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The first person to break Santana's heart is Ryan Kincaid. Mostly because he's the first guy to ever dump her, and because he doesn't just dump her, but dumps her in the hallway of her new high school for everyone to see, with his arm around that blonde D-cup ditz Layla Thompson.

Santana manages to string together a pretty scathing insult about Layla's dye job and Ryan's cheese breath before she turns away and walks home briskly, skipping out on home ec and math. She doesn't make it all the way there before she's bawling, though. The humiliation is unbearable. It's the beginning of freshman year and she can't afford for these kind of things to happen.

Brittany is only ten minutes away. She comes straight over when Santana texts her.

“But you didn't even like Ryan,” she says helplessly. Her arms are looped loosely around Santana where she's sitting on her bed, crying uncontrollably.

“Oh my God, Brittany, that is so not the point,” Santana says, sobbing. Ryan was part of a bigger plan which involved getting on the Cheerios, befriending top dog Quinn Fabray, and - ”Ryan's a linebacker,” Santana wails. Her voice breaks on that last word. She's had to sit through twelve embarrassing games of football failure with the rest of the jock girlfriends. It was great for her nails, but hell on her sanity. All of that hard work for nothing. The mere thought of it sends her into another fit of hysterical sobs.

Beside her, Brittany sniffles, too, tears welling up in her eyes.

“Brittany, stop crying.”

“I can't help it. You crying is making me cry.” Britt blinks, and a couple of tears roll down her cheeks. She pulls Santana in until their foreheads are resting against each other.

And then Brittany kisses her.

Santana kind of blanks out for a moment. She doesn't even register the press of Brittany's lips as much as the small hot puff of air she lets out as she draws back a little. The sob fighting its way out of her chest dies a swift and sudden death. She totally loses her momentum.

“What did you do that for?” She's going for outraged but it comes out shaky and surprised instead.

Brittany opens her mouth. She hesitates, looking uncertain. “I don't know. But it made you stop.”

That is true. Santana feels hot and flushed from all the sobbing, and her breath is still trembling a little, but she isn't crying anymore. Britt moves her arms from her shoulders to fold around the back of her neck.

And then Santana's brother barges in. “Hey, Tana, where's the --”

Tino stops in the doorway. He's wearing his stupid baggy pants pulled down on his hips and his stupid wannabe gangster bandana, and his mouth is hanging wide open.

“Get out!” Santana shouts, reflexively throwing the nearest thing, which turns out to be her cell phone. Tino manages to dodge it, but he gets the message and retreats quickly. They hear a muffled “Jesus Christ!” on the other side of the swiftly closing door.

Thankfully he didn't walk in in time to see anything truly criminal, but Santana's still feeling rattled, and she knows she must be looking like a goddamn emo kid with her mascara running down her cheeks. She can't really get back in the crying groove after that, and she's not going to address the random lezzie kissing, either. She's pretty exhausted from the drama, though, and she ends up dozing off with Brittany lying next to her and rubbing her back.

When she wakes up, Britt's fallen asleep beside her. Santana spends a long time just looking at her: the shine on her lips that tasted like root beer, the tiny movements underneath her faintly glittery eyelids as she dreams.

Brittany's been her best friend since fifth grade dance classes with Miss Shean. Since before Santana's dad finished his medical board exams, when they were still living in a bungalow in Lima Heights. She's wearing a shade of eyeshadow that Santana lifted for her personally at Walgreen’s two weeks ago.

Santana suddenly can't bring herself to really give a shit about Ryan Kincaid. There are plenty of other players on the football team, and she's too hot to be hanging with a guy who smells like Cheez Wiz, anyway.

Friends are more important.

--

Ryan is dirt under her shoe by the time she makes the Cheerios - no football boyfriend needed, thank you very much. Both she and Brittany get on the squad, and for months leading up to their first regional competition, she boots Brittany out of bed at seven in the morning to take her running. In return, Brittany kicks her ass practicing dance moves in the afternoons. They go on the Master Cleanse Diet for the last couple of weeks to lose the four pounds that - according to Coach Sylvester - is preventing them from gaining height in their toe touch basket tosses.

The evening after they win regionals, they have a big binge.

“I'm gonna barf.” Brittany lets herself fall back into a pile of the empty candy wrappers that are strewn all around them on Brittany's comforter.

“Don't puke,” Santana admonishes. She shakes out the last two Mike & Ike's, then aims the empty box at the trash can on the other side of the room and makes the shot, nice and easy. She regards the candies in her palm for a moment before popping them in her mouth. When she turns back around, Brittany is stretching out next to her, one hand over her head and resting on the pillows. She's wearing the Cheerios uniform and Santana finds herself kind of fixated on the way her skin is visibly paler underneath her arm in the sleeveless top. She thinks she can see the barest hint of blonde stubble dusting the pale skin.

“How often do you shave?” she asks around the jelly beans, a little curious. She's been shaving since she was twelve - it's the downside of being Latina, she guesses. She knows that Brittany didn't need to do her legs til she was fourteen.

Brittany thinks about it for a moment. “Uh.” She's squinting down across her chest without moving. “Maybe twice a week?”

Her top is pulled a little crooked, revealing the line of her cotton sports bra. Santana swallows. On an impulse she reaches out and runs a finger over the soft skin, down to her side where the curve of her breast begins. It feels way more intimate than she had intended it to.

Brittany squirms a little on the bed. “Ugh, gross,” she says quietly, but she doesn't look like she thinks that it's all that disgusting. She doesn't pull away when Santana reaches out again.

“Don’t tickle me,” she says, which of course means that Santana has to.

Brittany laughs and wriggles a little underneath her fingers, but she still doesn't move away. “Santana, don't, I can't move.” Her cheeks are a red. There's a blush spreading up her neck, and Sanatana can feel the atmosphere changing.

“Don't,” Britt repeats. Her voice is low, but her eyes are shining, pupils dark and wide. Santana moves closer to blow a stream of air across her skin, instead. She can see goosepimples forming on Britt's arms.

“Santana...”

Santana leans forward some more, and places a kiss in the pale area beneath Britt's arm. Brittany's skin is soft and warm and just a tiny bit scratchy beneath her lips. She smells like soap and very faintly like sweat. When Santana pushes herself back up, Brittany is wide-eyed and staring. Santana has the urge to lick her own lips, but she doesn't.

“You're weird,” Brittany whispers. But after a second she sinks a little deeper down on the mattress, lifting both her arms to rest above her head. “Do it again.” And she makes this shivery sigh when Santana complies.

It takes Santana about thirty seconds to realize what she is doing and how ridiculous it is, and then she pulls back. She doesn't want eye contact, so she lies down next to Britt, staring up at the ceiling.

Brittany stretches a little. “Is armpit kissing like making out?” she asks philosophically.

“No.”

“Hm. I still think I'm gonna make Casey kiss my armpits. It feels really good.”

Casey is Brittany's current boyfriend. Santana can feel a bag of caramels digging into the small of her back. She's a little freaked out. And a little horny. Apparently she has an armpit kink she didn't know about.

There's a poster of Justin Timberlake tacked onto the ceiling above the bed. He's lying on his back, exposing a strip of stomach to the camera. His lips are parted and even from where she's lying, Santana can tell that he's wearing a buttload of lipgloss. She hadn't really thought about how gay that looks, before.

Next to her, Britt is humming, low and happy. Santana pushes herself back up on one elbow to look down at her. Brittany's lips are parted and the tip of her tongue is bright red from all the Twizzlers. Santana wraps her palm around her shoulder, pulling her in.

Britt's mouth tastes like sweetener and sour cherry. Santana stops when Brittany's tongue flicks out to meet hers. She breaks away. For a moment things are tight, and weird and intense. She just freaking kissed her best friend, and Brittany is quiet, regarding her like she's expecting some kind of answer.

“Cherries,” Santana says finally, like that's any kind of excuse. Like, pardon me, I just wanted to check out what your mouth tastes like.

It's a good thing that Santana can't say anything stupid in Britt's book, because Britt just goes with it.

“Oh... You taste like my armpits,” she says, smiling softly. “In a good way!” She rushes when Santana pulls a face.

“Yeah, whatever. I'm gonna go.” Santana pushes off the bed, ignoring Brittany's protests. Her heart is pounding.

When she gets home, fucking Tino is in her room, playing Halo on her new TV. “I thought you were having a sleep-over with Brittany,” he says, and then lets out a horrified yell when she pulls the plug on the X-Box without even saying a word.

The whole thing goes on the list of topics that Santana explicitly forbids Britt to ever mention, along with cat diseases and musings on her parents' sex life.

--

They spend most of summer break plotting how Santana can get with Mason Reed. It's important. Mason is the last good looking guy on the football team that neither of them have hooked up with. Also, on the last day of school, Santana overheard Layla Thompson in the girl's bathroom saying she had the hots for him, and it's never too late for a serving of sweet revenge.

“I want to make her cry.” Santana slides on her sunglasses. They're tanning in Brittany's back yard, lying on their stomachs with their bikini tops undone to avoid tan lines.

“Yeah,” Brittany says absently.

“Like a little girl.”

“We could just make out in front of him,” Brittany suggests, shielding her eyes against the sun to look at her.

“Shut up,” Santana says dismissively, but she can feel her pulse picking up a little. She turns a page in the Vogue spread out in front of her.

“Why?” Britt sounds confused - maybe a little embarrassed. “It totally works. I made out with Lacey so she could get with Zach Krauss... Besides... I really liked kissing you, that time. I wouldn't mind.”

Santana looks over quickly, but Brittany's focusing firmly on pulling tiny tufts of grass out of the Pierces' neglected lawn.

That is just. That is so fucking sweet that it makes Santana want to hug her, or something sappy like that. Instead she reaches over to stroke down the line of Brittany's tanned back. Brittany curls into the movement a little, but she doesn't say anything. Santana shifts to do it again, but then she catches herself and stops. The living room of Britt's house have windows facing out into the garden, and she doesn't know if they're home alone.

She pushes the magazine aside and lets her head rest on the back of her hands. The grass is wilted and dry, but it still smells like summer.

Brittany puts her head on her arm and returns Santana's gaze. “Guys totally get off on hot girls making out,” she says a little insistently, like that's Santana's problem with the suggestion.

Santana ignores her. “You really made out with Lacey North?”

Brittany grimaces, deflected. “Yeah, she's a helicopter kisser.”

“Gross. Poor Zach.”

Brittany brings her naked shoulder up to her chin. “I don't know. He's a sloppy kisser, too.”

Santana snorts, amused.

They end up trying it anyway - once Santana's plan falls through - and Brittany's right: it works. It totally works. Mason Reed turns out to be a major dud, but Layla empties her lunch tray over him when she finds out, and anyway all of that is kind of forgotten in the discovery of this amazing new weapon.

They make out in front of Mason, then Luke Summers (who Brittany wants to bag), then two guys they meet at at the mall who agree to buy them alcohol, and then Puck, just to rile him up. Once, they end up having a pretty sweet make-out session lying on the grass down in Hoover Park after they've smoked pot with some of Santana's old friends from Lima Heights. She can't really remember what they did it for that time.

--

Santana loses her virginity in the first month of sophomore year, which is way later than she lets most people believe. She ends up playing the virgin card with Jason Wall, who is honored and respectful and gentle (and, most importantly, too much of a stand-up guy to kiss and tell). She sticks with him just long enough to figure out the basics and then she replaces him with Puck, which is mildly more entertaining.

Brittany lost her virginity a lot earlier.

The thing is: Brittany never went through an awkward phase. She just woke up one morning with legs and ass and amazing boobs, perfectly at home in her body. Santana knows - logically - that there must have been a transition period from Fifth Grade Brittany to the Brittany of Today, but she can't recall it. She can't remember Britt going through growth spurts or weirdly placed puppy fat or even pimples. It's like she was always like she is now: tall and toned, self-assured, and curvy in all the right places. It's a mystery.

Santana gets some helpful pointers on the sex front from her. Brittany has failed multiple oral presentations across a variety of subjects, but when she talks about what she's done with boys, she has a lot of words for what she's done and what she likes and what she still wants to try out. It drives Santana a little bit crazy every time they talk about it.

“Hey, you're using protection, right?” she asks at one point. She feels like she has to. Last time she checked, Britt thought ovaries were a cereal brand.

Brittany looks at her blankly until she specifies: “You know, contraceptives? Birth control?”

“Oh, sure, my mom buys me NuvaRings and condoms.”

Santana swears that Britt's parents are, like, closet hippies, or Europeans, or something. This is the same mother who encouraged Britt to pursue her interest in motocross and welding, because “No one should dictate to you girls what it means to be female,” apparently.

Secretly, Santana's actually pretty impressed with Britt's take on the sex thing; the way she doesn't buy into all of that virginal high school girly crap at all, and just goes for what she wants without any shame or guilt.

Santana slaps Arizona in the locker room when she overhears her calling Brittany a slut. Britt's no more of a slut than Ryan Kincaid, who has hooked up with ten out of seventeen Cheerios. She's just horny, and hot, and a little kinky. Nothing wrong with that. Santana's pretty hot and kinky, too. She's still working on the 'horny' part. Just, most high school guys suck. And not in the good way.

One evening she and Britt download a Mexican movie called Y Tú Mama También. Brittany had heard that it had full frontal nudity. They don't bother to download the subtitles. Santana translates the important bits, and they skip over all the boring stuff with the voice-overs.

What is left is pretty much a soft porn movie, with boykissing. Brittany loves boykissing.

When the film is finished they’re lying shoulder to shoulder underneath the duvet in Britt's bed with the laptop in front of them. The air mattress that Britt's mom has laid out for Santana is abandoned on the floor. Britt skips back to the 1:27 mark and they watch the threesome scene again. Brittany closes the player before the movie moves on to the boring part with the cancer and the guilt and – oh, yes – more voice-overs. She pushes her bangs back. “Are you turned on right now?”

Santana'd been paying more attention to Brittany's light, fast breaths than the actual blow-jobs and boykisses. She presses her hips down against the mattress. “Yes.”

“Me, too.”

Brittany's only a couple of inches away, and underneath the covers it's warm, and it smells like her. Santana hesitates for a moment. Then she slides under.

“Santana?”

“I'm just gonna...”

Brittany's skin is blazing hot and very soft, and trembling a little underneath her hands. Her pulse is pounding so hard that Santana can feel it when she smooths her palm across the muscles of her belly. She lets her fingers slide upwards, stopping for a second before sliding them under the bunched up t-shirt and the underwire of Britt's bra, until her hands are curved around her breasts, her thumbs grazing the pebbled skin of her nipples.

Brittany takes a deep, stuttering breath beneath her hands. She moans when Santana places her mouth on the slight dip in the hard muscle just below her ribcage. The noise is muffled by the duvet, but she can still feel the vibration in her chest. Santana had no idea it would be like this. Her own breath is noisy in her ears in the warm, enclosing darkness. She's startled by how much she wants it, the deep ache low in her stomach.

It kind of makes her lose her nerve, and it's not like she started out with a game plan in the first place.

Brittany protests when Santana draws away, sitting up in the bed and redoing her ponytail. “Why did you stop?”

“We're not doing this.”

“Why?” Britt asks plaintively.

“We're just not.” Santana slides off the bed and onto the mattress. “Goodnight.” She curls up around herself. It's going to take her a while to fall asleep. She stares into the dark space beneath Brittany's bed, trying to think of homework, cheerleading stunts, infiltrating Glee Club via Pants-for-Brains Hudson.

She can hear the rustling of linen as Brittany moves above her. It's a huge sound in the silence when Brittany finally whispers goodnight.

Still, when Brittany suggests they watch a movie called Wild Things a few days later, Santana agrees. Within a couple of weeks they go through Wild Things 2 and 3, Cruel Intentions, and a Frenchie called The Dreamers which is seriously twisted, but also seriously kinky. Santana's never been so sexually frustrated in her life. Puck appreciates it.

Even Coach Sylvester notices that something is up. “I don't know what you're doing, Pocahontas, but for God's sake, keep it up,” she says after Santana manages an unprecedented triple back handspring tuck.

That weekend they go to a senior houseparty in Cridersville. Santana, Brittany and Puck have all been invited, and Santana's relieved that being in Glee Club hasn't completely destroyed their cool.

They all have a couple of beers from the keg, and before long Brittany is on the dance floor. She's lost her shirt somewhere and she's flicking her hair around in practised moves, rocking out and laughing, looking absolutely amazing. Santana'll dare any asshole to call Brittany stupid once they've seen the kind of control she has over her body. It's not at all unusual for a crowd of guys to just stand around, watching her.

Santana and Puck are on a couch in the corner. Puck's a decent kisser, and despite his vehement claim that he's never studied anything, he obviously took some time to learn some actual non-porn moves somewhere, which is enough to give him a major advantage over most high school guys. But Brittany is five feet away and dancing - grinding slowly against some beefy guy, with her face pressed against his neck – and Santana is finding it really hard to keep her focus.

“Hey Mohawk, chill out for a second.”

“What?” Puck looks pretty dumb, wearing half her lipstick and a dazed, slightly cross-eyed expression.

“Just. Scram.”

She spends a couple of songs perched on the arm of the couch, sipping the rest of the wine cooler that someone handed her, content to just watch Brittany move. Then she goes to the dance floor to join her.

“Santana!” Britt shouts happily, disentangling herself from the guy and pulling her into a tight embrace. Then she takes a step back and starts moving against her, slow and smooth and steady to the beat of the music.

They leave the party together. That night in Britt's room, Santana slides back under the covers and makes Brittany come. She places a kiss right above Britt's knee, on the inside of her thigh, before crawling back up her body to kiss her some more.

Brittany is an amazing kisser; dirty and shameless and all about pleasure. They make out for the longest time. Santana's gasping for air and just about to freaking beg for it when Brittany finally raises herself up on her elbows above her, putting a little distance between their faces. There's a blush across her cheekbones. While Santana watches, she shifts to drag the fingers of her right hand over her tongue, and then she goes on to get Santana off rather spectacularly. Which come to think of it, shouldn't come as a surprise.

Afterwards, Brittany goes to the adjoining bathroom to get a glass of water. Santana squints sleepily against the light from the open door. When Britt comes back out, she leans against the door jamb. The shape of her naked body is sharply silhouetted against the backlighting.

“Hey, Santana?”

“What?”

“Have you ever fooled around with, like, other girls than me?”

“No. Ew.” Santana's a little grumpy now, and she wants to sleep.

Britt moves into the room. She ducks her head, looking pleased, and it takes Santana a moment to figure out that maybe Brittany misinterpreted her answer. She wants to tell her that she didn't mean it like that, but... whatever. She's tired, and Britt looks sleepy and satisfied. She'll tell her tomorrow. Or some other time.

--

For winter break '09, Santana’s parents ask if she would like to invite a friend along on their first ever family skiing trip. She asks Brittany.

They go to Aspen. They don't stay at one of the super fancy hotels, but still, it's fancy. A bell boy carries their luggage up to the third floor. Her parents have booked a suite for themselves and two double rooms: one for Santana and Brittany, and one for Tino and his friend Nathan.

Santana glances past her mom and dad to Britt when the bell boy shows them the room they're going to share: it's a small double with two queen size beds and an ensuite bathroom. Brittany's looking right back at her and Santana suddenly feels like they're being super obvious. She quickly breaks eye contact and moves into the room, making a big show of claiming a bed and asking her parents about room service.

None of them have gone skiing before, but Brittany picks it right up.

Santana waits for her at the bottom of one of the intermediate runs at Telluride, because she wants to live to graduate high school. She breathes a sigh of relief when she finally spots Brittany in the distance, racing down the slope with speed and grace. When she draws up next to Santana, she is laughing with delight. She is pale, but her cheeks are red from the cold, her eyes watering a little from the chilly wind.

“That was so much fun!” she whoops.

“Tell that to the guy I saw getting helicoptered out of here with an open shin fracture,” Santana replies dryly. But her snark isn't going to get Britt down from her high - and she wouldn't want it to, she realizes, with a rush of affection.

A few strands of Brittany's hair are stuck to the corner of her mouth. Santana reaches up and brushes them away with a mittened hand. Something about that simple motion makes her mood change from easy affection to something that feels much bigger. She is suddenly really sad and really happy at the same time, and she doesn't know what's going on.

She feels a little out of sorts for the rest of the day. Her eyes keep straying back to Brittany, and she almost starts feeling like a creep, except every time, Brittany is looking right back at her and smiling.

That evening they beg out of a trip into town after dinner, solemnly swearing that they're just going to watch a bit of TV and not under any circumstance order room service. She knows that Tino and Nathan are expecting them to sneak out, and that's probably the story she's going to tell the cheer girls if they ask, but actually she's pretty content to just stay in for the night.

She manages to steal a bottle of wine from a temporarily abandoned room service cart in the hallway, and takes out the joint that she tucked into a toothbrush container in her toiletry bag. They smoke it sitting out on the small balcony with their backs against the wall, wearing their jackets and a blanket wrapped around their legs. It's freezing. In the clear night air, they can see the moonlit ski slopes in the distance and the starspeckled sky above. From somewhere below the sounds from the happy hour bars are drifting up towards them; people shouting, the bass beats from Eurotrash music.

Santana divides her attention between keeping the joint alive and listening to Brittany tell her about the constellations and how they prove that the pyramids were built by aliens. The pleasant ache of slight overexertion is humming in her joints and muscles after a full day of skiing. The scratch of the pot smoke in her throat never fails to remind her of middle school, when her clique would skip classes to go shoplifting at the mall and then smoke pot on the grassy abandoned slope behind the parking lot. Brittany was with her back then, too.

Once it gets too cold, they go back inside, stripping down to their underwear and huddling together in one of the beds to get warm again. The hotel has satellite, and after flipping through the first 200 channels, they stumble on a German show that seems to consist of a lot of random shots of naked people on exercise machines, with some kind of accordion music playing in the background. It is amazing TV.

They drink the wine straight from the bottle, sitting up against the headboard and eating Ritz crackers from the minibar (“We'll buy some at the store and replace them before we leave,” Santana explains when Britt asks).

At one point, the camera pays loving detail to this chubby naked guy on a treadmill. Brittany laughs and reaches out to curl her hand around Santana's.

“This is awesome,” she says, squeezing a little.

And it kind of is. Santana's a little surprised by how easy this feels, just the two of them, without any schemes or goals; no people to intimidate or impress.

That's when it hits her: this is what she wants.

This stupid thing. Not just the sex, which, okay, is also better, but this: Brittany next to her, long and lean, only in her bra and panties, absently brushing crumbs from her abdomen and giggling drunkenly at the television. Holding Santana's hand casually, letting her thumb stroke over the sensitive skin on her wrist .

And that's what makes her finally figure out what that weird, shaky feeling that's been haunting her for a while now really is. It is the slow, sinking feeling of catastrophe.

Fuck. She can handle being barsexual, Katy Perry style, but this shit has got to stop.

Her Tía Francisca on her mother's side lives in California. Francisca is a real lesbo with short hair and ugly shirts and political opinions - and no knowledge of the fact that Tino and Santana have always called her Uncle Frank behind her back. Their parents scold them except they're making fun of her, too, calling her a marimacha when they think their kids aren't paying attention. Everyone in their family does, even Frank's own brother and sister.

She's heard how the guys at football practice talk about Kurt Hummel, too, when the Glee guys aren't there to defend him. Talking about whether he takes it up the ass, and how sick and disgusting that would be. And other than making her want to point out how gay they sound devoting so much time to what goes up whose ass, it has always made her feel a little sick.

On the screen, a busty brunette with obscene looking lips is pouting at the camera, coyly looking back over her shoulder while lifting weights.

Santana glares back at her. She suddenly feels stone cold sober. She's not going to have people calling her names and making fun of her behind her back. And she's not going to have what she and Brittany do dissected by sweaty teenage boys around the water cooler. She's worked way too fucking hard for that to happen.

She curls up next to Brittany, pressing her face against her side. Brittany reaches over and absently strokes her hair, still laughing at the TV screen. Santana pretends to be asleep until she really is. When she wakes up the next morning, the wine bottle and the Ritz crackers are gone and Brittany is asleep in her own bed on the other side of the room.

She sits Brittany down for a strategic meeting right before they leave Aspen.

“So here's how we're gonna play this.” She leans in a little over the table, keeping her voice low. They're in the hotel café, waiting for the rest of the family.

“Play what?” Brittany interjects.

“This,” she says, discreetly indicating at the two of them leaning towards each other across the tabletop.

“The sex?”

Santana glances around before she catches herself. Nobody's looking. “Yeah. No. It's not sex. It's experimentation - but anyways. We're taking it down a notch.” Brittany almost looks like she wants to say something to that, so Santana quickly moves on. “This was fun and all, but also seriously lacking in the dick department, if you know what I mean.” She pauses to take a sip of her overpriced cappucino. “Anyway, you were going on and on about that new waiter with the faux-hawk down at Breadstix.”

“Mark,” Brittany fills in.

“Yeah yeah,” Santana says quickly, not really wanting to hear it. “The point is, this isn't anything serious, okay? Cause we're girls. This holiday thing was just,” she shrugs, “-- coping with the 'no boys' situation.”

“Oh. Sure.” Britt looks a little disappointed, but it's not like she's going to dispute something Santana's said.

Overall, Brittany takes it pretty well. There is no reason why Santana should feel disappointed about that, so she doesn't. This is better. This is exactly what she wanted. Now they can go back to being best friends who fool around.

--

It works pretty well for a while. But then Brittany starts dating Artie, and things change.

Or maybe they started changing when they joined Glee Club for real and the rules of the game got completely screwed up (... or maybe it happened before that. Maybe things have been changing ever since that first time Brittany leaned in and kissed her).

The point is, anyway, that Santana had a game plan for high school. High school was supposed to be all about climbing social ladders and fooling around and not getting pregnant, and she's good at all of that. She was going to stick to her friends, and not fall in love.

She's never been stupid. When she was little, her Hawaii Beach Barbie refused to make promises to Bridegroom Ken. At nine, she already knew that that was the fast track to four kids and getting excited about buying a new washing machine at age 20. That's a lesson she learned from Janine and Trish and Mia from ninth grade, who all have kids and jobs as shelf-stockers at WallMart because they'd made the mistake of thinking they were in love.

But the problem with sticking to her friends is that, after she quit Cheerios, 'friends' really mostly means Brittany and the losers in Glee Club. Which by extension means that she has to watch Brittany acting lovey-dovey with the Legless Wonder every time they have rehearsals, and at lunch, and in the hallway, and pretty much all the time - except for when she gets Brittany alone in her room, and even then Santana has to listen to what Artie said or did, or how cute he looks when he smiles (which, seriously, what? Bucktooth McGeek has a cute smile?).

But the worst part is actually the fact that there are things that Britt doesn't tell her, now. They used to tell each other everything about the guys they hooked up with. They compared notes and gave points, but now Brittany just clams up, and smiles privately, like she's got secrets, and it drives Santana insane.

Things have changed. And so far the changing sucks capital 'A' ass.

Santana always told herself that she could fantasize about whoever or whatever she wanted. It's a free world. So what if she thought that topiary down at Garden Ridge had a nice ass? Who cares if maybe she watched The L-Word on bootleg streaming video? It's not like she used to sneak peeks up the other Cheerios' skirts at practice. Except, fine, sometimes she did. But only Brittany's. And Hayley's. And okay, sometimes Arizona's, because Santana can appreciate a great pair of legs, even when they're attached to an uptight little miss goody two shoes.

She had no problem with being an equal opportunity pervert in her own head.

But what do you do if you follow the plan, and stick to your friends, but then fall in love with them a little? Lately, all she thinks about is Brittany. And Brittany is still her friend. They still go running together, and they're still invited to senior parties. And sometimes they still go home together after those parties, and curl up under the covers and get each other off.

It just isn't enough anymore.

In April, Santana and her family goes to her cousin Angela's quinceañera. Everyone in their family is there, even her bisabuela, who has been flown in from Puerto Rico on Angela's parents' dime.

Uncle Frank brings a girlfriend for the first time. Her name is Lisa, and according to the gossip that sifts around the party, they've been together for a while. Santana never knew that Frank even had a girlfriend. Frank still dresses like a macha, but Lisa looks more like a hippie with her long wavy hair and the green tendrils of a flower tattoo peeking out beneath the sleeves of her dress.

Frank and Lisa don't dance together. They barely touch. They have polite conversations with people and pretend like they aren't aware of the weird sort of bubble that exists around them. They sit together at one of the tables in the corner, and everyone is trying to avoid looking at them too much - except Tino, who stares openly. Santana fakes indifference.

Santana is standing outside the building, taking a break from the shimmer curtains and strobe lights and cousins in ballgowns shaking booty in front of their 50-year-old relatives, when Lisa and Frank step out the door. They don't notice her at first.

“Half a cigarette,” Frank says to Lisa. “After tonight I deserve half a cigarette before we go.”

Lisa laughs. “It wasn't that bad.”

“Oh, but it was,” Frank answers, but then she's laughing a little, too. She's already fishing out a pack of cigarettes from her coat pocket.

“You must really love me,” Frank says, still smiling, and she's obviously leaning in for a kiss when Lisa spots Santana standing quietly in the shadow and moves away. Frank follows her gaze.

“Hi,” Santana says.

Lisa tucks her hair behind her ear. “I'll go get the car.”

Frank nods at her. She stays back, putting the cigarette in her mouth and lighting it. Frank is in dress pants and a button-up shirt. No make-up. She's wearing saddle shoes and her hair is plain, cut just below her ears. She couldn't look more alien if she tried.

“Don't you get sick of it?” Santana blurts out.

“Of what?” Frank asks mildly.

“Don't you get sick of being weird?”

Frank lifts an eyebrow. “Did you not see the 15-year-old girl in there, in the poofy dress and hooker make-up?”

“Yes.” Santana frowns.

“So.” Frank shrugs.“What's 'weird'?”

Angela does look a little bit like a bloated piñata in her party dress. Santana smiles despite herself. “Point taken.”

Frank grins. From across the parking lot, Lisa calls for her through the rolled down window of their car. She drops the cigarette to the ground, stubbing it out with her shoe. “Bye Santana.”

“Bye Unc--” Santana says before she catches herself. She tries to cover it up by coughing.

But Frank just laughs. “You can keep calling me Uncle Frank. I don't really mind,” she says, winking as she turns away.

Santana stays outside until she sees their rental car turn out of the parking lot and onto the road. Then she goes back inside to rejoin the party, just in time for yet another surprise quince dance.

Thinking about it, her Hawaii Beach Barbie did have an awful lot of slumber parties with Tropical Tracy. Maybe she is a lesbian, or at least more lesbian than straight. All she knows is that she wants to kiss Brittany, and she doesn't want to do it for anyone else's benefit anymore. She just wants her.

In the end, it's that substitute teacher, Ms. Holliday, who plants the idea in her. The night after they perform the Stevie Nicks duet, Santana lies awake in bed, thinking. Maybe her and Brittany could take a break from the boys. Be exclusive for a while. They wouldn't have to go full blown homo. Nobody would have to know. Just thinking about it makes her feel better. Less tense, less angry. She decides to talk to Brittany about it the next day.

And that's when it all goes to hell.

--

The second person to break Santana’s heart is Brittany S. Pierce.

And this time it actually feels broken, like some of the muscles in there are twisted up or cramping or something. It feels really, really shitty, and she hates being such a cliché, but she can't figure out what the hell to do about it. She needs to get a grip.

Brittany says stuff like: “If it weren't for Artie,” and “I love you, but --” and “Clearly you don't love you -- ” and, honestly, Santana would have preferred a kick in the crotch.

Brittany is wrong, Santana's not scared. Or ashamed. She's just practical. She's always been a judgemental bitch - she knows how it works. Coming out in high school is a death sentence to any kind of social prestige. And she's not like Kurt, who probably came into this world wailing show tunes in a sequinned onesie. She can lay low.

She had a game plan for high school, and before all of this, it was working out great. Fourteen of the seventeen Cheerios were white girls, but she still managed to get on the team. Rachel can simultaneously hold a note for 23 seconds and cry on command, but Santana's still getting solos. She's running for prom queen against freaking Quinn Fabray.

Not bad for a girl from Lima Heights.

Meanwhile, Kurt has been tossed into dumpsters and slammed into lockers. Even that greasy haired prep boy that he somehow managed to dig his claws into at his new school has told them that he's been bullied.

She used to tell herself that she and Brittany were nothing like them, because they're cute, and guys totally get off on hot girls making out. But the truth is that here in Lima, even Katy Perry's pushing it. There's no way they could go Jessie J and get away with it (even if Santana's watched “Do It Like a Dude” sixty times on YouTube, wishing).

She does not want to do the double minority disco in Ohio. Maybe when she escapes to New York, or California. But not in Buttfuck, Ohio.

So she's giving heterosexuality a second chance, and it's going great - even if Karofsky's aftershave smells like a hangover and his kisses feel like soggy meringue.

She goes running alone in the morning. During lunch, she meets up with Karofsky to plan out their Bullywhip schedule. Twice a day they make sure to walk down the hallway hand in hand. They have coffee at the Lima Bean to be seen together outside of school. Sometimes Britt is there with Artie, and Santana can't concentrate on keeping up conversation.

One time Kurt and Blaine are in a booth down at the other end, sitting shoulder to shoulder opposite Mercedes and Sam. Karofsky hunches down a little when he sees them.

“Kurt's really into that short guy, huh?” he asks, and Santana tells herself that she is not going to feel sorry for Dave Karofsky. He's a dickhead who put himself in this situation, and she's just using him, anyway.

The one time that Quinn pulls her aside after Glee rehearsal and asks her quietly if she's okay, Santana brushes her off, telling her that she's never been better.

It's not entirely true.

But then Brittany and Artie break up. Britt comes to her straight away. Santana puts her arms around her and hugs her tightly. She feels sorry for her, she really (mostly) does. But she also feels this great surge of hope. Maybe now things can go back to the way they were. But with feelings, this time - just like Brittany wanted.

Except now Brittany wants prom and public declarations. She wants Santana to wear a freaking shirt and sing and dance about it. Santana kind of gets it. Kind of. At least, she agrees to go on Britt's ridiculous internet talk show, just for the promise of being close to her again.

She chickens out on the day of the interview. She sends a text calling it off on her way home from school. She slumps down in the bus seat, turning her face towards the window to hide her face. She hates quietly on all the people the bus passes, and everyone inside it. There are no words for the amount of suckitude that she is experiencing right now.

Coming home, she heads for the fridge. Tino is eating yesterday's leftovers by the kitchen counter. She realizes that she can hear her parents' raised voices from down the hallway.

“Which is it? Money, housework, or did Dad get a new secretary again?” Santana indicates at her dad's office, which is also where her parents go to yell at each other because they think their kids can't hear.

“They're arguing about whether we're going to California in October,” Tino answers around a mouthful of chicken and rice.

Santana grabs a Diet Coke and closes the door to the fridge. “California?”

“Uncle Frank sent a wedding invitation.” Tino laughs and there's corn stuck in his braces. “What a freak show, huh?”

Something in Santana twists rough and angry. “Why?”

“You know. Cause they're lesbos and it's fucking weird.” He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “I mean. That's not right.”

Santana stares at the shopping lists and family pictures on the fridge for a moment before turning around to face him. “Why?”

“Dude, they're lezzz-bee-uhns,” Tino repeats. “As in lesbos. As in lezzies. As in dykes.” He looks at her like she's being stupid.

Santana can feel her jaw muscles working. “You are such a phobe.”

Tino shrugs, smirking. He holds his hand up and sticks his tongue out between the V of his index and his middle finger.

Santana snaps.

She doesn't realize what's she's going to do til she's already done it - and then Tino is looking down at his upturned plate and the rest of the arroz con pollo splattered all over him, the juice soaking into his designer brand jeans.

They look at each other in stunned silence for a moment. Then Santana turns away.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Tino shouts after her as she storms upstairs to her room.

She slams the door, and then she stares herself down angrily in the mirror until the urge to cry goes away. This is stupid. Tino cannot make her cry. This is exactly why she shouldn't take Brittany to prom. This is why she didn't go on Fondue For Two. She doesn't want people to be able to hurt her like that. She wants to be prom queen and she wants to be captain of the cheerleading squad; she wants to walk down the hallway with a football jock and not feel like a fraud.

Most of all, she wants to stop hurting so goddamn much.

Santana gives herself a long look before turning away. She sits down by her desk and stares unseeingly out the window. She finds herself thinking about Uncle Frank and Lisa smiling privately at each other, Kurt and Blaine sitting shoulder to shoulder in the coffee shop. Brittany's hand curled loosely around her own in that hotel room in Aspen.

“Fuck it.”

You're the most awesomest girl at this school,” Britt had said, “Why would you try to hide any of that?”

Crumbled into a ball at the bottom of her drawer is a white shirt with the word LEBANESE in big, black capital letters. Santana spreads it out on her desk. For a moment she just looks at it. Then she grabs a Sharpie and sets to work.

--

The next morning, she wears the shirt to school underneath a sweater that she takes off and puts in her locker. She takes a deep breath before pushing the locker door shut and turning around to face the hallway.

The shirt now says:

LEBANESE
LESBIAN
(and beneath it, in smaller letters:)
as in LESBO LEZZIE DYKE
(and right at the hem of the shirt, just to be safe:)
as in LIKES GIRLS


Which she knows is maybe a bit over the top, but she had been gripped by a sudden desire to go all out if she was going to do this.

Now that she's here in the hallway, surrounded by people going to and from classes, Santana has to force herself to not cross her arms across her chest. She straightens up and makes sure to look people in the eye. She is tense down to the way her toes are curled up inside her boots, but she is not going to give anyone an opportunity to give her grief.

A lot of people don't even notice at first. It's almost anticlimactic. But then Arizona Kemp spots her. Santana sees her gaze slide down her body and back up, and then she turns to the little group of Cheerios who snicker and turn around one by one to stare at her. Santana just keeps walking. She has so much hate for them. Buckets of hate. She sends them a nasty look, and would you look at that, being a lesbian only adds to the intensity of her death stare.

The moment Karofsky sees her, he turns pale. “What the hell, Santana?” He grabs her by the arm and she can see the sheer panic in his eyes, but she is so done with that shit.

“Get out of my grill, gay boy,” she hisses.

Karofsky leans in closer, still gripping her tightly. “If you do this, people are gonna start talking about me, too, you can't just --”

“David,” she says calmly, interrupting him. “The high heels I'm wearing will exert more pressure than an elephant's foot if I put my heart into it. Your toes are covered by nothing but Converse sneakers. You want to let go of me.”

He lets go, looking stunned and frightened, and she kind of takes pity on him. “I won't say anything about you, okay?”

She glances sideways and Lauren's walking by. Lauren's eyes skim over her, and then she offers her hand up for a high five, looking smug. Santana's weirded out, but right now she's grateful for any sign of support. She high-fives her back, feeling a little disoriented.

Santana takes a wide detour around Noah Puckerman when she spots him further down the hallway. She is not ready for that conversation at this moment. Or anytime soon. Or possibly ever.

She'd prepared herself for the slushies, but weirdly, they never come. Instead, she is totally unprepared for the awkward moment where she has to do a chemistry presentation and Mr. Terrence spends the entire time studiously trying not to look at her chest and acting like he hasn't noticed. She can hear whispers sifting down the rows of students, and after class she has to fight the urge to slip into the bathroom and just take the damned thing off. But no. She can damn well be like Kurt Hummel with his skinny jeans and girl sweaters for one day, and walk around with a huge sign proclaiming what she is to the world.

Clearly the rumour spreads during the day, because when she finally walks into Glee Club, everyone is unsurprised and smiling at her in this overbearing way that makes her scalp itch. She glares at them hard enough that no one actually says anything, but Brittany gives her a goofy thumbs up when she asks permission to sing something, and then she performs the hell out of “Who You Are”, which is mostly for Brittany, anyway, and is both an apology and an explanation.

She gets so into it that it takes her a moment to come back to the real world afterward. She realizes that that distant sound is the rest of the group applauding, and damn it if she doesn't need that today. She looks around at everyone and it's all friendly faces, and crap. At this rate she'll have to start wearing waterproof mascara for Glee rehearsal. She wipes her eyes, carefully. She guesses that she's kind of learned to like these freaks. And what's 'weird' anyway?

After rehearsal she hangs back as everyone but Brittany leaves the room. She notices that she made Rachel cry (but then again, what doesn't?), and she saw Kurt clutching his chest and beaming like a proud papa. She's seriously gonna have to have a talk with him about how this doesn't mean that they're gonna be gay BFF's now (although maybe it be would be nice to have someone to talk to, and they do have that risqué sense of fashion in common which, oh God, maybe comes with the territory).

When everybody is gone, Brittany stands up from her chair and moves towards her.

Santana twitches a little under her steady gaze. “You happy now?”

“I'm really proud.”

Santana has to resist rolling her eyes, because this is Brittany, and in reality a huge wave of relief rushes through her. “Can we just be best friends again?”

Brittany bites her lip. “I don't know.”

“Britt --”

“I mean, I thought... maybe we could try being girlfriends? Like, officially. Is that okay now?”

Santana's not going to bring out the waterworks twice today. She's not. She nods, not trusting her voice.

Brittany pulls her in for a hug. When they pull back, she kisses Santana soft and chaste and tender. Santana sighs, leaning into her a little.

They both flinch at the sound when some guys passing by hoot loudly from the hallway. Without really thinking about it, Santana reaches backwards to flip them the finger - still kissing Brittany - and all of a sudden it feels easy, like months of worrying for nothing.

Of course she knows that it's not just going to be that easy – and she's still not sure if she has the guts to wear that t-shirt home to Tino and her parents today - but the wild, joyous feeling that someday it could be is a relief.

She breaks away a little.“We're gonna be kick-ass lesbians,” she realizes out loud.

Britt smiles widely. “That's what my mom said,” she says triumphantly.

Santana covers her face. “Oh God.” Of course Britt talked with her mom about all of this. Stupid hippies.

But, what the hell, Brittany's here with her, smiling and beautiful, and Santana can't even bring herself to care.