Santana's not like, stupid or anything.
Even though she hates everyone, she can still, you know, read social cues. She knows when someone's irritable – hell, she makes a living off pushing people's buttons – and she knows when it's the best time to ask her parents for money. She's got really awesome gaydar, and she can basically predict someone's level of horniness just by looking at them. She even rates them on a scale from one to ten and everything.
But this… this stumps her. Drives her completely nuts, because if there's one thing Santana prides herself on, it's being able to just know everything that goes through everyone else's heads. People are totally obvious all of the time, and it's just always been easy to pick up on body language and facial expressions and use all that to her advantage. She's like a psychic, except less hippie and way hotter and actually, you know, accurate.
She's people smart, okay? She knows enough about people to know that she wants nothing to do with them except to toss insults at and occasionally fool around with. Relationships usually just happen to be convenient or useful.
But Brittany just has this way of super hardcore jumbling all that up.
It starts because Santana walks in on Brittany taking a bath.
She doesn't do it to perv on her or anything, even though it's been painfully long since she last saw Brittany's boobs and she could really use a memory refresher. Brittany just invites her to sleep over, and when Santana gets there, Brittany, hair pulled up in a high ponytail, is leaning back in her bathtub, a film of bubbles surrounding her naked body. And Santana basically bolts out of the bathroom, which, frankly, is the last thing she wants to do, but it's either that or fall flat on her face and die, so yeah, she turns around and runs out.
The sound of Brittany's laughter drifts through the open doorway. "Santana, come back."
Santana peers around the doorjamb, and then there's the sound of water sloshing around as Brittany sits up straighter and fuck, tits. Santana gravitates toward them, and it's honestly pathetic, because before she knows it, she's kneeling next to the tub and the bathroom door is closed behind her and her hand is basically skirting the edge of the water, fingertips on boob patrol.
"Get undressed," Brittany tells her. "There's room for two."
Santana lowers her eyes, forcing her hand to stay glued to the acrylic wall of the tub. "Aren't we supposed to take this slow and stuff?"
Brittany smiles. "Yeah, that's why I'm not going to have sex with you after."
Santana laughs a little and nods. She stands up and strips down, flushing when Brittany's eyes roam the length of her body. Santana knows she's hot and everything, but there's something in the way Brittany looks at her sometimes that makes her nervous and just so conscious of her existence, and the other girl's proximity. It'd be unnerving if it doesn't also make her heart grow about five sizes.
Santana dips one foot into the water, then the other, and slowly sinks down, her back to Brittany as she takes a seat in front of her. Long arms wrap around her torso, pulling her closer, and she leans back, feeling warm skin brushing her shoulder blades as she presses against Brittany's chest. It's really nice, actually, but totally frustrating, too, because Santana's pretty sure those are Brittany's nipples just like there against her back, and god.
Brittany kisses her shoulder, the base of her neck. "Relax."
Santana lets out a breath. "Sorry."
"Why?" Brittany murmurs. "Don't be sorry. We promised, remember? No more apologies."
Santana shuts her eyes, squeezing back unexpected tears. "Yeah, I remember."
Santana leans back until most of her chest is underwater and her head is resting against Brittany's shoulder. It's so damn comfortable, and they both prune a little bit before the water gets too cold for them to stay in. Brittany drips all over the tile floors when she steps out, but then she pulls Santana close and wraps them up in one towel, her eyelashes fluttering as she smiles lazily at Santana.
Santana's heart does this funny little flip in her chest, and she can't help herself. She leans forward and lightly pecks Brittany on the lips. Brittany's smile widens.
Once dressed and hair loosely blow-dried, the two of them curl up together on the couch in their pajamas and marathon Sweet Valley High until Santana falls asleep, an arm slung over Brittany's torso, her fingers laced through Brittany's.
It's not really just the bath, but it does get Santana thinking. Late at night, alone under her own covers, her mind races. Because yeah, she's come a long way to like, accept that she totally has lady gay feelings for her best friend, but it doesn't mean that she knows exactly what's going on between them.
It's just always been so straightforward with Brittany. They make each other feel good with orgasms, and Brittany is a super good kisser, so everything just worked out. Sex is not dating, and back then, neither of them wanted it to be.
These days, Santana's definitely having no sex with Brittany or anyone else, but that doesn't exactly mean she's dating the entire world. God, that would be awful.
Still, since mid-summer, the two of them have fallen into a sort of pattern that involves spending time together cuddling and trying not to inappropriately grope one another, which honestly is fucking difficult. Brittany kisses her sometimes, and Santana eagerly kisses back, but they always stop before it gets too far. There are boundaries now, and Santana respects that.
But then they're at the movies, and Brittany will hold Santana's hand and lean her head on Santana's shoulder. Or they're in Santana's basement, curled up together on the Lopez pool table, pillows fluffed under their heads and blankets rolled over their torsos. It's falling asleep with their foreheads touching and waking up to Brittany's hand tucked under Santana's shirt. It's a sheepish smile and a teasing you want me whispered against soft blond hair. It's a giggle and a sincere yeah, I do that makes Santana feel like she's about to upchuck her own heart sometimes.
It's everything that Santana doesn't know how to categorize, because Brittany has always been affectionate, and Brittany has always been sexual, but this Brittany—the one who encourages Santana to be open with her feelings—this Brittany has a way of making Santana wonder if maybe they aren't really on a break.
Because like, isn't that what they agreed on? That they wouldn't slip back into unhealthy habits, that they'd be friends first and lovers second, that anything's possible really meant Santana had to come out of the closet and wholly embrace her gay and stuff before 'anything' could happen. Right?
Santana knows her way around a mind-blowing orgasm, but her experience with actual dating is kind of crappy. She's never really wanted to date anyone before Brittany, so she'd spent her time perfecting the art of seduction instead. Don't get it wrong; that totally works in her favor like, all of the time, but now she kind of wishes this relationship stuff was easier to figure out.
Like, not that this happens to Santana ever, but take one look at someone face and it's totally obvious when they're faking it in bed. So then why isn't there a sign that basically translates to 'yes we are dating'?
Santana just doesn't want to mess it up. That's all.
But fate can be pretty cruel, and almost as though on cue, her phone buzzes on her nightstand, jarring her from her thoughts. It's a text from Brittany that just reads: sweet dreams <3
Santana itches with affection, and it's totally embarrassing, but she reaches up and swipes her hand over her eyes. She stares at the cursor on the reply screen for nearly five minutes before tapping out goodnight, b. and hitting send.
"How do you know when you're dating someone?"
Shit. Santana totally hadn't meant to say that out loud. She looks up and finds Mike and Quinn staring at her from the other side of the picnic table. They're supposed to be studying for a huge math test or something, which obviously isn't happening, judging by the fact that Mike and Quinn had both been hovering over some sort of handheld gaming system before Santana had blurted out her question.
Mike laughs. "Uh."
"Is this about Brittany?" Quinn asks.
"No. Yes. Maybe." Santana winces. "It's just—is there a way to be sure?"
Mike shoots her a look hinting obviousness. "Santana, let's be honest. You've been dating that girl since you were five."
"Mike," Santana says quietly. "I'm serious."
"Oh god," Quinn cuts in, "you really don't know."
"Fucking duh." Santana flushes, heat shooting up her neck. "Why the hell else would I be asking you clowns?"
Mike and Quinn exchange this look that makes Santana want to punch them both in the face.
Quinn bites her lip. "Okay, well, let's see. How often do you hang out, just the two of you?"
Santana shrugs. "Couple days a week after school. And we'll usually make time for each other on weekends unless she has motocross practice. Sometimes I go to those, too."
"Are you… intimate?" Mike asks.
Santana flushes, images of their bath flashing in her mind. "That's none of your goddamn business."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "That's a yes. Mark that down as a yes."
"We're not having sex," Santana clarifies. "Of any kind," she adds quickly.
"So if we're talking bases…"
Santana shrugs. "One and a half, I guess."
Mike laughs. "How exactly do you do half a base?"
"Bases round up," Quinn whispers to Mike. "She's at second."
At that, Santana leaps out of her seat. "God, why does everyone think I'm touching her boobs?!" she cries, ignoring the judgment of onlookers. "I'm not touching her fucking boobs!"
Quinn clears her throat. "Are you finished?"
Santana slumps back down. "I'm just saying. It's just not fair to put me at second base when there aren't any tits in my hands."
"So I'm pretty sure you're dating," Mike says slowly. "Boobs or no boobs."
"Yeah, you're definitely dating," Quinn adds.
Santana scrunches up her face. "But this is actually less time than I spent with her freshman year. Ugh, why isn't there just like, a handbook for this shit?"
Quinn draws an exaggerated sigh. "Because your relationship totally fits every textbook example."
"Just ask her," Mike suggests.
"I can't ask her if we're dating; that's pathetic."
"You not knowing right now is what's pathetic," Quinn fires back.
Santana shifts uncomfortably on her seat. "What if she tells me that we're just friends?"
Mike smiles sympathetically. "She won't."
"You don't know that! I was so damn positive she was going to ditch that four-eyed loser when I poured my fucking heart out to her, and she didn't. I'm not doing that again."
"Wait, what?" Mike and Quinn ask in unison.
Santana stares down at the picnic table. "Nothing," she mutters.
Quinn leans closer. "Do you want me to ask her? Because I'd be more than happy to. Hey Brittany, your girlfriend wants to know if you're dating."
"Shut the fuck up," Santana grumbles, rolling her eyes. "God, keep your surgically-altered nose out of my life."
Quinn smirks. "Then do it yourself, you wimp."
To be fair, there's actually another reason why Santana isn't sure. Everything's just so… casual. Like, aren't you supposed to dress up for dates? It's kind of hard to tell because everyone she'd quote-unquote dated in the past, well, they didn't exactly fit the typical relationship mold. Dating Puck involved giving him hand jobs under the table while his mom said grace. Dating Sam involved listening to him ramble about geeky crap that she just did not give a shit about. And Karofsky, well…
Anyway, isn't it supposed to feel like a date? But instead, it basically feels exactly the same as every other moment she spends with Brittany: like she's butt in love with her and doesn't know what to do about it.
So she musters up all of her courage. A split-second before the words spill from her lips, she realizes that she really should've hoarded a bit of that courage for later, but then it's too late and—
"Are we dating… or what?"
And yeah, she should've known, but it's still a huge weight off her shoulders when Brittany responds. Santana has to fight to urge to sweep everything off the table and take Brittany right there – it's been a really fucking long time, okay? But then Brittany's hand is soft and warm in Santana's, which isn't really any different from every other time, except it kind of is.
Santana pays for dinner, and she drives them home to Brittany's. As soon as they're done changing and washing up, Brittany pulls her to bed and curls up next to her, like they've done a million times before.
Brittany presses a kiss to Santana's throat. "I love you."
Santana smiles, pulling Brittany closer. "Yeah, me too."
Brittany walks her fingertips up the length of Santana's arm. "Hey, Santana?"
"Mm?" Santana mumbles, shutting her eyes against Brittany's touch.
"Will you go out with me?" Brittany asks sweetly.
Santana blindly dusts a kiss to Brittany's temple, her chest tightening. "Britt, you don't have to—"
"Go out with me," Brittany cuts in with a soft laugh. "Please?"
If Santana's cheeks could get any hotter, she'd probably volunteer them to needy children in Alaska as hand-warmers. Like, seriously. It's embarrassing.
"Okay," Santana breathes out, her eyes fluttering open to find Brittany smiling brightly at her. "But will you—" Santana lightly touches the tip of her finger to Brittany's nose. "—will you be my girlfriend?"
Brittany leans closer, tilting her head until her lips are pressed against Santana's. "Yes," she mumbles against Santana's mouth.
Santana smiles into the kiss. Yeah, there are going to be steps along the way where Santana totally has to ask the awkward questions and just put herself out there – learning process and everything, right? – but for all the other times when she's with Brittany, when she's sure and secure and unconditionally loved, it's worth the small bumps and bruises to the ego.
All that other stuff – relationships, dating, commitment – she'll learn, and she can't think of another person she'd rather learn it with.