t help but laughing a bit at Santana’s quick change of heart. “Remember this is still Quinn. Our best friend and one of my favorite people in the world. So you will be nice to her. And you are going to remember that you and I are in a committed relationship. Meaning that when I cuddle or hug Quinn I’m doing so platonically. And you have nothing to worry about.”

She sat up, swimming her legs over the side of the couch. She loved Santana too much to ever throw them away. Santana considered this, nodding slowly. It was hard to entirely banish the faint anxiety and worry still pressed over her heart, but she tried, for Brittany's sake. She did miss Quinn anyway. Sort of. Just a little bit.

"I bought Quinn noise canceling headphones." Brittany kissed Santana's temple softly. "So if you're a good girl today you will be rewarded tonight on top of the coin flip."

Santana's pensive expression softened into a smile. "Remind me what I have to do exactly to be good?"

Brittany wrapped her arm around Santana's shoulder. "Remember how we use to act with each other at sleep overs senior year? Like that."

Brittany loved when Quinn would join them for sleepovers sometime. She loved the feeling of Santana and Quinn cuddled with her for a movie or for gossip. Quinn was the first person they openly showed affection for the other in front of after all. Santana snuggled her head down to Brittany's, cuddling in, partly because she wanted extra reassurance stocked up for Quinn's arrival, and partly simply because she enjoyed it.

"We only did that because you wouldn't stand for us not to."

"You both liked it." Brittany would have rolled her eyes if they were open. "The both of you are people who enjoy touch. And touch is something you deny yourselves because you’re both silly. But with me, I don't give you a choice. And then with each other you just follow my lead."

"That's crazy. We definitely do not like to touch each other. I don't like to touch anyone but you," Santana argued. "You just want us to be nice so we are."

Brittany opened her eyes just to roll them. "When she gets here, do me a favor and hug her. And see if you hate it."

"Of course I'll hate it," Santana rolled her eyes back at her, but didn't loosen her hold. "So lame. But I'll do it just so I get my rewards."

"You never want to admit anything, do you?" Brittany asked, a hand sliding over Santana's thigh. "You have a lot of people in this world who love you. As a friend, as more, as a daughter, as a talented singer."

At this Santana did openly scoff. Lifting her head, she rolled her eyes. "Baby you're thinking of you."

“You’re right, I am pretty awesome. But so are you.” Brittany got up when she heard a knock at the door. "Behave."

Santana tensed slightly when Brittany went to answer the door, following her reluctantly. She ran a hand through her hair, wishing she could check her makeup too.

Getting into Yale had been one of the best things that Quinn has ever done in her life. Being away from Ohio and from all the pressures that her family put on her made Quinn blossom in a way that she hadn't in Ohio. She finally struck a balance between the shy Lucy and the bitchy Quinn. She liked who she was now and wasn't afraid to show people. Being able to see her two best friends for Christmas was something she had been looking forward to since Brittany suggested it. She just hoped that everything went well.

When Brittany opened the door, she pulled Quinn inside and into a bone crushing hug.

“Hey Quinn,” she grinned, pulling back after a few seconds.

“Hey Britt,” Quinn beamed at her before turning her attention to Santana. “Can I get a hug from you too or are you going to try to melt me with your laser vision?”

Santana looked Quinn up and down, noting how good she looked, as beautiful as ever, but confident now too, happy. Genuinely satisfied in a way Santana had never seen in her, even from just a look. She looked more mature, somehow hotter because of it. Santana wondered what Quinn saw in her when she looked at her and felt her ears burn. She tried to sneer, but she thought that it didn't quite work like she wanted it to.

"Yeah, you always did want up on this."

She moved forward to hug her, and found that her hold of Quinn tightened when they made physical contact. Quinn wrapped her arms around Santana’s too thin frame but made no comment about it. She closed her eyes, her face pressed to Santana’s neck for a moment. She just stood there, holding on to her, her fingers playing with the hairs on the back of Santana’s neck.

“I got all up on that already, if you remember. And you opened a whole new world up to me. A world that I think I might never have stepped into without you,” she added, keeping her arms around Santana still.

Santana relaxed almost as soon as she felt Quinn's arms around her. It was familiar, soothing in a way she had forgotten, to be so close to Quinn, to inhale her scent and have her fingers in her hair. She closed her eyes, giving a faint shiver at Quinn playing with her hair, and didn't try to pull back, whatever her vow to Brittany. It took her a moment to get Quinn's words- and to register that although there was teasing in her tone, there also seemed to be sincerity.

"Wait...you're all about the ladies now?"

"You have converted me. I hope you got me a toaster oven for Christmas," Quinn chuckled, enjoying the way Santana hadn't pulled away from her yet. She could feel Brittany watching them but the other blonde didn't interfere. "I think it's why my relationships with were men were such a mess. I didn't have the right attraction to maintain them, or the actual emotional connection to really want to."

Genuinely excited now, Santana pulled back, giving Quinn a playful punch on the shoulder and then slapping her ass.

"I KNEW it!"

Quinn and Brittany both laughed at Santana's antics. Brittany ran her hand down Santana's arm before tangling their hands together.

"And you didn't think to let me in on it?" Quinn raised one of her eyebrows. "Rude."

"Oh come on Quinn, we all have to come to figure it out at different times," Brittany reminded her. She already knew Quinn's orientation but wanted to let Quinn tell Santana.

Santana was still grinning, absolutely thrilled at this. Now totally forgetting her insistence to Brittany on she and Quinn "not liking to touch each other," she grabbed Quinn's hand with the one not holding Brittany's and squeezed excitedly, swinging it.

"I KNEW you had a weird thing for Berry! God I'm sorry she went home for Christmas!"

Quinn's eyes went wide, and she shook her head emphatically. "I do not, never have, and never will have a weird thing for Berry."

"Okay, maybe you've had too much sex with too many hot girls to have a thing for her NOW, but you totally had a thing for her ass and don't you deny it," Santana insisted, smirking. "You were the one that started the porno cartoons of her online, I know exactly where that filthy mind of yours was 'cause you drew us all maps detailing it."

Wanting to keep the peace, Brittany tugged Santana and by extension Quinn over to the couch. Quinn and Brittany flanked Santana, putting her between them as both leaned in toward her, touching her on the sides and shoulders.

"Be nice Santana or maybe I'll cuddle Quinn tonight and make you cuddle your bear by yourself," Brittany teased, leaning in and kissing her cheek to show she was joking.
Santana let herself be pulled, not actually minding being the middle of the sandwich. It was, in fact, her favorite spot, not that she'd ever admit it. She stuck her tongue out at Brittany at her joke.

"Quinn doesn't know how to cuddle right, all she'll do is lay a toe on you and then steal all your covers."

“When Brittany came to see me in New Haven she taught me how to cuddle with girls,” Quinn said, putting that out there with a smirk. “She gave me a lot of advice about being with girls. She was a great support to have.”

She smiled over at Brittany as her hand went back to playing with the hair on the back of Santana’s neck and watching her face with a raised eyebrow. When Santana didn’t pull away, just inhaling slowly, Brittany just smiled, watching the other two closely. She loved them both and seeing them interact like this made her happier than she thought it would.

“I’m going to go run to the store. I think I want banana splits for later.” She kissed Santana before standing up. “You two catch up. I’ll be back.”

Sitting up a little bit, Santana eyed Brittany, mock suspicious, then turned the same gaze to Quinn as she gave a nod of acknowledgement to her. Still, she didn’t quite pull away from her. What the hell, it didn’t feel horrible, even if it was totally weird.

"Lies. You don't know shit about proper cuddling technique. I don't believe it for a second. You’d give someone hypothermia with your cold feet and frigid miss priss bod."

It was almost a challenge.

Quinn rolled her eyes, something she did now more playfully than in high school. She shifted back on the couch so she was against the arm rest. She shifted her legs open, flattening down her dress and giving Santana a little crooked finger beckon, cocking an eyebrow.

"Oh, you think? Come here.”

 

Santana raised her eyebrows, her lips quirking. She wasn't sure what had come over Quinn exactly, but she couldn't say she hated it. She scooted back towards Quinn, letting her back and shoulders touch her chest, but leaving room for her to adjust her as she wanted. Quinn shifted her a little, her arms wrapped around Santana's waist and her chin on her shoulder. She was silent for a while, and Santana could feel her heart beating slowly against her back, her breath slightly stirring her hair before she spoke.

"You and me always used Brittany as a reason to touch each other, or show each other we cared. I care about you more than just about anyone, Santana, Brittany too. I don't want to hide that. Not anymore. I want to be able to be close to my friend without Brittany having to suggest it." She stopped, looking down to try to catch Santana’s eyes. “Can you handle that?”

When Quinn wrapped her up in her arms, pulling her comfortably close, Santana was more than a little surprised by it. She had almost expected her to pull out at some point, making a joke about Santana being sexual or touchy feely, and put space between them again, without Brittany there. But the girl was instead actually pulling her in, even talking about it. Actually talking about TOUCHING her. About CARING about her. It was completely unexpected, but strangely...nice. Santana looked back at her.

"What the hell did she DO to you?"

"She just loved me," Quinn gave a half shrug, not moving away. "She held me and let me vent about Puck and boys and not understanding my attractions. I wasn't a closet case like you. I just didn't know. It wasn’t even a possibility in my head. She would rub my back when it hurt and nuzzle my neck when I was lonely and sad. She was Britt, she took care of me." She closed her eyes, her arms tightening a little bit around Santana. "She's always taken care of us."

Except for the months that she was away from Santana. Except for when she needed her most. But Santana didn't say that. She leaned her head against Quinn's cheek after a long pause, exhaling, and after a moment, says, "Why were you lonely and sad anyway? You look pretty happy now."

Quinn drew shapes on Santana's side with her thumb, and her voice was a little huskier than usual when she replied, a few beats later.

"Breaking up with someone I was seeing, a male someone who didn't really like the idea of me being gay. It didn't go well, when I explained. He sort of slandered me to everyone. It was a hard few months."

Santana reacted to her touch, giving the usual little shiver she does at close contact when unexpected, before relaxing back against her. Quinn really had learned how to cuddle right, this was a definite Brittany move. She almost doesn’t hear Quinn finally answer her, and then her reply is automatic.

“That sucks. Guys suck."

Quinn hummed in agreement. "Brittany knows how to teach someone to hold someone. She's always just known and she showed me. But you know what’s weird? This one will pump up that ego of yours…when she and I talked it always came back to you. You know?"

No, Santana definitely didn't want to know, but she sure wanted to hear about it. She covered Quinn's hand with hers slowly.

"Do tell."

"The three of us balanced each other in high school senior year. When I was sane at least." Quinn’s lips quirked, and she poked Santana’s side playfully again. "We both are less ourselves without you in our lives. I guess that’s sort of what we always ended up saying."

Okay, this was getting weird. Way, way too weird. Santana's forehead creased, and she pulled back a little bit, turning her head to look at her more closely. She narrowed her eyes at Quinn, assessing her for possible missed brain damage or maybe just being stoned or drunk.

"Seriously, what the hell is up with you?"

Quinn again raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"You don't talk to me like this," Santana lifted one hand, waving it vaguely towards their still very close bodies. "You don't think about me like that. I mean we're friends, we care, or whatever, usually, anyway, but...I'm not THAT important to you."

"Yeah, Santana, you are." Quinn said softly, almost shyly. But she was saying it, and she was looking her in the eyes, seeming to actually mean it. And the weirdest part is, Santana couldn’t think of one single reason she would say it just to be manipulative, like she might with someone else, before.

"You and Britt are two of the most important people in my life. I haven’t said it before, because the feelings talk? I sucked at it, probably even worse than you do. But it should be said. Just because it’s scary sometimes doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Brittany doesn’t do that, and she’s a much happier, much more normal person than either of us.” She paused, then let the familiar smirk come back. “Even if her version of normal is eating candy bars from kitty litter.”

 

Santana went silent and still, processing this. Quinn was right, it was almost scary to hear this, difficult for her to hear that she was important, that she was loved, by Quinn Fabray of all people… but it touched her too. Swallowing, she tried not to let any emotion, let alone tears, come to her eyes. Quinn cupped Santana's cheek, tilting up and kissing her forehead.

"You are loved, Santana. By Brittany, by me, by your parents. And I could name a host of our friends too who love you. I know it's hard to believe. I don't believe they love me most of the time. And they sure have stupid ways of showing it sometimes too. But I know they do, and I know they love you too. We do. Love you."

Santana was still quiet, her eyes closing to keep back tears as Quinn kissed her. She leaned a little more closely into her, inhaling somewhat shakily. It was still so difficult for her to hear this or feel this from anyone but Brittany. It was so sharply unexpected every time that she was never quite sure what to do. From Quinn, it seemed all the more impossible.

But slowly, Santana's head came to rest back against Quinn's shoulder, and she continued to blink, forcing back the feelings that were rising up in her throat and wrapping around her heart. She kept her eyes closed, letting herself be held and stroked, and after a minute or two she relaxed again, having pushed it back down.

Brittany returned to the sight of her two favorite people laying on the couch together. She gave them a smile before going to put everything away she had bought for the ice cream. Returning to the couch, she moved Santana’s legs to sit.

"This is how things should be between the three of us."

Santana couldn't say she didn't agree, since she was pretty much stretched out across them both, with them giving her full attention. She flexed her calf, hoping Brittany would take the hint to massage.

"Doesn't suck."

Brittany ran her hand up and down Santana's left leg, her nails scrapping slightly.

"You are getting our attention. When have you ever not enjoyed having a blonde give you attention other than Sam?"

This was perfectly true. Santana stretched and flexed her leg against Brittany, almost preening. She felt pretty damn close to purring right now.

"Point taken."

Quinn nuzzled Santana's head, running her fingers up and down Santana's side.

"You are like a cat that is in a sunbeam right now."

She chuckled, her voice a little deeper now than it had been before. With Brittany here she didn't worry so much about her actions. Brittany always was the safe guard.

"There are a lot of types of attention we could give you, San," Brittany pointed out, fingers slightly digging in to her calf.

At this redoubled attention to her head and calf, Santana squirmed, feeling her heart speed up its beats just a little. She pressed her leg into Brittany's hand, swallowing.

"Like...what?"

"Whatever you want," Brittany said, noncommittal

It sounded to Santana like Brittany was sort of suggesting they do something sexual with Quinn For a moment she was actually tempted….she actually let herself consider. But then she shook her head, instead just curling more closely into them.

"I want to watch a movie. And you can totally keep touching up on me like I know you both love to, I'm hard to resist."

Brittany and Quinn give matching snorts as Brittany kept working her calf and her sides.

"How about we order dinner before we go lay in bed and watch a movie?" Brittany suggested.

"I haven't had real New York pizza since New Directions came here," Quinn perked up.

"Okay."

Santana was too comfortable to even protest the dinner part. She was pretty sure Quinn was going to be eyeing her like a hawk during it, but she would deal with it then.

When Quinn kissed her the top of her head, her eyes opened in surprise, and she shifted them to look at her, but with Quinn's chin on her head, she couldn't see her face. Still uncertain but not uncomfortable, she let her stay.

When the pizza came Brittany got up to get it. She paid for it before returning to the couch with the pizza and three beers from the kitchen.

"I love a lot of things about the city. This pizza is like three of them," she muttered, opening the box and pulling out a piece.

Santana let Quinn and Brittany choose first, then considered carefully before choosing the smallest piece. She launched into an animated story, complete with gestures and dramatic voiceovers, about her last shift at the diner, mocking Kurt and Rachel relentlessly, hoping that they wouldn't notice that she was sneakily blotting grease and scraping cheese with one hand while not actually eating much. Quinn rolled her eyes in all the right places and laughed along. But now and then she and Brittany traded glances. They knew she was barely eating and the napkin in her hand held more of the pizza than she'd eaten.

"Santana, right now you're dipping from not getting a coin flip to getting a punishment," Brittany narrowed her eyes just slightly. "If you don't want pizza we can get something else but you're eating."

Damn it. Once actually presented with the prospect of pizza, Santana had forgotten the deal of rewards and punishments. She looked down at the pizza, most of it in her napkin, and tried once to bluff.

"I have been eating, obviously, I'm almost done.

Brittany just raised her eyebrow. "I can go buy the feeding tube that goes down your nose if you rather." She was not playing games about this the day before Christmas.

Damnnn. Santana gave up, slumping back in the couch, and mumbled towards her lap.

"I can't. It's greasy and cheesy and there's like 475 calories in just one piece."

She felt her face burn, knowing that although Quinn knew very well about her eating issues, she wasn't entirely aware of the new triggers for why, and she had never openly discussed any of this in front of her before.

"Do you want peanut butter and jelly or a grilled cheese?"

Quinn took the napkin from Santana and set it in the box. She and Brittany had talked about this in high school but she hadn't talked about it much since. It had never been something she really knew how to talk about, especially with her own struggles in high school- and the number of times she had openly competed with Santana to slim down.

Brittany just moved closer to Santana, wrapping her arms around her lover.

"What do you think is going to happen if you eat one piece of pizza? Do you think you're going to gain 5 pounds or are you worried about it making you sick?"

"Grilled cheese," Santana mumbled, not able to look at Quinn. She had decided this because a slice of cheese has less calories than two table spoons of peanut butter plus jelly, although the butter worried her. "Don't use much butter. Like at all. And just one slice."

She knew Quinn knows this but she couldn't resist instructing. She leaned into Brittany, still embarrassed by herself, but not able in the moment to stop herself and be more logical. She was slow to answer her second question.

"I'll gain weight and I'll feel sick."

Brittany rubbed over her ribs, still able to feel them too much. She didn’t say this though; it wasn’t what Santana needed to hear then.

"You are doing really well fighting to get back to a healthy weight." She needed to make sure that she gave her positive feedback. She gave Quinn a smile as she went to go make the sandwich. "You understand logically you're still underweight, yes?"

Santana knew this logically, yes. She knew it, because she was aware of her weight to the ounce and also what is considered a normal range for her height, gender, and frame. She knew, but that didn't make it real in her head.

She pushed at Brittany's hand a little, uncomfortable with her touching her ribs given the context of the conversation.

"I guess."

"Tell me where the disconnect is." Brittany asked, resting her head on Santana's shoulder. "Where is the disconnect between what you know you should be and why you are keeping yourself where you are?"

It was difficult to voice to her. Santana had never liked to have to try to explain it even to herself. It just was, and she was aware that talking about it out loud made her feel very small and exposed, ashamed, so her voice dropped, and she squirmed, still wanting her to lift her hand.

"I might keep going and not be able to stop. And I just...don't see it. I know what I weigh and I know what I'm supposedly supposed to but it doesn't seem right."

Quinn had been very quiet through this, simply watching her. Brittany knew this wasn't easy for Santana by the way she was shifting. But this wasn't something she could run from. She had to talk to her about this.

"I'm going to get rid of the scale. For 30 days no weighing yourself. We're going to work out together too. I am not losing you to this,” she whispered, a tear falling down her cheek she didn't know was there.

For Santana, this was a pretty scary threat. She tensed up, sucking in her breath, and fought her urge to beg Brittany not to get rid of the scale. It felt very important and necessary to her to have it, to know exactly what she weighed at all times of the day. Still, she hated to see Brittany so upset and crying, and she kissed the tear away, flinching with guilt to know she had caused it.

"Don't cry."

Brittany held Santana a little tighter in her arms. "I need you to be healthy and strong and live a long life with me. I need that Santana. Because if you went before me then I would just be a lost little puppy. And when I see you not eat when you know you’re home and you're safe between me and Quinn I get scared. I get so scared."

Santana swallowed again, her throat choking up, and wrapped her arms around Brittany too. She knew what Brittany was saying is true. She was safe with them above everyone else, and it was not right for her to still feel the need to do this. It wasn't, and that meant she needed to try harder, fight more.

"I'm sorry. I'll try."

Brittany closed her eyes, holding on to the woman she was so totally in love with. She felt another set of arms join in and was glad Santana had someone on either side of her.

"You are safe Santana. So safe. Quinn and I are going to protect you."

It's not anything from the outside world that Santana needs protection from. It's her own thoughts and feelings about herself, her worth, her body. She let them hold her, taking the sandwich when Quinn set it in front of her, and waited until she felt like they were not looking right at her before taking a bite. Quinn and Brittany both put their foreheads against Santana's shoulder, giving her peace while she ate. They knew she didn't like to be watched and they hoped touching her would make her feel safe.

 

It's difficult to keep eating even with their efforts to make her feel comfortable, for that exact reason. The lengths they are going to, just to make her feel safe and loved, are almost overwhelming to her, and she finds herself tearing up again, barely tasting the sandwich as she eats it. She forces it down, both the tears and the sandwich, and then turns towards them, wrapping her arms around them both. Screw being standoffish.

Once Santana had finished eating and all three had managed not to break down in tears Brittany pulled her head back.

"Why don't we all put on PJ's on, get into the bed and watch a movie? We can cuddle and if we fall asleep we won't wake up tomorrow sore."

Santana nodded, liking this suggestion. She needed something mindless to take her mind off what had just happened. Getting up, she extended a hand to Brittany to help her up, then after a moment, to Quinn too.

Quinn turned her back to the other two as she changed out of her dress. She wore a tank top, no bra under it, and a pair of Cheerio shorts with panties under them. She turned back, her eyes finding Santana in the middle of the bed. She watched as Brittany took Santana's left, her dominant side. She moved to her right. Brittany cuddled close to Santana, the computer on her lap.

"Ready?" she asked, moving her head to rest against Santana's as Quinn mirrored her.

Santana nodded against her, stretching her legs out before curling them up to her chest, her knees against Brittany's thighs, her feet touching Quinn's. She continued to enjoy the feeling of the two girls hemming her in, so close on each side, as she settled in to watch.

Chapter Text

It had been three weeks since Christmas and Quinn's visit, and Santana was starting to finally feel like she could stop holding her breath every second of the day. She was finally convinced that Brittany was there to stay, that maybe, just maybe her life really was turning a corner for the better. She had quit the jobs at the bar and strip club, like Brittany asked, and had gotten a job as a tutor in addition to the diner. That alone made her considerably less tired and cranky and depressed in her emotions, and she had been able to eat more normally, enough to gain five pounds back, though she was still not quite at a normal weight. She had been talking to Quinn regularly and even meeting up with her, and overall, she was just in general beginning to feel that things were getting better at last.

The only thing left for her to do was get back into school and decide on a real career path, and she finally felt ready to start this too. Having had an early shift at the diner, Santana sat at the kitchen table, where Rachel was obsessively pouring over already memorized lines of her script, and mused aloud to herself and Brittany near her more than to Rachel.

"You know what? I have an idea. A pretty awesome idea how I'm gonna ease myself into all this."

Brittany looked over from the math project she was working on. She couldn't be any prouder of Santana than she was in the moment. She was making improvements in leaps and bounds over the last three weeks. Even though it was going to be a slow process it was something that Brittany knew that Santana could do. She and Quinn talked often about how things were going, and knowing that Santana and Quinn were hanging out, showing more genuine appreciation for each other than they ever had before, made Brittany feel even better.

“What’s that babe?”

Brittany pulled off the reading glasses she started to wear at MIT when she was doing long projects. Her contacts would dry out after a few hours of heavy math work. Santana grinned when she saw Brittany take off her glasses. She found them incredibly sexy, just as she knew Brittany found hers.

"No, put them back, I like them." She waited, then said, running a hand through her hair, "Well, you know how you said they were talking about getting you an understudy, Rach?"

"Yes, and it's a terrible, horrible, insane idea," Rachel grumbled, not even lifting her head from the script. "I am obviously THE only one in New York City who really, truly understands Fanny Brice, the way she's meant to be played, and can give proper credence to The Ms. Barbra Streisand in her honor. Anyone else would simply be a tragedy to even consider in mention let alone allow them, and besides, I'm never sick or hurt and I don't plan to be, ever."

"Well, that kind of sucks for you if you feel that way, but maybe you'll be happier if your understudy is me," Santana smirked.

She watched Rachel expectantly, anticipating her reaction, actually pleased with herself. In her mind, Rachel was going to be excited and even relieved.

"I think I'm going to try out."

The idea hadn't crossed Brittany’s mind before but it made a lot of sense. Santana had experience working with Rachel enough to be able to mimic some of her more memorable abilities on stage. She was gifted as an actress and would be able to carry the role even though she wasn't the typical type to play it. Her voice and Rachel's weren’t quite the same but she was sure Santana would figure out a way to make that work too.

“I think that could be a really great idea. You would get some experience and Rachel would get an understudy that she knows she can count on and she has seen perform before. Plus you never know, maybe it will inspire non-typecasting and other roles when people see you play the part if Rachel can’t go on for a night.”

Brittany leaned over and kiss Santana's cheek, standing up to go grab a drink from the fridge. Santana beamed, happy at Brittany's encouragement. Turning her head again to look at Rachel, she waited for hers. But Rachel appeared to be stunned speechless. Her mouth open, eyes bulging, she stared at Santana, seeming more than a little astonished at her words. Her face reddened, and she started to shake her head very rapidly, her words coming out loud, fast, and nearly sputtering.

"Oh no, no you don't. Absolutely not, you are NOT doing this to me!"

"Doing this to YOU?" Santana too was incredulous, her eyebrows raising to hairline. "Doing what, exactly? Making sure someone decent that you already know fills a part you're nervous about? Trying to put myself out there and better my life?"

"Oh, don't be ridiculous, Santana, I know exactly what this is about," Rachel snapped, still shaking her head. She shook the script for emphasis as she went on. "You've been feeling down on yourself so you think you'll take me down with you by stealing my thunder. I know it's not just because you want to, you hate this show and you hate Broadway and a Latina being a Jewish girl is just ridiculous!"

Brittany's first instinct was to jump in and defend Santana's honor. But she knew that she couldn't do that. She had to at least try to let Santana go up against Rachel on her own. She didn't want to have to fight every battle for her and she knew that Santana was more than capable of being able to take care of herself anyway. She turned back to face them and hoped that in a second Rachel would see reason in having someone she trusted as her understudy versus a complete stranger who would only try to get Rachel out so she could take the part herself. Santana would do a great many things but she wouldn't stab Rachel in the back just to get on Broadway.

"Are you fucking serious?" Santana rose to the bait, her voice increasing in volume. "You played fucking Maria in West Side Story, and you're gonna talk to me about playing outside your race? Since when is Maria a big-nosed Jew?"

"Natalie Wood-" Rachel started, her voice stiff, but Santana interrupted.

"I don't give a shit about Natalie Wood, we're talking Maria the Puerto Rican chick the script calls for. Don't even try to make this about typecasting. You don't want me to go for your understudy because you're selfish. You think I'll be good and get some of your attention...or maybe you're afraid I'll even be better."

"Please!" Rachel too was escalating, actually standing up from the table. "You don't even wait tables better, let alone perform a Broadway musical and undergo the extremity of pressures of a performer that I do. You can't handle eating a piece of cake, how do you think you're going to do standing in front of hundreds of people performing night after night one of the most emotionally complex and stimulating stories of all time?"

“Santana, go for a walk.”

Brittany’s voice was low, almost a growl. There was no way she was going to let Rachel using Santana’s eating disorder against her. No way in hell.

“Rachel Berry, don’t you dare talk to someone like that. Santana is trying to get better and it’s not unreasonable for her to try out. Assuming she gets it then you get someone as your backup, your backup, you can trust. Ever since Finn you two have been searching for something to rebuild your friendship with. Maybe this is the perfect chance.”

"I got this, Brittany," Santana didn't even look at her, absolutely fuming now. She had no intention whatsoever of dropping this as she rounded on Rachel. "You actually think that you have pressure compared to me? Don't make me fucking laugh. Your dads pay your rent, Rachel, and whatever the hell else you want, whether or not you need it. You didn't work for the first two years of living in fucking New York City, do you have any idea how many people actually get away with that, oh yeah, JUST YOU. You barely work now either, and you're getting paid to do a job you've wanted to since you were out of diapers, and you basically had the job fall into your damn lap after TWO auditions. Yeah, there's been some really, really sucky shit this year but that has NOTHING to do with your damn Fanny role, so don't even give me a spiel about pressure! This isn't about me, this is about you, everything always comes back to being about you."

"Just because I don't make stupid, immature decisions that waste my money and alienate everyone from wanting to have anything to do with me, doesn't mean that you are somehow superior to me," Rachel retorted, pointing her finger at her. "In fact I would wager to say the exact opposite. You're bitter, Santana Lopez, bitter and desperate to get back the attention you got in high school, because you just can't take that Rachel Berry is above you now. You can't take you've become the Lima Loser you always called me. Maybe this is about you, because you don't deserve it, and you never have."

Turning her attention to Brittany, she snapped back at her, not even thinking of what she was saying, "You have NO right to even mention Finn."

Bristling further now that Brittany was being treated rudely too, Santana snapped, "Don't talk to her like that, she can talk about whatever the hell she wants to. And so can I. You don't have exclusive right to his name just because he was dumb enough to date you."

And for Rachel, this was the final straw.

"You know, Santana, it's just a sick twist of fate that it had to be Finn that died instead of you. My life would have been so much better now. All of our lives would have been."

The words hit Santana like a punch directly in the heart, and she actually doubled over, her breath escaping in a gasp. She remained bent over, literally feeling that she had been hit.

Of all the things that Brittany had ever heard come out of anyone's mouth before that was the absolute cruelest. She took a few steps toward Rachel, rising up to her full height, and although she was not a fan of violence, she could barely keep her hands from forming fists.

“Pack up, and get out. Before I toss you out the window.”

Her voice didn't raise above a whisper but it was full of venom.

Even Rachel knew, once she had said it, that she had gone too far. A brief flicker of guilt and regret crossed her features, but she smoothed her expression out, trying to cover it.

"You can't kick me out. This is my apartment. I was here first. My name is on the lease. The two of you are the ones who crashed on me."

Santana wasn't listening to her. She was still hunched over and when Brittany went to her, wrapping her arms around her from behind, her spine pressed back against Brittany, her lips compressed in a thin line. All she could focus on was trying to maintain control in front of Rachel.

 

"Out or I throw you out."

Brittany stared at her, her blue eyes going so dark they were nearly black. She looked like at any moment she was going to jump over the table to attack. Not only did Rachel wish her girlfriend dead in front of her but she had yet to take it back. At least if Rachel showed some remorse she might have been able to fix this….but that wasn’t happening, and she was done.

"Pack your shit and get out, Rachel. But someone’s gonna, and I think it better be you. Think about it. We move out and you'll be out of here anyway. You can't afford it."

"Brittany, be reasonable," Rachel attempted, exhaling, before attempting to appeal to Santana. "Santana, I didn't mean that. But you were really pushing me, and you know what you're trying to do here. You know it even if you won't admit it."

Brittany kissed Santana's forehead tenderly before standing. She grabbed Rachel by the arm and pulled her into the next room, not letting go of her grasp of her as she hissed at her, trying to keep her voice low enough so Santana wouldn’t hear.

"You just wished my girlfriend dead for saying she was thinking of trying out for your understudy. I'm not going to tell you to pack your shit again before I throw you out." Her eyes filled with tears, but she refused to let them fall, nor did her voice soften or shake.

"I'll pay your hotel bill for a few nights while you figure out where to go. But I’m not kidding when I tell you to go."

"I did not wish her dead," Rachel argued, pulling her arm out of Brittany's grasp. "Don't you see that you're doing exactly what she wants you to do, taking her side, making this about her being a victim instead of her trying to take things from me just like she always has? Of course you don’t, because you've done the same damn thing all through high school too."

Lifting her chin, firmly establishing herself in victim role in her own mind, Rachel shook her head at her.
"Oh, I'll see myself out of my own apartment here, don't worry. I see exactly how it is."

"One day if there is a God in Heaven she is going to be bitch slapped so hard her nose falls off," Brittany muttered as she walked over to Santana, wrapping her up again in her arms.

Santana had not moved since Brittany left the room. She hadn't said a word, or looked up at Rachel as she started to gather her things with maximum noise and dramatics. She didn’t react to the door slamming shut, or to Brittany getting out her phone the best she could while keeping one arm around her, texting a “San 911” message to Quinn. She remained doubled over, her arms hugging her elbows, face cast down, and when Brittany carried her to the bed, she didn't hug her back. She had started to shake with the effort of holding back all the thoughts racing through her mind, the emotions flooding through her veins, but she didn't give voice or release to any of it.

Brittany laid with Santana, holding her as best she could. The pain that she was in was nothing compared to Santana, but it didn’t make it any easier. When they were finally alone she sat up a little, making Santana look her in the eye.

“I would have been crushed if it was you. I would have laid down on your grave and died too. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that it should have been you.” Her voice was thin as she bent down to rest her forehead against Santana’s.

"But it should have been," Santana's voice was uneven, scratchy, when she finally spoke. "She's right. That's what everyone else thinks. If they could make it where he came back and I was gone, they would. You know that. And I couldn't even blame them for it."

"No," Brittany whispered fiercely. "No. You are a good person. You are such a good person. Don't let her get in your head. Don't let her mess up who you are. I love you. Quinn loves you. Mike and Tina and Mercedes and Puck and your parents and my parents and my little sister. They all love you. You are loved. You are wanted."

"They loved him more," Santana persisted, although as she said it she knew that wasn't true for everyone. "He was going to do more. He was the leader, he was going to be a teacher, he was so much to so many people and I don't do anything. I only matter to you and Quinn.”

When she saw Brittany’s forehead crease, a tear slip from her eye, she chewed the inside of her cheeks as she wiped at Brittany's eyes the best she could from an awkward ankle, trying to comfort. Brittany grabbed her tighter, her face against Santana's neck.

"You are going to do great things, Santana Lopez. You are going to do great things and there is no one in this world who will be a better you than you."

She kissed Santana once, hoping she understood how much Santana talking about being dead was hurting her. Santana couldn't shake this, though. She heard what Brittany was saying, she knew how much it hurt her to even think about her being dead. She even knew, deep down, that Rachel probably really hadn't meant what she said. But it still shook her up, because it cut to the deepest, darkest held belief, what had bothered her most severely about Finn's death.

That she deserved it, over him.

She let Brittany kiss her, but she was still trembling, and she still hadn't really let herself let go of her pent up emotions.

88

 

The hour train ride was the longest of Quinn Fabray’s life. Getting a text from Brittany that simply said, San 911, made Quinn, with no further replies to her own texts and no answer when she called, had scared the hell out of her. Was Santana in the hospital? All she could think to do, and all she could assume that Brittany wanted, was for her to come to the loft to help with whatever was going on.

It seemed forever before she received a few more heavily misspelled texts from Brittany, filling her in just enough for her to get the gist of what had happened. It was enough to provoke Quinn’s rage, and she found herself tapping her foot impatiently on the train’s floor, wanting more than anything to revive some of the harshest of the fight tactics she had learned while she was part of the Skanks. She had done more than her share of stupid, cruel, bitchy things to people, even and especially to Rachel Berry. But hearing that Rachel, knowing the difficulty Santana had been struggling through, had more or less told her she should be dead, was something Quinn couldn’t even begin to excuse, and by the time she finally reached her station and hailed a cab to the apartment, she was itching to see the impact this had left on her friends.

Using her key she let herself in the apartment. Before she got to Brittany and Santana’s room, her shoes and jacket were already off, a mark of her haste to reach them that she hadn’t neatly hung them up as she usually might. Seeing Santana lying motionless in bed, Brittany spooned around her, she swallowed, trying to force down the new surge of anger, and then she slipped in the bed behind Santana, her hand reaching over her to tangle with Brittany’s.

“She’s wrong, Santana. Never, ever believe her. We love you, we would never want you gone.”

Santana didn't even know that Brittany had contacted Quinn to tell her to come, but she should have guessed. It was as though she had waited for Quinn to be able to give herself permission, because it wasn't until she felt Quinn's body up against hers, her breath against her cheek, that a particularly harsh shudder wracked through her, and the tears finally broke free. She started to sniffle and sob, clutching onto them both.

"She wishes it was me. Everyone wishes it was me....why was it him?"

The unspoken question is, why wasn't it her. It was something she had wanted to know all along, something she had struggled with more than anything. Out of all of them, she believed that she would be least deserving to live…so why had it been she who stayed?

Brittany and Quinn closed tighter around Santana. Their arms and legs tangled with each other until it was difficult to figure out where one started and the others ended, and both took turns speaking to her, trying to overpower her own thoughts.

“We don’t wish it was you,” Quinn whispered, her hands firmly on Santana’s sides.

“Never,” Brittany nuzzled Santana’s neck, dropping a few tender kisses. “Look at me Santana. I promise you, we don’t wish it was you.”

Santana looked up at Brittany, meeting her gaze as her eyes continued to overflow. She saw the genuine love and concern for her in them, and this impacted her strongly. Feeling Quinn's hands against her sides, she hid her face in Quinn's neck, which was closer to her than Brittany’s, without really thinking about it, continuing to sob, though more quietly.

Quinn and Brittany moved together in coordination that had been built over years of reading each other without needing to speak. The two women carefully held onto the third. Her neck was nuzzled, her sides were stroked, and both her front and back had another body pressed against it. Brittany whispered sweet and loving words as Quinn just hummed softly. Brittany's hand started to stroke up and down Santana's back, hoping the effect would help curb the flow of her tears.

Eventually this attention and concern for her was calming, and Santana started to relax, lying against them. Her face slowly lifted from Quinn's neck as she wiped at her eyes, and she looked up, her expression serious, intense as she met Quinn's gaze. For a moment she just looked at her, and then she moved forward on impulse, her lips brushing hers.
88

Brittany blinked, regarding her girlfriend, and her mouth opened, as though to speak, then slowly closed. She watched Santana, and then, after taking a slow breath, aware of the stirring low within her, she touched Santana’s face, turning it towards her to look in her eyes. If this was something Santana was doing out of pain, a seeking of comfort, she wanted her to know that she understood…but if this was something more, then she wanted to know that too. Without words, her eyes asked Santana…did she mean that? Was this what she wanted?

 

Quinn too seemed thrown off guard. Her chest rose and fell, and she sucked in a breath, faster and sharper than Brittany, not quite returning Santana’s kiss. She looked from Brittany to Santana, then back to Santana, and spoke the words that Brittany had not.

“Did you mean that?”

Santana’s mind raced with conflicting thoughts, and she began to gulp for breath, nearly hyperventilating as her eyes darted between Quinn and Brittany, unable to land for more than a moment on either. Tears flooded her eyes, and she started to tremble, certain that Brittany was upset with her, that she was silent out of hurt and rage. She opened her mouth, starting to sputter an apology…but even as she tried, and could not quite form the words, she was aware of the confusing near certainty that the response to Quinn’s question, truthfully, was yes. She had meant to kiss Quinn. In that moment, she had wanted to be close to her, to reconnect with her and seek comfort from her in a way she had only one night before, and she hadn’t thought of Brittany at all.

But didn’t that make her a horrible, incredibly selfish bitch, to want to kiss someone else with her girlfriend right there? What the hell was wrong with her, that this was true?

She tried again to form an apology, but before she could speak, Brittany’s hand was on her cheeks, wiping the tears that emerged, and she was shushing her softly, stroking back her hair as she cradled her face in her hand.

“Shhh. Shhhh. It’s okay. Santana, it’s okay. I’m not upset, I’m not angry, it’s okay…it’s okay. I promise you, it’s okay. All I want to ask you is if this…is this what you want? To be with Quinn…to be with me and Quinn? Is that what you want right now, tonight? Is that going to make you feel good?”

Quinn wasn’t saying anything to her, just listening intently for her response, and Santana was still very aware of her hand on her back. She swallowed, trying again to form a reply, but it all was so confusing to her, and part of her was unwilling…because she it was. How did you tell your girlfriend, who had been so amazing to you, who was the love and center of your life, that yes, you did want to kiss another girl, a girl you had already slept with before? That yes, it would feel good, that it had felt good for the few seconds she had had no thoughts at all?

“Baby,” Brittany was saying, still stroking her hair, planting a kiss on Santana’s shoulder with a tenderness that made her shudder. “Baby, it’s okay. You know I love you, and you love me. That will never, ever, ever change, no matter what. But I want you to feel good tonight. I want you to feel loved and special and wanted, because you are so, so wanted. You know we love you….so if you want, tonight…if you really want to feel that, and you want Quinn to be part of that…and if she wants to too…then that’s okay. It’s okay, and I want it too.”

 

Brittany was sincere. Santana could see this in her eyes, and she could still feel Quinn’s hand on her back, lightly brushing her fingertips over her spine in an effort to calm. Even to herself, she couldn’t have articulated why. Somehow, in that moment, it just felt right to lean forward, giving Brittany a gentle kiss- and then to turn back to Quinn, briefly meeting her eyes, before leaning in to again press her lips to hers.

 

Quinn made a soft noise in her throat in response to her, and she twined a hand in Santana’s hair, intensifying the kiss within a few moments. She leaned into Santana, loving the feeling of her warmth against her. She had forgotten how much missed the feeling of kissing someone she cared for. No one she cared for more was outside of this room. Moving slowly, wanting to give Santana time to object, she moved her hand out of Santana’s hair and to her left breast. Her fingers were a little unsure but soon she was kneading her flesh with quite a bit of skill, all the while keeping her eyes on Santana’s, making sure that she didn’t want her to stop.

Brittany’s hand wandered down to the small of Santana’s back. She started kneading the flesh there as her other hand rubbed up and down Santana’s thigh. Watching the two kiss, she swallowed, unable to stop herself from smiling. It was more than exciting to see….and already she could see Santana relaxing, letting go. This wasn’t exactly how she had thought the evening would go, but it seemed almost inevitable, and definitely desirable.

Santana didn't protest Quinn’s hand. Instead, she gasped softly into Quinn's lips, her back arching a little against Brittany's touch, pressing herself further into Quinn's hand. She started to drag her lips towards Quinn's ear, licking, then nipping at its lobe, her breath quickening.

Quinn shifted toward Santana as her body responded to her affections. Quinn let Santana nibble at her eat before pulling back and sitting up. She smiled down at Santana, her face soft and relaxed, thinking of nothing except each present moment in time.

“We can stop if you want to, whenever you want to,” she said huskily, swallowing again. “But…if you want…why don’t you let us both take care of you, show you how good we can be in tandem?”

Her hand slipped down to Santana’s thigh. Both she and Brittany stroked one of Santana’s thighs, almost in unison, teasing her with their nails.

Again, Santana had no protests to this. She lay back, with only a small flicker of her eyes to Brittany, as though to check with her, but Brittany was stroking her thighs, seemingly entirely on board, and for once, the idea of sharing Brittany didn't immediately make her buck up her defenses. Santana leaned back against the bed, barely propped up on her elbows, chest rising and falling in anticipation.

Brittany and Quinn shared a look as if to decide who was going to do what. Without a single word spoken Brittany moved up and Quinn moved down. Slowly they undressed Santana, and then themselves. Years of cheerleader had left them with little care about seeing each other naked, but in this moment both Quinn and Brittany let their eyes linger over each other and Santana. Brittany stroked Santana’s hair, her other hand tangling in Quinn’s, as though to reassure and include her.

“If this is too much we’ll stop,” she backed up Quinn, kissing her neck. “ But I think you’ll like it.”

Brittany started kissing down Santana’s chest, her left hand in Santana’s and her right slowly teasing her thigh as she headed between them. She looked up to Santana’s face one more time to make sure she wasn’t panicking before she started to slowly kiss down from her belly button.

This was one of the most surreal moments in Santana's life. How she had gone from hurt and upset to the only two girls she had ever really loved and trusted undressing her, vowing to make her feel good, was beyond her, and didn't seem entirely real and true in the moment. Her skin seemed to be crying out for their hands, for their lips on hers, and she felt her body rolling beneath theirs, almost wave-like, soft cries already escaping her lips. She tangled one hand in Brittany's, the other in Quinn's hair, kneading her fingers in and out.

Kissing Santana was as natural as breathing for Brittany. She always liked kissing in high school but kissing Santana could do more than having sex with some random football player could. It set her on fire. It made her body vibrate with electricity. As she kissed her, tongue strong against Santana’s, she moved her hand to play with her breasts. Her foot was rubbing Quinn’s thigh as Quinn went down on Santana.

Quinn’s lips wrapped around Santana’s clit once she settled between her thighs, two fingers hooking up inside her. She didn’t tease much like Brittany, she was more about starting red hot and ending white hot. She grunted softly as she felt Santana buck her hips, holding tighter to the sheet under her hand. She thought if she got to do this long enough she might cum from it without needing to be touched. It was slow and thought out, the way it should be between them their first time.

Santana, for all her talk over the years, has never been in a threesome. She's never had someone kissing her lips at the same time that they were orally penetrating her, and she could barely keep breathing with the intensity of arousal that shoots through her core. She writhed, releasing a high pitched whine as her nails dragged down Quinn's scalp and neck and pressed into her shoulders, her tongue caressing against Brittany's frantically.

Brittany felt Quinn’s free hand move between her legs. All of the sudden she was riding Quinn’s hand while making out with Santana as Quinn went down on her. It was almost prefect. She noticed a shift in the bed, and looked down to see Quinn using Santana’s calf to grind on as her tongue entered her. She smirked, turning back to Santana and kissing her again. Each was getting what they needed from the other two….they really did work well together. Not that it was a surprise; they always had.

Her moment was shattered when Quinn hit a spot inside of her and her mind went blank. She whimpered against Santana’s lips, shuddering with pleasure.

With Quinn grinding on her shin, Brittany nipping at her lips and sucking her tongue, and Quinn's tongue still lapping against her clit, Santana didn't know how it was possible to even contain the pleasure sparking through her entire body, seeming to set all her nerves on fire. She didn't know what to do with her hands or really any part of her, because they all seemed to be going helpless with the extent of her arousal. When she came it was hard enough to make her entire body shake with it, her nails piercing the skin of both girls, and she bit Brittany's lip harder than intended by accident.

Quinn worked Santana though her orgasm before moving up to kiss her. Brittany shifted back, grinning against Santana’s hip now that Quinn’s hand was gone.

“God that was sexy,” she muttered as she took Santana’s hand and brought her fingers against her clit. She watched as Quinn mirrored her position. “Now your turn, Lopez. Think you can handle it?” she asked as she, then Quinn, after a pause, started assaulting her neck with kisses.

With her left, dominant hand on Brittany, Santana easily was able to locate her sweet spot and press her thumb in, rubbing with pressure against it. She arched her neck back, her pulse still high as she managed to concentrate enough to search for Quinn's as well, not quite as familiar, but able to locate easily enough. She gave Quinn lighter pressure, testing, then increased the speed of her fingers’ motion for her as well.

Hips moved to the right and left of Santana as she worked them. Each of her lovers kissed her neck with different styles. Quinn nipped lightly as she moved her hand to one of Santana's breasts, using light pressure. Brittany on the other hand used wet open mouthed kisses on her neck while her hand was firmer on Santana's other breast.

With the difference in pressure and style, Santana couldn't get used to it enough for every touch not to feel surprising and new. She felt like her body was going to nearly go into shock from all the different sensations they were invoking in her, and she barely kept it together enough to continue to try to push them over the edge too, scratching lightly at Brittany's inner walls with her nails, while with Quinn, she rubbed slowly, tracing her name against her clit.

Quinn broke first, having gone much longer without an orgasm. Brittany didn't hold much much longer. Both moaned Santana's name, both nipped at her neck during the orgasm.

"Whoa," Brittany managed to whimper as they laid in a tangle mess of limbs. "That was so much better than I thought even."

Her neck covered with forming hickeys and slight traces of saliva, her limbs loose and slightly shaky, muscles occasionally twitching, Santana let herself sprawl over them both, arms and legs splayed almost like a starfish. She rested her head against Brittany's, one hand grasping for Quinn to pull her in closer as her face broke into a smile so broad her nose scrunched up and her eyes squinted.

"Fuck."

Chapter Text

Brittany stroked Santana’s side, rubbing Quinn too since they were pressed together. The girls were quiet for several minutes, each catching their breath, and finally Brittany spoke, twining her fingers with Santana’s and looking into her eyes.

“Are you okay?”

Santana breathed in, then out, and when she nodded, she was surprised to find that this was the truth. She really was…as full as her head was with thoughts, she was still, somehow, okay. Brittany squeezed her hand, still watching her before speaking softly, to Quinn as well as to Santana, but her eyes were on Santana.

“Would this be something you would want to do again?”

Santana could react more openly to this right now than she normally would, since she was still on a sexual high. She opened her eyes, sliding them up to Brittany's face as she frowned slightly, for once letting some hurt show through without trying to conceal it.

"You don't want to just be with me...?"

It might seem a strange reaction, giving that she was the one who had both initiated and been the deciding factor in what they had just done at all. But it was her instinctive response, and she nearly held her breath, waiting for Brittany’s reply.

"I love you so much, Santana. If you don't want the three of us together, now, ever again, or in the future, with sex or kissing or more, I will be with you and proudly so," Brittany reassured her. She leaned in to stroke her hair, pressing a gentle kiss to her lips. “But… when we just did what we did, it felt good, didn’t it?” She paused, then said softly, “It felt like something…like something we always knew would happen.”

Santana's grip on Quinn loosened, though her limbs were still overlapping with her, as she reached for Brittany, pressing in closer to her for reassurance. She frowned, thinking this over, as she held onto her. Because what Brittany was saying…it was true. She had enjoyed it…it had felt good. More than good, it had felt amazing. And the weirdest thing was that it had felt familiar, like something that had happened before.

"Yeah..."

Quinn remained quiet, just lying close, as she listened to the two girls talk. It must have been uncomfortable, for this was a rather private conversation, but neither asked her to leave, and she didn’t offer. A part of her needed to hear this as much as they needed to talk about it, to figure out where she fit in, in their eyes and her own.

Brittany wrapped Santana up in her arms, rubbing her back slowly.

"We love her, she loves us. It feels good. The three of us have always made each other feel good," She whispered, rubbing up and down her spine. "I don’t ever want you to do anything you aren’t okay or comfortable with, or anything that doesn’t make you feel good. You know you are my person, forever and always. I will be so happy and satisfied forever to be just with you. But…if this is something you think you might like…we'd talk and set boundaries and stuff. I think…if you wanted…maybe the three of us could make each other even happier, sometimes. We were always out best when together."

Santana relaxed more as Brittany rubbed her back, pressing her face into her neck. She breathed in and out against her skin, closing her eyes, as she continued to process the option she was being presented with. It was true that she loved Quinn, almost as much as Brittany, and she had always enjoyed touching and being touched by her. Still, she did like time alone with Brittany, where she was the sole focus of her attention. And she was not sure she liked the idea of Brittany and Quinn being alone together.

"If you don't want me to be with you like that, I understand, Santana," Quinn said in a quiet voice from behind her. She licked her lips, her hand still pressed against Santana’s back. "This can be a one time thing. I don't want to mess up what you have."

Santana didn't say anything. She was struggling between the feelings she knew very well now she had for Quinn, maybe always has, to come degree, and her fears for losing Brittany's intense love and attention. She didn't know how to voice this though, so said nothing, keeping her face against Brittany.

Brittany kissed Santana's forehead. "I am not going to love you any less, Santana, no matter what happens. It’s whatever you want. I promise you, we will always be special. Nothing and no one can take away what makes us, us.”

Santana took a deep breath, her face still mashed into Brittany's skin. She voiced her fears in a small voice, barely audible against her.

"Would you be disappointed if I just wanted you and that's all?"

Brittany shook her head. "You haven't disappointed me since you wouldn't let me ask you to junior prom."

She searched Santana's eyes, trying to figure out what was going on in her mind. Santana hesitated, feeling strange about having this conversation in front of Quinn. She swallowed again, then put her lips to Brittany's ear, whispering, "Do you still love me more than her?"

She wanted to know that she was uniquely special to her, that she would always be her first choice, her special person. Needy and selfish that might be, but she still needed to know that no matter what happened with Quinn, she and Brittany were forever.

Brittany pulled her just a little bit closer. The answer this question wasn't easy, but not because it wasn't true. It was just hard to explain.

"The love I have for you is unlike the love I have for anyone else, Santana. You are my heart's first choice every single time."

Santana breathed out again, nodding slightly. Finally, comforted with this, she said to her slowly, "Maybe we can try it again…and…I don’t know…just see what happens."
Brittany smiled at her gently, kissing her a brief kiss before nudging her side. "Turn around. So I can spoon you and you can hold her. You are good in the middle and we both like holding you."

Santana obeyed slowly, turning around so her back was to Brittany's chest. She reaches for Quinn, pulling her by the waist back against her chest. Quinn stroked Santana's cheek with the back of her hand.

"I love both of you, Santana. I won’t take anything away from you.”

Santana twined her fingers with Quinn's, trying to accept this. It was so difficult for her to be used to the idea that people didn't try to take from her, because that has been her experience and her fear all her life, that she has to fight for and guard anything given to her.

"Okay."

"If you want, we can plan date nights too, for each of the different pairs that we're made up of. So we have time alone and together," Brittany suggested, still slowly stroking Santana’s skin as she watched her expression. “If something comes of it, fine…if not…that’s okay too. But it can help us think of it more, about what we want and what works.”

Santana nodded slightly, though it crossed her mind that she would be lonely if she was left out while Quinn and Brittany go out alone. She burrowed closer to them both, banishing this thought for now.

"You work later at the diner on Monday nights. So Quinn and I can have our night then," Brittany whispered, wanting to make it easier for her. "You and me can have ours Tuesday. And you and Quinn on Wednesday. And then Thursday to Sunday we can be together as three, or have time to ourselves, or whatever we want that works."

"I like that…and it wouldn’t have to be the whole day or night," Quinn added, rubbing Santana’s hip. "Just dinner, maybe a movie. Until we figure out where this might go."

Santana nodded, thinking over this schedule. She could handle it. It does seem to work out. "Okay."

The girls were quiet for a few moments, thinking through what had just been determined. When Quinn suddenly snorted, Santana lifted her head, raising an eyebrow in question. Quinn explained with a grin, playfully letting her forehead drop to rest against Santana’s.
"There is one big benefit to all this. The next time we fight we can have make up sex instead of slapping each other."

Santana snorted too, giving Quinn an impulsive Eskimo kiss. "You know you like it rough."

"I so do," Quinn groaned as she felt Brittany's nails press into her a little bit. She gave Brittany a light kiss, then smirked again, pinching her bottom as she spoke teasingly. "Britt tells me you're a bottom.”

"I am not a bottom," Santana grumped, but it was not very insistent. She pinched Quinn back, underscoring her words by making sure she was firmly in between the blondes again.

"Sure you're not Santana," Quinn teased her a little more. "You're as much a top as I'm a natural blonde.".

"I'm not," she persisted, reaching to give the non natural blonde hair a tug. "I'm definitely not….and why the hell were you telling her that anyway?” she turned to glare at Brittany.

Brittany smirked a little bit, kissing Santana's shoulder. " Sorry baby, I can’t help but brag about how amazing you are with me…and I don't know San, you are pretty much a total submissive when it comes to sex. Bottom of the pyramid type you are."

"I'm on top of you right this second," Santana insisted. To her, that's all it takes not to qualify. She stretched her leg more fully over Brittany's to prove her point. "See?"

"God you two are dorks." Quinn couldn't stop herself from laughing at them. Santana was one of the biggest goobers she knew but she tried so hard to be cool. "How were we ever popular in high school?"

"Mostly Santana and I slept with a bunch of people and you just scared everyone," Brittany ran her hand down the back of Santana's thigh.

"Plus we were hot and awesome," Santana explained with a shrug. "Totally helps."

In all actuality, she hadn't slept with more than a handful of people, but she had definitely advertised otherwise.

"You slept with a lot of people," Quinn corrected Brittany, knowing this. "Santana was a cock tease. Puck told me all about how she was." She shifted closer, her hand moving up and down Santana's side. "Did you ever get teases back, San?"

Santana shrugged, noncommittal. It would be pretty hard to be teased since she didn’t give a shit about the guys she was teasing.

"I teased her sometimes but I always gave in," Brittany whispered, kissing Santana's shoulder again. "Maybe we should tease her now. Sounds fun…two against one."

Quinn smirked as she looked Santana up and down. "Maybe not right now." She blushed when she heard her stomach rumble. "We need dinner."

"Don't you dare," Santana warned, alarmed at the prospect.

She hadn't considered that now they could gang up against her. Listening to Quinn's stomach, she smirked, reaching to rub it affectionately. Quinn nearly purred as she felt Santana touch her like that.

"I always liked when you two made me feel better when I didn't feel good enough," she admitted, her eyes cast downward.

"We love you Lucy," Brittany whispered, her chin against Santana's shoulder. "Scars and all. We'll always make you feel good."

Santana was not good with words, but she did reach to touch one of Quinn's scars, gently stroking it in her fingers. She lay her hand across it, conveying with her touch that she found her attractive and strong. Quinn breathed deeply as she felt Santana touch her scars. It didn't hurt anymore but it was always a little odd when someone touched them.

"What should we have for dinner?” she changed the subject. “ I can cook something and we can toss out all the vegan stuff."

"Some of it isn't completely disgusting," Santana said mildly. She continued to trace her fingertip up the length of Quinn's scars, checking her expression to make sure she was okay, as she herself got used to the feeling.

"I like this," Brittany whispered from behind Santana, into her ear alone. "Us together, you touching Quinn and making her feel good, me holding you. I like this a lot." She moved a hand to tangle up with Quinn's. "And I vote grilled cheese for dinner. With soup."

Santana had always thought Quinn's scars were kind of badass. She didn't say that, but she did continue to run her fingers over them, giving a faint smirk as she traced over her Ryan Seacrest tattoo as well.

"You aren't gonna keep this, are you?"

She looked up with a grateful smile at Brittany. Grilled cheese with soup is her "safe" food that she can usually manage to eat when she's had a rough or emotional day.

"I want to get it covered with someone but I haven't figured out what yet." Quinn shivered as Santana touched her. It was non sexual but it was turning her on at the same time. "I'm thinking of maybe a Phoenix and having some of the scars incorporated into it."

She wrapped her arm around Santana's waist. "Why don't we let Brittany relax and you help me make dinner?"

Santana nodded, although she was slow to get up and help Quinn up too. She maintained her hold on Quinn's hand as she walked with her into the kitchen. On their way, Quinn grabbed a shirt and slipped it on before passing Santana one.

"I wanted to talk to you for a second alone," she said once they reached the kitchen. "Are you sure you're ok with this, San?"

Slipping the shirt on, taking her time with it, Santana was slow to answer, but did so sincerely.

"I don't know. I guess I want to see if I am."

"She loves you," Quinn said, turning to face Santana. "Are you really going to be ok with me touching her, me loving her and her loving me back?"

Santana wasn't sure. It was something she was not used to and instinctively bristled at, and yet, she had managed it okay when they were all together.

"I don't know."

Quinn stepped to Santana, barely half an inch taller when they were both barefoot. She met her eyes, exhaling slowly before she spoke.

"I love you, Santana,” she said quietly. “ I am in love with you and I think I have been for a long time." She lifted her hand to cup Santana's cheek. "And…I'm in love with Brittany too. I want to touch both of you. At the same time and one by one. I want to hold you both. I want to love you both. I want to make you both feel good and fight and laugh and spend years trying to make you both forget what pain feels like."

She leaned in, kissing Santana lightly. Santana's cheeks pressed into Quinn's hand, and she kissed her back gently, closing her eyes. Somehow, it’s not as shocking as it should be to hear this. When she pulled back, regarding the other girl, she was still troubled, deep in thought.

"Can people really be in love with two people at once?"

"I am," Quinn whispered. "I have been. But I promise you, Santana, nothing happened with me and Brittany, before today. Ever. We wouldn’t have done that to…I wouldn’t have done that to you. We didn't get together when Britt was in Boston because you weren't there to be with us too. Don't be scared we're trying to cut you out when we couldn't have ever started without you."

This was so much to take in for one day. Rachel's comments, Rachel leaving, Quinn being drawn in, sex with them both, a murky, possible relationship with them both, and now Quinn, for the first time ever, telling her in all seriousness that she loved her. It was so much, almost too much, and Santana ran a hand over her face, breathing out again.

"You have NEVER said that before."

"No, I haven't been brave enough."

Quinn looked down. She wasn't naturally brave like Brittany was. She needed to prepare herself for the rejection before she let herself try something. She and Santana shared a fear of the other shoe dropping that Brittany wasn't born with. Lifting her eyes again, she steadied herself as she finished.

"But it's the truth."

Santana licked her lips, still thinking this through. It took more bravery than she thought she possessed, even with Quinn having spoken first, for her to admit, "I...I love you too. I just don't know how I do yet."

"Yeah you do." Quinn wrapped her arms around Santana's neck. "You touched my scars and you teased me and you made me cum. That's how you love me."

Santana's arms wrapped around Quinn automatically, and she let her hips tilt forward, pressing into her.

"I mean...I don't know in what way that I love you. What it means."

"Oh…..you'll figure it out. You always were smarter than people gave you credit for." Quinn smirked. "And no one can say you don't have a type."

"Of course I don't have a type," Santana argued, totally believing this. "You're not really blonde, Brittany is. You're short and she's tall. You’re an ass girl and she's a legs girl. She can pull off Britney Spears and you can't." She paused, considering. "You both do look hot in nerd glasses though."

"First off I wear my hair blonde so unless my roots are showing I am blonde." Turning back towards the kitchen, Quinn took out a pan, starting to heat it and buttering the bread. "Second, 5 foot 5 is not short. Brittany is just a Viking princess. And we are both breast girls too." She didn't mention the dancing because Brittany had her beat there. "And I'm glad you like us in glasses. You look good in them too."

Santana made a face at that last comment. She hated how she looked in glasses and only wore them when she was tired, hungover, or not feeling well most of the time.

"Short, totally short. But I’ll give you one thing, you’re definitely both huge dorks." She came up behind Quinn, giving her a quick nuzzle on the shoulder, before stepping back.

"We are. But you like Ivy League girls. Yale and Columbia are both top of the hill….” she shivered at Santana’s nuzzle, reaching back a hand to catch her wrist. “Do that again.”

Santana couldn't deny that. Smart is sexy, she's always felt that, even in high school, when she pretended otherwise. When Quinn requested for her to nuzzle her again, she came back to her, lightly embracing her from behind. In a way this felt very strange, to willingly and openly hold Quinn, without alcohol to use as an excuse, but it felt good too. She rubbed her cheek against her neck, deliberately blowing against her nape.

"I need to find all your ticklish spots." She knew Brittany knew hers and probably already spilled to Quinn.

"You're good at that." Quinn moaned softly as she carefully flipped the grilled cheese. It was perfectly golden brown in the middle but the edges were darker. Just the way she liked it. She leaned back a little bit, enjoying how she could do this sober and be allowed to soak it all in. "I'm not all that ticklish except for my scars."

Santana was enjoying this too, especially because she liked having the effect on Quinn that she was showing. It gave her a sense of power in a way. She eased up the back of Quinn's shirt to test her, carefully tracing a finger over the scars of her spine. Quinn wiggled a little bit, flipping the sandwich to a plate before putting on the next one.

"God, Santana, you are a total tease."

She bit her lip but didn't pull away. Santana walked her fingers up Quinn's spine, dragging their tips, teasing like Brittany does her. Quinn's whimper turned to a moan.

"I like when people touch my spine. Feeling hands on me there after I couldn't feel for a while makes me feel alive,” she explained, pressing back a little as she flipped the second sandwich.

Santana gentled her touch, giving flatter strokes of her whole palm with more pressure, almost a massage. Quinn wasn't wearing a bra to get in the way, so she enjoyed the warmth of her skin against her hand. Quinn's mouth fell open as she tilted her head back.

"You have the best hands Santana," she muttered as she pressed her back against her hand.

She felt a pop as a knot finally let her back. She had been trying to get it out for weeks. Santana smiled, giving Quinn's head an impulsive kiss, and eased the massage back to a stroke before removing her hands.

"I have the best everything."

"Britt has better legs but it's mostly because they are longer," Quinn teased her as she put sandwich number three on. "You have the best hair though. It's all wild and free. I love it, I always have."

"Ain't gonna argue that," Santana admitted.

She knew her girl had amazing legs and would never say otherwise. She was a little surprised about the compliment with her hair though. Her hair is the bane of her existence. It was naturally coarse, thick, and wavy, requiring straightening, conditioners, special brushes and haircuts to tame to her liking, and she often enhanced it with weaves or extensions. She rolled her eyes.

"Just because you hate it doesn't mean I have to. Loving parts of you that you don't like is part of the deal." She flipped the sandwich and turned to look at Santana, cocking her hip a little bit. "Can I tell you a secret without you getting all cocky?"

"You only love it because you don't have to screw with it every day," Santana informed her. She raised an eyebrow at her, turning more fully towards her. "No promises, but let's hear it."

"Maybe so but I still like playing with it. And at least you don't have to get yours colored every 3 weeks." Quinn turned the burner off and sat down across the table from her. "I sorta watched you and Brittany have sex once. You were in my spare bedroom and I went to find you guys and the door was cracked and yeah. And it was the first time I ever got off."

Santana's eyes widened at this, shocked, but then she burst out laughing, shaking her head.

"Yeah, well, I used to actually be awake when you'd play with yourself in bed next to me, so we're even."

It was Quinn's turn for her eyes to widen. "I did that once. And it was because you refused anything but that damn thong to bed because it was too hot." She felt her face lit on fire at the idea Santana had been awake for that. "I don't touch myself a lot. My parents sort of told me I'd go to hell if I did."

"Well, I replayed it in my head enough times afterward that it felt like twenty," Santana grinned, snickering. "It WAS hot. Especially with you two inches away."

Quinn shifted, crossing her legs. "Maybe if you're good I'll do it again for you. Let you watch me I mean."

: "Okay, now I KNOW you and Brittany spend all your free time talking about me," Santana huffed, crossing her arms over her chest. "What is it with you both threatening to reward me for good behavior?"

"I didn't learn that from Britt. I leaned that from Cheerios." Quinn tilted her head, looking over at Santana. "You know when you huff like that and pout you are just about as sexy as you can get. I don't know why but it really works for me."

Santana continued to stare at her, highly skeptical of this comment. Her pout smoothed out into a simple stare, one eyebrow lifted. "Okay?"

"I don't buy it for a second but I think it's sexy." Quinn smirked a little bit. She and Santana had a lot in common when it came to using pouting to try to get what they wanted. "You would like it when Britt or I reward you. Pretty sure orgasms are your favorite gift."

"Well, obviously there is no better gift in existence. And by the way, don't try to pout for me because I am numb to your emotions." Totally not true, except that she really doesn't react to Quinn's pouting. Brittany's on the other hand kills her.

"Because we're both bitches and we spent the better part of the first two years of high school trying to top each other." Quinn rolled her eyes a little bit. "You and I know the pouting and stuff is an act for us."

"Is not. For me anyway."

It was, though. Usually. Sometimes the pouting was genuine, on Santana’s part, but it was normally just when she's very sleepy, or very drunk, or both.

"You and I both have be drunk or about to pass out sleepy for it to be real. And Britt knows that. She lets us manipulate her because she likes to take care of us." She leaned over the table, kissing Santana sweetly. "Still cute to see you try though, honey."

Honey. This was another first for them. Never once in all the time they've known each other has Quinn called Santana anything endearing, with the possible exception of shortening her name to San. She couldn't say she didn't like it, weird as it seemed to hear. She was smiling when Quinn pulls back as she went to get the plates and glasses to eat with.

Brittany came out in one of her oversized shirts.

"You two still good in here?" she asked, taking a seat at the table, her arms folding over her chest. "Because I haven't heard anything that sounds like yelling or fucking so I'm really hoping that you are."

"We had our gags in," Santana deadpanned. "You missed a good show."

"I'll just have to take it off the cameras I have around the apartment later and watch it." Brittany reached over and poked Santana's side. She shifted a little and pulled Santana on her lap when she walked over, taking Quinn's hand at the same time. "Looks good."

Santana side eyed her, genuinely wondering about the cameras comment. It's Brittany so she wouldn't put it past her.

"Britt, Rachel lived here too, any footage of her in the bedroom or bathroom, we're burning immediately."

"Or use to blackmail her." Quinn suggested, sitting across from them. "Or sell it to some perve for a bunch of money."

"Even the most twisted perve on the planet doesn’t want naked Rachel Berry footage," Santana shook her head, making a face at Quinn. "Except..."

She reached for Brittany's phone, logging into Facebook.

"Do you have Cottonhead Freakazoid on your friend list?"

"You are not selling tape of Rachel in the shower to JBI." Brittany grabbed her phone back and moved it away from Santana. "Not to mention it was joke. After I put our sex tape out the idea of filming sex became way less fun."

"Aw but it would be PERFECT," Santana argued. "She wants me to die, what better way to drive someone to wanting to kill themselves than give a naked tape to that idiot?"

Even as the words left her mouth, flippantly meant as they were, she flinched, both at the reminder of Rachel's words about her and at her own callous words.

"Ok, take it back. Stupid."

"Don't use that word," Quinn said before Brittany could. "And you don't want Rachel to die. You just want her to never be able to talk again."

 

"Don't be an ass, Santana," Brittany added. "Or I'll use our toys to play with Quinn tonight and you will be in time out."

"Sorry, it slipped," Santana apologized, giving Brittany's hand a squeeze. To Quinn, she nodded. "Exactly. Can we arrange that, please?"

Her head swiveled back to Brittany at her threat, and this time the pout that came automatically was genuine.

"You two really are teaming up on me now with this reward and punishment stuff."

"And it is for your own good." Brittany gave her a look that was hard to read. "You and Rachel don't have to be friends anymore. Unless you want to. “

"We love you Santana. We're not doing it for our own amusement. Well mostly," Quinn added with a smirk.

"Righttttt."

Santana tugged at Quinn's hair, then, having eaten about half her sandwich, pulled at her to move over on Brittany's lap to sit with her. It was an impulsive move, but she didn’t regret it as she moved over to make room.

 

"When did I become the couch?" Brittany asked as she shifted so they could both sit on her comfortably. She loved it though, having her girlfriends both resting against her as they had dinner together. "Thank you two for making dinner."

Santana hadn't actually made anything. She had mostly stood around distracting Quinn as she did it, but hey, she fetched the plates. She didn't correct her, leaning back into her chest. Quinn reached over, taking Santana's hand in hers.

"I have to go back to New Haven tomorrow to get some clothes and stuff. You two could come with me, see my dorm room, help me pack some of it up."

Santana nodded, wrapping her fingers in Quinn's, and finished eating, then stifled a yawn. She was warm, full, sexually sated, in close physical contact with the two people she loved most. What more could she want to be content right now?

"How about we go back to bed and get our cuddle on?" Brittany suggested after she finished eating. "We could lose the shirts and use a sheet instead."

Santana didn’t even bother to verbally respond. Still sitting on Brittany's lap, she just took her shirt off, then reached to lift Quinn's off too.

Quinn laughed. "Are you sure you aren't a nudist?" she asked as she pulled her shirt off the rest of the way. She stood, helping Santana up so Brittany could join them. "I mean you are beautiful so I don't mind the view or anything."

"Keep talking and keep clothes off and we're never gonna have any problems again," Santana said teasingly.

She made sure she was in the middle so she could give both girls a smack on the ass before walking back with them to the bedroom.

Chapter Text

This was working out much better than Quinn could have hoped.

For two weeks now, she had been following the semi schedule of dates that Brittany had suggested, seeing Brittany on Mondays, Santana on Wednesdays, and spending a considerable amount of time with them both on weekends, when they were available. Without hardly discussing it or deciding it aloud at all, Quinn had somehow ended up spending many of those nights with them, to the point that she was more or less living with them. And she had never been so happy in her entire life.

Going to bed every night and having a pair of arms wrapped around her, waking up to the feeling of someone holding her still, being goofy with the two people that she knew she could depend on to be goofy back, being loved and giving love. It was just perfect. Unexpected, unconventional, and not without its awkward moments…but perfect, nonetheless.

It was Monday, which meant the third time for her and Brittany’s date night. It was nothing special, just dinner and a movie, but it somehow felt different than it ever had before in high school, because they were different now. Even bickering and teasing felt different, with a different energy and underlying pleasurable tension than it ever had before.

They came back to the apartment and after brushing teeth and washing faces, headed to bed, since it was nearly midnight. Santana was not home yet from her shift at the diner, and it wasn’t long before they found themselves sprawled over each other, unable to keep their hands off.

Santana didn’t get in from work until past midnight. She was too tired to eat, brush teeth, or shower, so she simply stripped down to her underwear and flopped on the couch, intending to watch TV. It didn't take her two minutes to fall asleep. She hadn't even announced coming home, because when she didn't see her two blondes, she figured that they were already asleep or on the way to being asleep. She had been dozing off for about fifteen minutes when a noise down the hallway awakened her. Sitting up, bleary eyed, she rubbed a hand over her face, dragging herself up. Still squinting, she started to shuffle towards the bedroom, intending to go to sleep there instead.

Fumbling for the doorknob, Santana pushed it open, one hand lifting to cover her mouth as she stifled a yawn. But her hand froze, her eyes opening wide, immediately very un-sleepy as she took in what was going on in the bedroom between Brittany and Quinn, who seemed unaware of her presence. She continued to stare, mixed feelings of shock, jealousy, and then a stir of surprisingly intense arousal mixing low in her sternum. Brow slightly furrowed, lips parted, breathing slightly erratic, Santana leaned in, seeing Brittany tighten around Quinn’s hand, Quinn around Brittany’s as the girls breathed each other’s names into their lips. She licked her lips repeatedly, swallowing, and when they both came, she sucked in her breath, unsure if she wanted to turn away or stare all the harder. As the girls caught their breath, half draped over each other, Santana cleared her throat, trying to make a joke to cover her unease.

“Hot. The sweat kinda ruins the sexy though.”

“You know you like it,” Brittany lifted her head lazily and gave her a smile, crooking a finger in her direction. "Undress and come join us." She moved the covers so she and Quinn could get under them. "I'm in the middle tonight though. I don't wanna move."

Awkwardness mostly dispelled at the invitation, Santana took off her underwear without any lingering self consciousness, snuggling up to Brittany's other side and sprawling a leg over her to touch Quinn's. Being undressed and touched by them so often had already helped her start to gain more confidence in her body, true confidence rather than the fake pride she's always feigned. She kissed Brittany's shoulder, giving Quinn a flick on the wrist playfully.

"Since when are you a stud?"

Quinn just looked smug. "You know how much I loved bossing everyone around on Cheerios."

She shrugged a shoulder, her head on Brittany's shoulder. Reaching across she took Santana's hand in hers, kissing her knuckles softly. "Besides, unlike you, I don't always want to be on my back."

Whether it was true or not, Santana still considered this an insult. She scowled at her, flicking her again, and then wiggled to stretch her body over both of them, lying across them on her stomach.

"Lies. I'm top now."

Brittany rolled her eyes as she settled them so they could be comfortable with Santana as their blanket.

"You understand being a top isn't just about being on top, right?" Brittany asked, her hand moving to the small of Santana's back.

"No, she doesn't at all," Quinn answered for her. She moved her hand along Santana's side. "You feel good, baby.”

She was slipping more and more terms of endearments in with Santana. But rarely outside of their bed, and never outside of the apartment.

"Of course it is," Santana argued, resting her chin on Quinn's collarbone, her hand drifting over Brittany's side and then squeezing her ass lightly. "A top is on top. I'm on top, so I'm a top."

It doesn't matter what definition they might explain to her, to her, this is the final answer. She smiled when Quinn called her baby, giving a small kiss to her collar bone.

"Obviously."

Quinn and Brittany took turns rubbing her back, each taking a side to stroke but avoiding her spine.

"I told someone about us today," Brittany said softly, finally breaking the quiet. "One of the guys I work with in the math lab. He asked if I was seeing anyone."

Santana was relaxed, catlike, against them, being lulled almost to sleep by their stroking. It was only Brittany's words that brought her back to paying attention as she squinted up at her.

"What did he say?"

"He asked if we were looking for a guy," Brittany stroked the back of Santana's neck. "I told him only to kill spiders."

“Yep, keep him on speed dial for that," Santana agreed, nodding slightly.

She hated all insects, all rodents, and all creatures that didn't belong in the house and wasn't even slightly embarrassed about it. She had been known to stand on a chair shrieking over seeing a spider, and to her, that was the only logical response.

"You are such a girl,” Quinn rolled her eyes. "I love both of you but neither of you can handle spider killing."

"Because spiders are horrible, nasty creatures of Satan that are obviously dispatched out to ruin everything they see," Santana informed her. "The LEGS. And the HAIR. And the EYES!"

"They are icky,” Brittany made a face as she moved her hand over Quinn's thigh. "But you take care of them so we're good. Besides I like sex with you two more than I liked it with boys. Even though I do like boys."

"Boys are icky," Santana made a face, tracing Brittany's hipbone. She smirked, quoting a t-shirt from when she was a little girl. "Boys are icky, throw rocks at them!"

"So very mature," Quinn smirked as she moved her hand up and down Santana's back, her other hand tangled with Brittany's. "So…something occurred to me, the other day. This seems to be working fine and all with us, but eventually, we are going to have to tell our parents if we decide to really go for this. We’ll have to tell them something, anyway, if this starts to go on a while.” She chuckled slightly, rolling her eyes. “My mother is going to freak but I'll just get her drunk and she'll stop caring. Or remembering. She’s good with the denial."

 

Brittany nuzzled Santana's shoulder, kissing it softly. "My parents won't care as long as I'm happy and we're happy."

Santana cringed as Quinn mentioned this. She hadn't even considered this at all. She knew her father wouldn't understand, but then, he rarely even talked about her being a lesbian, or to her, period, as busy as he was. Her mother though...she was pretty sure her mother was going to be first weirded out, then insatiably curious, and she was not sure which was worse.

Seeing the look in Santana’s eyes, Brittany tilted her head, regarding her. “Penny for your thoughts? Sanny, you know we aren't doing anything wrong, right…and we’re adults. In the end, what other people think doesn’t matter anymore.”

But she knew Santana, how to her, everything and everyone mattered, much more than she would ever admit. So she kept her eyes on her, lightly caressing her skin as she waited for her thoughts.

"My thoughts are worth dollars," Santana said lightly, but she was still pensive. She twined her fingers with Brittany's, laying her head on her chest as she answered more quietly, "I don't think anyone will understand. I mean, I barely understand. How can anyone else?"

Quinn shifted a little bit so she could see both Brittany and Santana's faces.

"No, most won't. But I think our friends will. I think Sam and Mercedes and Tina and Mike and even Puck will understand. They might have a lot of jokes about it, but in the end, they won’t think it matters. They know how important we are to each other," Quinn said softly, her eyes a bit cloudy.

Those were the most important people, but they weren't the entire world, and Santana had always struggled with that. Wanting to feel accepted and approved of, wanting people to like her, admire her. It was going to be difficult, if they were really leaning towards one day having this relationship publicly, and it was starting to dawn on her for the first time that one day, she will have to.

Brittany wrapped the arm already around Santana's waist around her a little bit tighter.

"We love you. More than anything. The whole world will never love you, but the people that matter will. It’s not the ones who don’t that matter.”

That might be what matters, but that doesn't mean it doesn't scare her, or make it hard. Santana kept her face against Brittany, knowing how hard she found it to deny Brittany anything she wanted, but also knowing how hard it was for her to be brave. She didn't want to admit her fear, but she couldn't help but feel it.

"I know."
"You're scared," Quinn said, not letting Santana hide. "Of what it means, of what people will say." Again she brought Santana's hand to her lips. "I'm scared too, Santana. It's ok to be scared. This is something new and kind of strange to most people. Even to us sometimes.”

"I am not scared," Santana muttered, but her tone belied this. She sighed, squeezing Quinn's hand, not lifting her face. "Everyone already fucking looks down on me."

"They don't, but even if they did, why is loving both me and Quinn something to look down on you for?" Brittany asked, genuinely not seeing how anyone could think otherwise. To her, love was simple and always had been. Love was just good, all love. "Why doesn't it show how big your heart is?"

"People don't think like that, Brittany," Santana told her, kissing her shoulder. "People pretty much are gonna think we're a bunch of crazy sluts."

"Maybe we are," Brittany shrugged. "But if it makes us happy, what does it matter."

Santana considered this, quiet. It was going to take her time turning this around in her mind to adjust and come to terms with it, but she was getting there, in her way.

"You don't have to tell people about me," Quinn said softly, as Santana’s silence stretched out. "I can just be your roommate. No one has to know, not if you don’t want them to." She sounded sincere, but even Santana could hear the undercurrent of hurt in her tone.

 

That wasn't fair to Quinn and Santana knew it. That was making her the third wheel in their relationship, the one pushed out when convenient, and even she knew that was wrong to do to her. She shook her head slightly, her voice quiet.

"I just need time."

When Quinn nodded, accepting this with a slow breath, Santana reached to cover Quinn's cheek with hers, stroking lightly. She kept it there, turning her head to rest against hers.

Brittany wrapped them both up in her arms as much as she could, holding on tightly. "It's late and I have class in the morning."

"Then sleep." Santana had forgotten her own tiredness, her mind full. She rubbed Brittany's shoulder, trying to lull her, and closed her own eyes.

 

88
The flight from New York to Columbus wasn't nearly as bad as Brittany feared it would be. She didn't really like flying all that much but having Santana on one side and Quinn on the other made it a little more bearable. She held both of their hands for most of the flight, especially tightly every time the plane shoock a little bit. Once they manage to get off of the plane and grab their bags, they rented a car before making the two hour trip back to Lima.

“I am really glad we’re coming home for a little while,” Brittany said as she sat in the back seat, leaning forward to rest her head against Santana’s headrest.

Santana wasn't a real fan of planes either, but she wasn't as nervous about it as Brittany was. As they sat in the car, with Quinn driving, she was awake but somewhat nauseous with nerves. She fidgeted, nodding, but she was not sure she was glad at all, knowing that they would be sharing their new relationship status with their parents. She missed her mother, but coming home to Lima now was always bittersweet, reminding her of everyone and everything she has lost, and what she can never come back to at all.

Quinn reached over the console for Santana's hand in hers as she drove them toward their hometown. She offered to drive mostly so Santana and Britney didn't have to. She was the least worried about her mother’s reaction because she knew she didn't much care what her mother said. If she didn't approve of the relationship, then Quinn wouldn't be heartbroken. Not like the other two would.

“Do you guys want to stop and eat or wait until we get to Lima?” Quinn asked, stroking Santana’s knuckles.

There was no way that Santana was eating and then getting in a vehicle. She shook her head, wrapping her fingers around Quinn's, and took a slow breath, hoping no one noticed.

"Wait. Definitely wait."

"Baby," Brittany muttered, turning her head to kiss Santana's temple. "Relax. Your mom is going to be fine with us. And my parents will too. And Quinn's mom will be too drunk to process it."

"I'm relaxed," Santana insisted, even as her brow remained scrunched up and her hand gripped Quinn's. "I don't care, really. I mean we're going back home eventually so it's not like we have to see them every day."

"Sure, coming from the mommy's girl," Quinn teased, even as she gave Santana's hand a reassuring squeeze. "She loves you, Santana. She is going to question us like we murdered someone but she'll accept."

"I am NOT a mommy's girl," Santana snapped, some bite to her tone now, convinced that they actually believe this was true if she said it harshly enough.

Never mind that she always lit up when her mother called, even when she rolled her eyes and snapped at her in Spanish two minutes into the call. Never mind that she often curled up on the couch with the phone cradled to her face when she talked to her, or that she had cried after her mother called her on her birthday to tell her how proud she was of her and how much she loved her. That totally meant nothing.

“You’re not a mommy's girl in the way that I'm not a daddy's girl,” Brittany laughed a little from the back seat.

She and her father had always been extremely close. He taught her how to dance when she was barely old enough to walk, putting her feet on top of his and moving around the living room. He went to every game and recital and competition she was in, always making sure to cheer loudly for his eldest daughter.

"No," Santana persisted, but she couldn't exactly offer an explanation of why.

She knew perfectly well how she preened every time her mother played with her hair, how she melted into her embraces and curled up with her head on her lap or shoulder on the couch. She knew that her mother could bring out her softness just as much as her sassiness, but this was something she would deny outwardly forever.

"Well who's girl is Quinn then?" she asked, trying to defer attention off of her.

"I'm no one’s. My grandparents were all gone before I was born, my relationship with my mother is rocky and it’s nonexistent with my father,” Quinn shook her head, a slight frown creasing her brow.

"You’re our girl," Brittany corrected softly.

Santana squeezed her hand, bringing her knuckles to her lips. "Our Lucy Q."

"Only the two of you can call me that."

Quinn's cheeks turned red as she took the exit for Lima. They would soon be at Brittany's parent's house.

"Lucy Q, Lucy Lu, Lulu Q-Belle, Lucy in the sky with diamonds," Santana needled, feeling less anxious because she could tease her. She kept her hand in Quinn's though, rubbing her finger over its back.

"You are so not getting middle tonight," Quinn muttered, taking the abuse in a good natured way.

She knew what Santana was trying to do. When she felt Brittany's hand on her shoulder she smiled. Turning down Brittany's street, she took in a deep breath. Santana’s nerves kicked up again once they were pulling into Brittany's driveway, and Santana took several shallow breaths, fear gripping her heart. She was slow to get out of the car once they shut off the car and reached not for Quinn's hand but Brittany's, sensitive yet about showing her status for Quinn as well in front of the parents.

Pierce Pierce smiled when he saw his little girl.

"Hello Sunshine."

PJ was a small Asian-looking man with a wide smile. He wrapped his daughter up in his arms before lifting her off the ground and spinning her around until she giggled. He set her down and leaned in to kiss her cheek.

“Your mother had to take your sister to a gymnastics thing in Cincinnati for the night. But they'll be back tomorrow. Maribel and Judy are both here, on the back deck with some wine. Come and join us, girls.”

He turned to Santana and Quinn, opening his arms so they would give him a hug as well. Santana smiled, still nervous, but loosening up a little just seeing how Brittany's father embraced her, how happy he was to see her, just like always. She knew that Brittany's father and mother would never judge her or Brittany, despite her fears. She's always sort of felt like he was her second father, in fact, more her father than her own was, in some ways. She certainly saw him more and she certainly got more attention and affection from him compared to hers, if she was honest with herself about it. She came to him with a small but genuine smile and gave him a hug.

"Hi Pierce."

She was still jittering a little bit with her feet impatiently as she waited for Quinn to hug him, almost as eager to see her mom as she was impatient. And to get some freaking wine. She knew her mom would tease her about not being 21, but let her have it anyway.

Quinn was not over at Brittany’s house as much as Santana had been over the years but she always enjoyed coming here. She loves how easy-going everything was and how a little bit of a mess didn't bother any of the Pierces. Once Santana was done hugging Pierce it was Quinn’s turn. She laughed as he spun her around as he had the other two girls before setting her back on her feet.

“Nice to see you again, Pierce.”

She smiled as they made their way around back to the deck, getting nervous as they walked. Santana could see her mother and Quinn's sitting on the back deck, Judy Fabray's posture very straight and proper even with a wine glass in her hand, her mother's more relaxed. She could tell even from profile that her mother was laughing, using her hand to gesture broadly as she talked, like she so often did, and Santana's heart twisted with a mixture of gladness to see her after so long, a desire to go straight to her, and also continued anxiety at what she knew she would have to tell her. She stood in the doorway, even as her mother, hearing them approach, turned her head and smiled at her, beckoning.

"Now I know that you like to pretend you are afraid of your mother when she has a drink in her hand, but I promise I have only mentioned your embarrassing little secrets a few times in your absence. Come here, Santanita, I did not see you at Christmas, so do not think you can play cool and get away with a nod and smile now!"

She stood as Santana came forward, pulling her into a strong embrace, and rubbed her back as she held her, one hand cradling the back of her head. Santana hugged her back, gripping her tightly, as Maribel laughed, then clucked her tongue.

"Mi flaquita, I know you better be doing better than this tonight!"

She pinched her side lightly, ignoring her daughter's indignant yelp and "Mami!" in response. Judy Fabray was considerably more reserved, giving a small nod and smile to the other girls before standing and smiling at her daughter.

"Quinnie, hello. You look well."

Quinn observed Santana and her mom for a moment. A part of her wished that she had that type of relationship with her own mother, or any kind of a relationship with her father. Brittany and Santana made her feel insecure about her parental relationships even if she didn't begrudge either girls their relationship with their parents. When she heard her mom speak to her she turned and gave her a small smile. She looked better than the last time Quinn saw her, like she was doing more eating and she was drinking.

“Hi Mom.”

Quinn stepped forward and kissed her mother on the cheek before she gave her a short hug. She wished she felt more comfortable in her mother’s, embrace but she stepped back before it got too awkward. Her hand was itching to take Brittany’s, who was standing beside her, but she held out for now. She wanted each of them to have a glass of wine in hand before they told their parents.

“Here you go girls,” Pierce handed out glasses of wine to each of the girls as they all took a seat around the large table on the deck. “I already ordered pizza. One double cheese and one double pepperoni and bacon.”

"Oh hold on, I don't know about these two, but this one is still a baby," Maribel teased, wrapping her hand around Santana's on the wine glass's stem, as though she intended to take it from her.

Santana mock glared at her, knowing she didn't really mind and hadn't since she turned 18, and made a mock snatch for her mother's.

"Mami, give it, I knows you don't waste wine and I will so make you spill."

Maribel let go with a laugh, giving her daughter an affectionate squeeze of her arm before sitting back down again. She was sitting on a rocking metal seat which could fit two or three people and moved over so that Santana and another could sit next to her. Santana sat beside her after a moment's hesitation, and when her mother wrapped an arm around her, she didn't pull away.

Judy eyed Quinn's wine glass but said nothing about it, instead asking her daughter, "So Maribel tells me you have recently moved in with Brittany and Santana, I suppose that is financially sound to do."

Brittany sat down next to Quinn on the same seat as Quinn’s mother. She let her father sit next to Santana and hoped that when the time came for the questions, he would do her the kindness of wrapping her up in his strong arms. Brittany wanted to be there for Quinn as she knew her mother wouldn't have the same type of supporting instincts that Santana’s mother and her father would.

“Yeah, we all live together now. And my spending the semester in New York makes it work out perfectly.” Quinn took a long drink from her glass to try to use the liquid courage to its fullest potential. “Actually we have a bit of an announcement.” She moved one of the hands that was clutching at her one glass into Brittany’s. “Santana, Brittany and I have decided that our relationship works best if the three of us are all romantically together.”

 

“We’re all dating each other,” Brittany said, trying to clarify Quinn's overly technical explanation of what they were.

She looked to her father quickly to see what expression he wore. She followed his eyes and washed as they trained on her hand in Quinn’s. Pierce looked at them a moment before nodding to his daughter and putting his arm around Santana, kissing the top of her head and giving Brittany a beaming smile. Brittany had more or less expected this but nevertheless relaxed, her eyes moving between Santana and Quinn.

Santana had gone rigid with anxiety as Quinn spoke out, her shoulders under her mother's arm and PJ's slumping forward, as though she was trying to duck out from beneath them. She couldn't look at anyone as her fingers gripped the wine glass tightly in one hand, her knee in her other.

Her mother looked back and forth from her to Quinn to Brittany, utter confusion furrowing her brow, before she blurted, "But we don't live in Utah. How in the world does that work?"

Judy, meanwhile, took another swallow of her wine, as she told her daughter, completely oblivious, "Well, that's nice, dear, it's always nice to have girlfriends." Her definition of girlfriends was rather more relaxed and platonic than her daughter's.

“Well.” Quinn shifted a little bit, feeling her cheeks heat up. “It’s a little complicated but we manage to make it work.”

She looked to Brittany, hoping she would step in. She was the least likely to freeze up.

“Well we have a really big bed so that helps,” Brittany said, smiling a little bit. “And we make sure we have one night a week for each of the different parts. Quinn and I go out on our date night on Monday, then Santana and me on Tuesday and Santana and Quinn on Wednesday. And rest of the time we either eat in together or go out together.”

She moved her other hand into Quinn’s, wrapping an arm around her shoulder.

“Sounds rather normal, Sunshine, ” Pierce spoke up, still smiling blithely.

 

"Sleepovers and girl talk, you always did seem to enjoy that. Too much, sometimes, I do recall having to tell you girls to keep it down a time or two," Judy said, taking another swallow of her wine.

She appeared blithely determined to not understand. Maribel, on the other hand, had turned to fully face her daughter, and the questions were coming faster now.

"You are dating, all three of you? Not just...is this a young lesbian thing?"

"MAMI," Santana turned scarlet, sputtering, but her mother continued, earnest.

"What, I am trying to understand, Santanita! I did not even know that Quinn was interested in girls, although I suppose I did wonder why such a beautiful girl dated as little as she did in high school, and the celibacy club was something I thought odd for a fifteen year old girl to start up as well-"

"MAMI!"

"What, Santana, I am not calling you girls promiscuous, but everyone knows that teenagers as beautiful as the three of you do not sit around studying on weekend nights, whatever lies you fed your abuela to the contrary. Have the three of you always done this?" She seemed stricken by this new idea, eyebrows raising to her hairline. "I must say for three girls you must have been very quiet."

Brittany couldn’t help but laugh a little at the Lopez women as they interacted. The rapid fire questions from Maribel were just what Brittany thought would happen, as well as Santana’s scandalized response.

 

“We didn’t sleep with Quinn in high school. Just each other and way too many boys for either of our own good,” Brittany said. “Though Santana did sleep with her before we all got together. At Will’s almost wedding when I was with Sam.”

Quinn wanted to die. Just turn into gel and sink though the deck. They were talking about their sex lives with their parents. So not awesome.

“No, Mrs. Lopez. Like Britt said we weren’t together in high school. After I got pregnant dating really wasn’t on the top of my list. At least I don’t have to worry about that with these two,” she muttered, trying to keep her own face from going as red as Santana’s.

"I think we're almost out of this bottle," Judy mused, apparently still manage to completely block out the context of the conversation. "I'll go get a refill for us."

She stood up, walking into the kitchen, as Santana hid her face in her hands, shaking her head as she groaned out, "Brittany...was that necessary..."

But Maribel didn't appear shocked by any of these revelations. She was still stuck on the "dating each other."

"But Santana, you couldn't even share your toys without a tantrum as a child, how will you share...do you call each other girlfriends?"

"Mami, I beg you to stop asking questions," Santana mumbled into her hands. "And please don't tell Papi yet."

"Oh, like he would notice or care to hear about your sex life," Maribel rolled her eyes. "He doesn't hear me when I want it, let alone want to hear about his child's."

Cue more scarlet coloring from Santana. "MAMI!"

“Santana still sucks at sharing,” Brittany laughed, her hand running up and down Quinn’s knee. “But we all manage to work it out. “

“God Brittany.”

Quinn hated sometimes that her girlfriend was so open about sex and relationships. How was this so easy for her? She moved her hand over Brittany’s to stop her from rubbing her like that.

“And yes, Mrs. Lopez, we call each other girlfriends. That’s what we are.”

She hated her mother was just blocking this out but it was what she expected her to do anyway.

“Are the three of you happy together?” Pierce asked, tilting his head and looking at Santana. Quinn and Brittany were cuddled up, looking uncomfortable maybe but very natural together. “In love?”

"Yes, Santana, that I definitely want an answer to, without you groaning and doing the Scarlett O'Hara fainting efforts about it," Maribel chimed in, reaching to lift her daughter's chin to look up at her. "Are you happy? Are you in love with both of them?"

Santana took a deep breath, her fear at her mother's reaction standing in her eyes before she looked back at her and gave her a slow nod.

"Yes...I know it's...different...but yes."

Her mother regarded her, then reached to smooth her hand over the back of her cheek.

"Then there is need to be embarrassed. All I've ever wanted for you is to be happy and loved and to love others. You've always been different, and I don't expect that to change now."

“Mrs. Lopez, Mr. Pierce.” Quinn said softly, her hand holding on to Brittany’s tightly. “I love your daughters very much. They are both very different women but I love them. I go to sleep over night knowing that I get to love the two greatest women in the world. I love both of them and I could never just have one. I hope they feel the same, I hope we make it forever.”

“I love you too.” Brittany pressed a kiss to Quinn’s temple. “Come here,” Brittany said to Santana. “Just come here, babe.”

She wanted Santana to sit with her and Quinn. Maybe they could show their parents how they were instead of just telling them. Santana bit her lips, tears coming into her eyes that she blinked against furiously, hating for a group of people to see her cry. She was slow to pull back from her mother but went to Brittany, stopping just in front of her to let her decide how to arrange her with them. Quinn slid over without any hesitation, letting Santana sit in the middle between her and Brittany. More often than not Santana did end up in the middle and today shouldn’t be any different in Quinn’s mind. Both she and Brittany wrapped their arms around Santana’s shoulders, also touching each other’s shoulders.

“I love you,” Brittany whispered, giving each Santana and Quinn quick pecks on the cheek before Quinn followed her lead and did the same to Santana.

“I love you, both of you,” Quinn whispered.

Santana accepted the kisses, pressing herself against them both, and after hesitation shyly returned a kiss to both. Maribel was watching intently, a small smile on her lips, softness in her eyes.

"You know, I never thought about polygamous rights."

"Mami," Santana groaned again, but it was softer, more relaxed now.

As Judy returned, holding the wine bottle up, she ignored the girls' entwined positions as she returned to her seat.

"Found it! Who would like more?"

"Me, for sure,” Quinn half raised a hand before poking Quinn, rolling her eyes. "For someone so small how can you take up this much space?"

“I’m not 100% sure she isn’t a really slow moving liquid,” Brittany chuckled as she held her glass up for more wine too. “Quinn and I can be on the couch and only take up half of it and then Santana joins us and all the sudden the other half is filled from just her.”

"Well, maybe that's just because you two sit on top of each other to the point you can barely breathe, and I take up a normal amount of space," Santana stuck her tongue out at her. She felt more relaxed now that she finished one glass of wine and was on her second too, and this obviously showed from the way her body loosened up into them both

Pierce chuckled as he watched the girls. “Where are the three of you sleeping while you’re in Lima?”

“We were hoping here.” Brittany toyed with Santana’s hair. “I have the more comfortable bed and Santana likes to lay across Quinn and me when she sleeps like she thinks she’s a blanket. Something about her weird thing where she thinks she’s a top just because she’s on top of us.”

She didn’t think twice about saying something like that. If their parents were cool with them being together why wouldn’t they be cool with them having a sexual relationship?

"BRITTANY!" Santana hissed before adding, unable to help herself, "I am totally a top."

Maribel looked at her, the smirk on her face revealing her own thoughts on the matter.

"You always were my little snuggler, mija. Mi osita acurrucarrse," she teased.

Santana didn't translate this, scowling at her mother, because there's no way she wanted everyone to know she just called her her little snuggle bear. Judy, of course, was still clueless.

"I would think that all that physical contact would get rather hot," she said blithely.

“Quinn and I usually get pretty warm when we sleep but Santana is a lizard or something and sucks it all up,” Brittany shrugged. “It’s kind of nice, then we don’t push the covers off in the middle of the night and can snuggle closer.”

“Santana is not even close to a top,” Quinn muttered into her glass of wine. She couldn’t help herself. It was a reflex now. “But I’m sure the three of you really don’t want to hear about our sex life,” she added, wanting to use the word and see what her mother might do. “And I can assure you we’re safe.”

“I’m totally rubbing off on Quinn,” Brittany said proudly. She laughed a bit when her father choked on a sip of wine he just took.

"Rubbing off? Well please don't do that where we can see, I am sure you are all very happy together, but there's no need for graphic demonstrations," Maribel said teasingly.

Now Santana choked on her wine, glaring at her mother. "Mami, you're lucky I don't WANT to joke about your sex life."

"Would you like me to take up the slack, mija?"

"NO!"

Judy's eyes had narrowed slightly at the mention of sex, but she too tried to brush past this. "Really, Quinn, let's find a more pleasant and applicable topic. How is school?"

“I’m doing an internship in New York right now so pretty awesome,” Quinn wanted to roll her eyes at her mother’s ways but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. “I’m working with a director who is opening a new show. I’m one of his assistant directors. Britt is doing pretty amazing too.”

“Babe,” Brittany smiled. “My dance stuff is going well this term. And the math lab is awesome. I get to work with professors and stuff. We’re talking about me entering the Ph.D program and stilling the BS.”

“That sounds amazing, Brittany,” Pierce smiled. “I am very proud of you, all three of you.”

"That's nice, dear," Judy smiled at her daughter, sipping at her wine. "I'm glad you're doing well, making connections."

Maribel smiled warmly at both girls as well. "I am proud of you girls both, not that I ever doubted that you would do amazing things with your talents. And what of you, mija? You have been very quiet as of late about just what it is you are up to in the city."

Santana was self conscious about her comparative lack of success and shrugged one shoulder.

"Uh, I'm tutoring now at Britt's school. And I might go back to school, I'm sort of looking into it."

She knew her mother would like that, she always wanted her to go to college. She was not surprised when Maribel beamed.

"That is wonderful! You will do well, I am sure. You have always been good at whatever you chose to put your effort into."

“It would be really awesome if all three of us ended up with Ivy League degrees. I mean even though Yale is barely Ivy League anymore,” Brittany teased Quinn.

“In your dreams Britt.”

Quinn rolled her eyes, leaning her head against Santana’s shoulder. Even if her mother wouldn’t approve she didn’t care. She was a little buzzed from the wine and she was with the two women she loved most, and their parents. She was warm, she was relieved, and above all, she was loved.

Chapter Text

Pierce returned with the pizza after hearing a knock on the door. He returned with plates and the two boxes of pizza. “Dig in everyone, these smell wonderful.” He leaned over, kissing Brittany on the top of the head before repeating it with Santana and then Quinn.

Santana leaned her head back against her, smiling a little, and even dared to give Quinn's shoulder a quick kiss. She knew that Judy wouldn't ever acknowledge or accept them, but her mother will, and it's a huge relief. She smiled a little more when Pierce kissed her, feeling comfortable enough to actually take and eat a piece of pizza in front of everyone, though she rolled her eyes at her mother's comment.

"Yes, and Santanita flaquita should get double cheese on hers."

"She looks awesome right now," Brittany said, wanting Santana to feel comfortable. "The three of us work out together. And do yoga." She grabbed a second piece of piece, munching on it crust first.

"The yoga helps me with my back and hip," Quinn muttered, making a bit of a face. "Brittany is really good with massages after so many years of dance though. Better than the PT guy at the hospital." She smiled over at her. "Santana isn't bad either,” she added, giving her a wink.

"I’m amazing," Santana countered, giving her a slow, teasing finger walk over her shoulder blade just to tease before taking her hand back. "And I obviously look amazing too."

She finished her first piece, hesitating, then did reach for a second, though she was slower about eating this one. Judy was eating hers daintily, actually having gotten up to get a knife and fork to cut it with as well as napkins she used frequently on her lips.

“You are something,” Quinn snorted before sticking her tongue out at Santana. “A pain in the ass, a bed hog, a clean up dodger. Oh and totally a faker when it comes to being too tired to drive.”

"Right, and you're a PMSing, shower hogging, bacon stealing, anal organizing brat who can't ever admit she's wrong and I'm unconditionally awesome. I'm gonna make you sit here without my amazing presence and go back to my mami if you don't watch it," Santana mock threatened. Never mind that she's totally proving Quinn's teasing earlier about being a mommy's girl.

“Be nice, you two, or I’m making you both sleep on different couches and I’m getting the bed all to myself,” Brittany threatened, even if she knew she wouldn’t turn them out for just teasing each other. And if she sent them to the same couch they would just cuddle each other. She turned to Maribel, explaining, “I’m the peacemaker, just like in high school.”

Maribel too smirked at this. "Or kindergarten. I remember a child who used to get sent to time out for pushing and throwing sand on little girls who called her names. It always made me so sad when you would start crying about some mean little thing a child said to you before bedtime...your first little heartbreaks," She smiled at her daughter, nostalgic. "Though I have to say the timing always being right before bed is rather suspicious."

Santana just shook her head, giving up on her mother NOT embarrassing her at this point. Judy had finally finished her first piece of pizza and looked up towards Quinn with a slightly sad smile.

"Quinn was a very shy child. I don't think she ever said anyone was unkind to her, despite her weight."

Santana stiffened at this, giving Judy a death stare. She knew how sensitive Quinn could be about her childhood self, especially discussed publicly, and she knew that little Lucy wouldn't have challenged anyone who was cruel, let alone confided in her mother. Maribel spoke up before she can, her voice firm.

"Not all children are formed the same, and Quinn is so beautiful I can't imagine she was anything but a gorgeous little girl, just as she is a gorgeous woman."

Santana's fierce expression softened then, and after giving Quinn a supportive squeeze, she did get up, going to sit next to her mother again, and mentally saying screw you to everyone else's possible teasing, rested her head on her shoulder. It was her way of thanking her mother for sticking up for Quinn too.

“The nose job helped. So did getting off the braces,” Quinn nodded, putting the half eaten piece of pizza down and pushing her plate away. She took her wine glass and drained it, wanting the buzz.

Brittany just moved closer to her, a hand resting on Quinn’s thigh. “You are still my favorite bookworm.” She kissed Quinn’s temple softly. “Though I might have taken a little of the shyness when you were making us do two a day Cheerio practices at the start of Sophomore year.”

“I had to show Sue picking a sophomore over a senior was the right move,” Quinn shrugged, giving Brittany a short squeeze on her own leg to show her thanks. “Besides with your freakishly long legs and stamina it wasn’t like you were ever tired. You always had so much energy. Still do.”

Judy drained her own wine glass when she saw Brittany and Quinn, convincing herself she didn't. Maribel gave them both a smile as she said to Quinn, "I don't think any nose in the world or any metal they could put on your mouth would take away from the loveliness of those eyes of yours or the way you look when you smile."

Santana, loving her mother for that, wrapped her arm around her waist, smiling when her mother wrapped her arm around her too and kissed her temple. Quinn felt her cheeks go red at the compliments.

“Santana, you better watch it. Your mom is better at giving compliments than you.”

Santana stuck her tongue out at Quinn. "I know you have a thing for creepy relationships but leave my mami alone."

"You can be on the couch yourself tonight, Santana," Brittany commented. "I mean it is a warm night out. Maybe you and your blankets would be more comfortable. Since you don't like cuddling or anything anyway." She shrugged, knowing that she was going to get a pout out of this.

"Yeah San, you did say you hate to cuddle," Quinn nodded seriously.

Santana was basically cuddling her mother right at that very second. Not that she'd admit it. She lifted her head off Maribel's shoulder a little, brow scrunching up in protest, the pout they both expected immediately coming into play.

"The couch is lumpy, I'm not sleeping on it."

"Oh, well perhaps the girls don't mind sleeping on the couch and you can have the bed to yourself," Maribel suggested, knowing very well from the teasing gleam in her eyes how her daughter will take that, even as she ran a hand over her hair. "I know you like your space, mija."

Santana scowled further at this. "The bed is...funny smelling."

"You are too easy," Quinn rolled her eyes.

“Hey that was my nickname freshman year,” Brittany smirked.

Her father wouldn’t mind the comment so it was more to troll Quinn’s mother after saying things about Quinn that Brittany wished she wouldn’t have. Quinn really tried not to laugh but she couldn’t stop herself when she saw Pierce chuckle at his daughter’s sense of humor.

Judy's eyes widened, and she wiped her mouth with her napkin several times, though there was nothing on there. She cleared her throat, seeming to find it difficult to think of something to change the subject to, as Maribel decided to troll her too.

"Something bothering you, Judy?"

“We did encourage safe sexual expression for Brittany,” Pierce added. “She’s very sexy, and we wanted to make sure she didn’t feel like she couldn’t express herself. Sex is awesome!”

"Well, we all know...safe sex is...abstinence, or within the confines of marriage..." Judy stammered, and Santana couldn't resist.

"Right, I guess you'd know about abstinence within the confines of your marriage, since that's the only way you would stay safe with your husband cheating on you with younger girls."

"Santana," Maribel reproved, but it was soft, gentle, and she rubbed her hand over her daughter's arm as though she did secretly approve.

"Statistically speaking lesbian sex has the lowest rate of STD's out of any group and a 0% chance of pregnancy,” Brittany said, using a little bit of her math brain. “Plus all three of us got tested so we’re totally safe.” She gave a slightly innocent smile to Quinn’s mother.

“The whole abstinence pushing thing didn’t really work all that great, Mom,” Quinn pointed out. “Didn’t work that great on Frannie either but she got someone to but her Plan B. She yelled at me after she found out I was pregnant for not doing the same thing.” She ran a hand though her hair, shaking her head. “If we ever have kids we’re teaching them how to use protection. No matter how Catholic Santana and I may or may not be.”

 

Judy's eyes widened even further at this bit of information about her older daughter, whom she had always considered her great success story. She shook her head several times, reaching for the bottle of wine, and her hand shook as she poured herself another glass.

"Quinn that is...don't talk about such...such sinful..."

"Right, well the Bible says about not getting drunk on wine too, and also, that not providing for your family is one of the worst of the sins," Santana's voice was low but very pointed as she looked directly at Judy. "The Bible says a lot about parents not being a burden to their kids too."

"Judy, want to come with me and get some more wine?” Pierce jumped to his feet, smiling at her. Even Brittany could tell that as odd as her father could be, he was trying to get Judy off of their hands.

“What a lovely idea, Pierce.”

Judy smiled gratefully at the idea of being able to leave this behind.She kissed the top of her daughter’s head as she passed her but otherwise said nothing to Santana or Brittany.

“Santana, you didn’t have to do that,” Quinn whispered once the door was shut.

"Yes I did!" Santana exploded the second the door shut. She shook her head, shaking off her mother's hand on her arm angrily, her legs already starting to jiggle up and down with her agitation. "She is such a fucking bitch to you, she just pretends she doesn't even hear a word we say! And all that shit about how you looked as a kid, and about Quinn and abstinence, and the way she wants to point at Quinn when she kicked her own daughter out of the house and she gets drunk all the time, like she's some kind of saint!"

"Mija. Breathe," Maribel reached for her arm again, pulling her back to her and rubbing her shoulder.

“I learned a long time ago not to let her get to me, Santana.” Quinn leaned against Brittany who was rubbing her back. “It’s not worth it. It is. She is going to go right on pretending we’re just roommates and it’s easier to let her. But she can’t face the fact I’m not the little girl she wanted me to be. Dad wanted a boy, that’s why they had me. And he didn’t get what he wanted.” She shrugged, using the back of her hand to rub at her eyes.

“I’m really glad they had you though,” Brittany shifted to lean against her a little more. “You are smart and funny and kind. You have a giant heart and you let Santana and me live there. You are amazing Lucy Quinn Fabray. No one gets to tell you anything else or they have to deal with Santana and me,” she muttered, kissing her shoulder softly.

Santana pulled away from her mother, kneeling in front of Quinn and taking her hands in hers. She held them fiercely, looking her directly in the eyes.

"Don't let anyone tell you that you're anything but fucking perfect. Even how damn bratty you can be is perfect, because it's you. We love you for exactly who you fucking are." She leaned in, kissing Quinn on both eyes, as Maribel watched, her expression soft.

"My little girl, quite the sweetheart...cursing or not," she said to herself more than anything.

Quinn felt a few tears slip from her eyes as she looked at Santana. She was amazed at the passion in her voice, the way she could call her a brat and have it sound like the greatest compliment ever.

“I love you, Santana. You are pretty fucking perfect too,” she managed to get out even if she was now fully crying. “And Brittany is fucking perfect,” she added, giving her a watery smile. She leaned against Brittany, feeling her arms around her as Santana held her hands.

“The two of you are the most perfect things in my life,” Brittany said softly, a hand on both of their backs. “I love you because you have flaws that fit against mine. Because you are the best people I know. Because when you hold me it feels better than a clean dance routine. I want to be with you both forever.”

Santana was biting her lip to keep from crying, but her eyes were obviously wet. She blinked, trying to smile at them both. Maribel, still watching, put her glass down, standing.

"I can't listen to that and not join this love fest."

She knelt behind Santana and wrapped her arms around mostly her daughter, but included Quinn and Brittany as well, her chin resting on Santana's shoulder. Sandwiched between her girlfriends and her mother, Santana let her head fall forward so her face rested against Quinn's shoulder, feeling secure then to shed a few tears, convinced no one will see.

“Does this mean we have your blessing, Maribel?’ Brittany asked softly. She wanted her father and Santana’s mother to be alright with this. “You can ask us questions. I’m sure you have them.”

“Even if Santana is going to lie about half of what you ask anyway,” Quinn muttered, holding on tightly to Santana, nuzzling her neck to try to keep herself from full out sobbing.

"Oh, I have them, but this I don't think this one can handle any more of my questions in the moment," Maribel chuckled, kissing the side of Santana's head tenderly. She kept her arms around the girl's, noting that her daughter was shaking a little bit from trying to hide the fact that she was crying with Quinn, but didn't comment on it. "All I have ever wanted is for my baby to be happy. If this makes her happy, then I am happy too."

"I think we make her happy," Brittany whispered as she moved her hand over Santana and Quinn's backs. "I hope we do because she and Quinn make me as happy as anything. I don't know what I would do if I didn't make them that happy."

"You make me that happy. And Santana too. Right Santana?" Quinn muttered, her tears still falling even if Brittany was doing everything right to get them to stop.

Santana nodded against her, her throat too choked to say it verbally. Sniffling, she tightened her arms around Brittany and Quinn, not even entirely sure anymore why she was crying, other than she knew Quinn was. Brittany lifted Quinn in her arms, holding her tightly the way she usually holds Santana when she carries her either to bed to sleep or to have sex. She knew Quinn didn't have the same love of it but she didn't care.

"I'm putting you two to bed to rest and relax, and then coming back to clean up."

Santana drew back enough to let Brittany take Quinn, and her mother adjusted her hold of her so now she was leaning back against her chest. Maribel kissed her head again, saying softly to her as Santana tried to get back in control, "Mija, I want you to know that whatever your choices in relationship are, I will always, always love you and be so proud of you. So very proud. I hope you realize that."

This of course did nothing for Santana to calm down. In fact, it just made her cry more openly, as much from relief as anything. Maribel rubbed her back, waiting for Brittany to return so she could pass her on.

"Don't ever be silly enough to worry about that, mija."

Brittany took her time undressing Quinn and getting her tucked. She pressed soft kisses to her face before she returned for Santana.

“Come on babe, “ she said softly as she moved to pick Santana up, strong enough to do so without much trouble. “We’re going to get you and Quinn all tucked in and then you’re going to nap while I help clean up.” She nuzzled Santana’s neck once she was finally in her arms. “And your mom and I are going to talk if I have any sense of what is going on in a Lopez woman’s head.”

Santana let herself be picked up almost like a kid who was tired out, wrapping her arms around Brittany's neck. She curled up to Quinn once she was resting beside her, nuzzling in close, and breathed out, closing her eyes.

After making sure Quinn and Santana were both sleeping soundly Brittany returned downstairs. She was glad to see her father had taken Judy home in her car. It was less than a mile away so she figured he’d walk back after driving her. She went into the kitchen to start cleaning up, smiling at Maribel when she saw her.

“They are both sleeping.”

Maribel was straightening up what mess was left for Pierce and gave Brittany a grateful smile when she started to help her.

"Long drive, I suppose." She was quiet for a few minutes before she said to her, "How in the world did you get my daughter to agree to share you?"

Brittany walked over to the island, taking a seat across from Maribel. "Rachel was living with us, well I was living with Santana and Rachel. And things were going pretty well, most of the time. Santana and she got into a huge fight and Rachel crossed the line. So I kicked Rachel out and took Santana to bed to just try to make her feel better. I texted Quinn because I wanted some back up and we had been hanging out together a lot, all three of us. Long story short as we were laying together Santana kissed Quinn and we ended up deciding three was better than two."

Maribel gave Brittany another little smile, reaching to pat her shoulder. "I know how much she loves you both, and how good you are to each other. That is what matters." She pauses, then said more seriously, "Is she all right, Brittany? Really all right? She has lost weight since I saw her last."

"She's been eating better since I came to her, and she’s been eating even better now that Quinn lives with us," Brittany said softly, her hand going up to find Maribel's. "Quinn and I make sure she eats, sort of tag team her, but she's getting better. She had over a full piece of pizza tonight without any goading from Quinn or me. And the other night she said she was hungry before Quinn started to make dinner. She is making us both really proud."

Maribel squeezed her hand, reaching to brush back a piece of Brittany's hair from her face. "I know you take care of her, but I worry for her. Santana, she is not one to ask for help. And you? How are you, Brittany?"

Brittany blushed a little, looking down and then back to Maribel. "I'm as happy as I ever have been. I'm in love with my two best friends and they love me back. I get to go to bed every night with my arms around Santana and my hand in Quinn's. I couldn't ask for anything more than that. Well an understanding world, but I can't control other people."

"No, you cannot," Maribel agreed, sighing. "I know you probably do not believe it, but I have no further questions for you, Brittany. Not really, at least, not any that you would probably not want to answer for Santana. All I want to know is that she is happy and she is safe, and that you are all taking care of each other."

"You can ask me whatever you want. I might not be able to answer but at least you'd be able to ask."

Maribel was quiet for another few moments, gathering her thoughts as she pulled back from Brittany. "Was she in danger? Santana? When you came to her?"

"Yeah," Brittany nodded slowly. "She was. And no one noticed because Quinn and I weren't there. But we are now. We are there and she has that support. She isn't alone anymore."

Maribel exhaled, her features clearly showing her concern and how disturbed she was to hear this. She shook her head, incredulous. "You are telling me that she was in danger and those roommates of hers said nothing? Or did they not realize? They both struck me as rather overly observant to the point of nosy the times that I have encountered them so I find this hard to believe."

“They don’t see her like we do. They don’t notice how thin she gets or how much she drinks when she’s trying to control her life,” Brittany muttered, looking down again. “They thought she was just being her usual closed off Santana. They didn’t take the time to really figure her out. They judged her and you can’t judge Santana if you want to help her.

Maribel shook her head again, sighing, but there was irritation in it this time. She didn't comment for a few moments. "Brittany. I support you girls, you know this, and if Santana is happy and loved, I am happy. But I must be honest, I do have concerns that she will not be able to maintain being happy over time. We both know Santana and how sensitive she is, how much others' judgment can hurt her. It will be very difficult to have your relationship in public. It will be hurtful often, how others respond, and I know she will be supported and loved by those of us who matter, but I cannot tell you that it does not concern me, how it may affect her. And as much as she loves you girls...I know my daughter and her difficulty sharing. Are you certain she is not jealous of the two of you, when you are not with her?"

Brittany understood where Santana's mother was coming from. Santana had a really difficult time coming out originally as gay because she was worried about for people would think. Being gay and with two other women at the same time wasn't easy path for her to walk without being constantly criticized. But on the other hand no matter how much Santana and Brittany loved each other and how special they were and always would be together, Quinn’s presence brought a certain level of stability that Brittany hadn't expected but was grateful for.

“Think she was at first. I think she was jealous because she thought that Quinn and I really wanted each other and we were only with her too because we thought we couldn't have it any other way. But I think she knows now that Quinn and I don't work without her. And she and I work pretty well on her own but with Quinn it's just more complete. It's hard to describe what it's like to love to people at the same time. Because I love them differently but I love them the same. Quinn and I both make sure that Santana doesn't feel excluded just like she and I make sure Quinn doesn't feel excluded. It's a balancing act and sometimes we go a little bit to left or a little bit to the right but most of the time we hit it in the center.”

Maribel nodded slowly, considering this. It was difficult for her to imagine working, but she accepted it. Still, she had concerns remaining.

"If she were to decide that she couldn't continue with it, for whatever reason...what happens then?"

"I don't know," Brittany said honestly. She tried not to think of a day where Santana asked out of what they had. "I don't know what happens but I know whatever happens we'll handle it like adults. We'll figure it out and we will stop being girlfriends but we will never stop being friends. We'll never stop supporting Santana. Even if it’s not us she wants or even me. Love means sometimes you get hurt. It’s something you risk when you sign up.”

Maribel wasn't sure she liked that response, but she supposed she couldn't really expect any other. She sighed again, running a hand through her hair.

"You will see one day, Brittany. You never stop worrying about your children. No matter how stubborn they might be or how rude to their mothers." She smirked slightly, and then a new idea hit her. "Do you want children? How would you raise children with three women? Will you all be pregnant at once? Will you choose a donor you know or a stranger? Will you never be married, because I was looking forward to my daughter in a beautiful dress walking down the aisle, and I have to say that will be just a little devastating if that won't happen, I must be honest."

“She loves you. More than anyone,” Brittany said sincerely. “Even if she doesn’t want to admit it. You’re always going to be the person she cares about most.” As the questions come Brittany had to figure out how to answer them. “I think there will be children, yes. Quinn wants to be able to be a mom and not just someone’s birth mother. And I have always wanted kids. Santana too I think even if she doesn’t always like to admit it. But I don’t think we’re crazy enough to try to all be pregnant together. That would be too many hormones in too little a space.” She chuckled at the image of all three of them pregnant and trying to guilt the others into getting them pickle ice cream at two am. “We’d go for someone we knew, for sure. Maybe my cousin Tommy, my mom is a twin and her sister has a son, for Quinn and Santana’s baby so they are related to me. That could be really cool. I don’t have to carry, I just want to be a mom.” She thought now about weddings and marriage and all things she dreamed of. “We can’t all legally marry each other. But two of us can and we can have a commitment service for the three of us. It’s not perfect but Santana has dreamed of her wedding so I’d never deny her that.”

Maribel's expression softened as Brittany told her how much Santana loves her. She knows she does, but as seldom as Santana says it, it's nice to hear. Thinking of her pregnant, of her marrying, even if imperfectly, made her smile. But the questions weren't over.

"It seems like it will be complicated in public. What about when you all go out together? You must take up the whole sidewalk, all three holding hands!"

Brittany chuckled as she thought of them being out together. "We usually stay in our own little bubble. I guess people see the three of us and don't really think queer ladies in a relationship, they think we're just college friends or something. Usually Santana holds Quinn’s or my hand and the other decides if they want to take a hand or not. Depends on where we are or what we're doing. We try not to do too much PDA anyway but we also try not to be totally without affection."

"How would you all dance together?" was Maribel's next question. "You can't all get on a Ferris wheel together. Who sits in the backseat when you drive somewhere?"

"We go out and dance sometimes together. Usually we form a little triangle or one of us is in the middle. And slow dancing takes a little work but we wrap out arms around each other and pull the other to close."

She thought of the other questions and how to answer them. She smiled a little as she thought of her reply.

"We just know. Usually at least. When we drive somewhere one will take the keys, one goes around to the front and one of us gets in the back. As long as we're together it doesn't really matter who sits where, right? And I don't like Ferris Wheels so I'd let Quinn and Santana go and stay on the ground."

"What would happen if two of you were fighting?" was her next question. "How does the third person deal with that? Who's the one who has to sleep on the couch?"

"Depends on what they are fighting about. And usually if there is a fight it's between Santana and Quinn. They are much more likely to take the bait with each other than I am. We have an agreement about the couch. No using it just because we're angry. The person that isn't in the fight sleeps in the middle and the other two call a truce during the night so we can get some sleep. And then in the morning we talk about it as a group. Usually that means I tell them they are both wrong and how it will be."

"Well what is the couch for then?" Maribel was curious over this too, tilting her head. "How would you arrange things if one of you is sick?"

"The couch is like a break. If one of us needs a break from the other two we can sleep there for a night and get away. Like a mini vacation." Brittany had used it twice since they became what they were. Once because she had cramps and Santana kept trying to lay on top of her and once because she wasn't in the mood for sex and Quinn and Santana were. "Quinn makes an awesome nurse, Santana too. And I do what I can. We take care of each other."

Maribel doubted Santana was ever going to use the couch, what with her discomfort of being left out. She didn't say this though.

"How is money going to work? And jobs? Do you all work similar time periods?"

"Santana and I joined our accounts before Quinn was a part of our relationship. Mostly because Santana is really not great with money and budgets and I helped her get out of debt so it was easier. Quinn closed her accounts and was added to ours about three weeks ago. We each have a separate account we put $200 in a month that we can do whatever we want with. Then we have an account that all our pay goes into and that all our bills are paid out of. We all agree to talk to the others before using anything over $100 out of the main account. Quinn has a trust fund too but she doesn't get that until she's 25. I usually handle the money and bills and stuff because I am the best at math."

Maribel shook her head again, but this time it's with admiration. "You girls really have thought this through, haven't you?"

"We had to," Brittany nodded. "Money and bills were the first time we took care of. And then we figured out the rest. Sometimes it's not perfect and sometimes we fight. One night we had a fight and I still don't think we were all fighting about the same thing. But we love each other. And we need each other. And when we cuddle up together I feel like I must have done something really right in my life to have them both love me back."

"That's something you girls are good at, showing each other love. It's unfortunate others can't follow your example." Maribel was thinking of Judy, and now her concerns turned to Quinn. "Quinn, is she all right? Her mother is...difficult."

"She has good days and bad days when it comes to her family. But I think her and Santana sort of get the family stuff in a way that I don't. I had it easy and I know that. So I let Santana and Quinn lean on each other for that and I support them as best I can."

Maribel sighed, her eyes slightly cloudy as she wipes off the counter. "Her father will not understand, but then, he never did mention much about her in general. And her abuela...Brittany, she isn't trying to contact her, is she? I would not think so."

"No. She's not. It wouldn't be good for her to face that again. I don't want people in her life that don't accept how awesome she is." Brittany fidgeted a little bit as the thought of Maribel's mother. "I know Santana and Quinn's families are both Catholic and this isn't going to be easy for them. But your bible says love is most important, right? We're just trying to do that."

Maribel herself was Catholic, but her brand of Catholicism has always been heavily weighted by her own personal thoughts and views. "Love is love, whatever the form of it. It is what we were made to do."

"That's what I think too." Brittany smiled softly. "I love them. They love me. They love each other. It's sort of painful how normal we are. We've always been a trio since freshman year so I think it makes it easier. We're best friends not just girlfriends.

"Normal might be stretching it a bit far," Maribel teased. "I don't think normal girls threaten homicide if someone touches their filthy old bear." She laughed, giving Brittany a smile. "Normal is boring, I will take you three kooks."

Brittany smiled shyly. “Quinn and I managed to get her to have it cleaned. Ok so maybe we took it to be cleaned and didn’t tell her. But it was cleaned and she didn’t have a panic attack so we called it a win.”

She turned her head, smiling, when she heard Santana and Quinn come down the stairs. “Hey babes.”

Santana had no smiles. Smiles were requiring more energy than she currently had. She had not wanted to get up, but Quinn had nudged her up with her, and she now leaned as much of her weight on Quinn as she would tolerate from her, eyes barely open as they made their way forward. Maribel smirked, recognizing this look all too well, as Santana detached almost painfully from Quinn and shuffled forward to Brittany.

"You are painfully cute when you are tired."
Brittany moved a bit on the stool to get herself more balanced. She let Santana move to her lap, wrapping her arms around her tightly. Nuzzling her neck, she placed a soft kiss to her skin. She smiled when she felt Quinn wrap an arm around her waist.

"How are you feeling honey?" she asked, leaning up to give her a soft kiss.

Santana pressed her nose into Brittany's neck, breathing her in. She tried to burrow against her chest, mumbling into her.

"Quinn made me get up. She doesn't love me anymore."

Maribel laughed aloud at this, shaking her head. "Mija, if I had really stopped loving you every time I woke you up in the morning, you would be the most unloved child in all the world."

Quinn rolled her eyes at Santana but leaned in and kissed her cheek. "You are fine, Santana. Besides you were muttering in your sleep and it was keeping me up." She ran her hand down Santana's spine, just to tease her.

"Was not." Santana shivered when she ran her hand down her spine, mumbling still sleepily, but with some pleasure, into Brittany's neck. "

"Was she always such a grump when she is sleepy?" Quinn asked Santana's mom.

"Oh, yes," Maribel said emphatically, nodding and laughing. "As a baby I could hardly get her to sleep, she was so sure she was going to miss something, but heaven forbid anyone make noise to wake her up before she was ready. She would howl like someone was scalding her. And as a child, I always knew if she did not get her nap with her abuela, because she would start crying if the cheese slid off her pizza and throw a tantrum if she was handed a red towel instead of a blue one."

She laughed again as Santana growled into Brittany's neck. "Did not!"

“That sounds like Santana.” Quinn rubbed her back lightly as she stood cuddled against Brittany. “We worked a double last week and when she got home she cried for an hour because a balloon attached to a vender’s cart floated away. It would have been really cute if we weren’t trying to calm her down.”

Brittany snorted, remembering coming home to Quinn trying to get Santana to calm down. Finally they just took her to bed and made her forget.

“Thankfully Quinn and I are much more composed.”

"It was sad!" Santana lifted her face up enough to turn it towards Quinn and her mother. "It was sad...a little panda and no one will ever get it now...it won't make anyone smile, it will just float away until it bursts and then people will step on it, or some sea gull will eat it, or..."

She stopped, starting to get teary all over again thinking about it, though not outright crying yet.

"I think that's our sign to take her back to bed," Brittany said, looking over at Quinn. "It was really nice to see you again, Mrs. Lopez."

Brittany smiled as she stood up, holding Santana up like she didn't weigh anything at all. She had gotten more than a little use to having to carry her anyway.

"It was sad," Santana mumbled, but she was quieting down when Brittany picked her up, adjusting again with her arms around her neck.

Maribel smiled at her, bidding her and Brittany good night, and then turned to Quinn, laying a hand on her cheek.

"I hope that you are truly happy, carina. And if you ever need to borrow a mother, Santana needs practice sharing. I know yours is a bit...limited...in how she can respond, but she loves you."

Quinn looked down before back up. "They make me feel loved. For me and not because I'm doing what they want. They make me so happy." She felt her cheeks flush a little bit. "You raised an amazing daughter. And sometimes having someone to talk to who doesn't avoid things might be nice." She leaned over and hugged Maribel tightly. "Thank you."

"I'm glad," Maribel said sincerely, hugging her back. "Feel free to call me. Even if it's just to complain about my daughter." She laughed, teasing at this part.

Quinn blushed a little more at the thought of calling one Lopez to complain about the other. "Only if Brittany isn't there. She is pretty good at helping me understand Santana."

"She's very understanding of everyone important to her, Brittany," Maribel agrees. "You girls are all keepers."

And again, Quinn had to agree. Pulling back from the grasp of one mother, she could almost forget the lacking of her own.