She meets Brittany two months after she turns fourteen, the summer between eighth grade and freshman year, and even though she can’t hear the first words Brittany speaks to her, she can tell by the way her blue eyes glimmer with something that she’s never seen before that this is one of those life changing moments people in movies talk about.
She has her earphones in, arms stretched out over her head, and she knows that the red of her bathing suit is stark against her sun-kissed skin. Her parents had dragged her along to the summer barbeque that her father’s boss throws every year and it’s easy for anyone to see that she would’ve rather been at home, or hanging out with Quinn, or, admittedly, anywhere but here. But there’s a pool, and free food, and if she tries hard enough she thinks maybe she can sneak a glass of wine when her parents wander over to converse with the other adults standing around the firepit.
It’s the same people as the past four years. She recognizes every face and greets them all with a tight-lipped smile (her mother had warned her, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” on the drive) as they pass by the lawn chair she’s strewn her body across. She watches them from behind the sunglasses perched on her face and thinks that even though this is supposed to be fun, they all look tired; drained, even, and as Santana watches them move around each other and exchange exaggerated smiles, probably attempting to one-up each other on who could fake pleasantness the most believably, she decides she never wants to be like that. She never wants to fake anything, to pretend to be something that she’s not.
But, of course, that all goes to shit when her eyes catch Brittany’s for the first time. The girl is standing with her hands in the pockets of her denim shorts, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet and speaking to who Santana presumes to be her mother if their nearly identical appearance is anything to base it off of, and she concludes that the blonde has easily got to be one of the prettiest people she’s ever seen in her actual life. Like, seriously, the girl is all dimples, and bright eyes, and her skin, visible thanks to the bikini top clinging to her torso, is tan and freckled in ways that make Santana shift in her chair, sit up a little straighter and hold her head a little higher. She finds herself intrigued by the girl in a way that she couldn’t explain even if she wanted to.
She looks out of place, and Santana figures it’s because this is her first time at one of these stupid barbeques. By now, Santana’s a seasoned pro, but unless she’s somehow failed to notice the other girl for the past few years— which is incredibly unlikely because the blonde doesn’t appear to be the type of person to go unnoticed by anyone— it’s her first time meeting the abundance of people who do nothing other than shove pleasantries down each other’s throats for hours and then skulk home to do it all again the next day. So, yeah, she understands why the girl looks so uncomfortable.
When Brittany catches her staring, she raises her hand, wags her fingers in an awkward wave, and Santana finds herself smiling, but this time it isn’t forced. She waves back, pushes her sunglasses to the top of her head, and glances at the empty chair next to her. It’s partially an invitation and partially an acknowledgement that the blonde isn’t the only one who feels odd being there. Brittany glances at the chair, follows the motion of Santana’s head, and then glances back to meet her eyes. She grins, pushes her hands back into her pockets, and focuses her attention back on her mother.
Santana can’t explain why the loss of the moment disappoints her, but it does.
She pulls her sunglasses back down over her face and leans back in the chair again, her fingers searching for her phone until they brush over the volume button and she presses up, up, up. It drowns out the chatter, makes her oblivious to where she is, but it also makes her oblivious to the fact that, at some point, Brittany has made her way over to her, planted herself down on the chair next to her, and spoken a few words. She doesn’t realize she’s not alone until a hand reaches out and lightly touches her thigh to gain her attention. It makes her jump, and she can’t figure out whether it’s the surprise of another person next to her or the fact that her skin still tingles, electric, even after the hand is gone.
She pulls one earphone out. “What?”
Brittany blinks, a hint of a smile on her lips. “I said I like your bathing suit, but I don’t like the music they’re playing. It makes me feel like I’m at a party for a group of elderly people who broke out of the nursing home,”
Santana snorts, pauses her music. “This isn’t even bad. Wait until they start playing disco.”
Brittany scrunches up her nose, pokes out her tongue, regards her words with a muttered, “Jesus.”
She scoots her chair closer, hands Brittany the earphone that she’d taken out and then her phone. “Here,” she smiles, “you can pick whatever you want. I promise it makes it more tolerable.”
Brittany looks grateful, puts the earphone in, and chooses a song that Santana thinks will probably be her favorite from now on. “Thanks,”
She hums, more content than before now. It’s beginning to cool down outside due to the setting sun, and the sky has a pink tint to it. It reminds her of the flush in the cheeks of the girl next to her.
Neither of them speak for a while. They just sit together, and the blonde chooses the music, and Santana doesn’t snap at her when it’s a song she’s overplayed like she would with anyone else.
“I’m Santana,” she finally says. “My parents made me come here.”
“Santana,” the girl mumbles, testing out the way the syllables feel on her tongue. “I’m Brittany. Mine did, too— they thought it’d be a good way for me to make friends before school starts, but I think we’re the only people here under forty,”
She giggles, and she doesn’t know why she does it, but she reaches over and links her pinky with Brittany’s. “At least we have each other, right?”
Brittany’s nod gives her that feeling that she can’t explain again. She finds herself caring about what Brittany thinks, finds herself having to pretend that she isn’t staring at her mouth when she smiles at her and repeats back, “at least we have each other.”
So, that’s how it starts, this thing with her and Brittany. They fall into a pattern so easily that first summer that Santana, never a believer in God, or fate, or whatever, can’t help but think that some kind of higher power must’ve had something to do with it. She has Quinn, sure, but she’s never had a best friend in the way that Brittany is her best friend. They watch Disney movies in her room almost every night and feed each other snacks that her mom made them and shush each other when their laughing gets too loud after her parents have gone to bed. She tells Brittany things she’s never said out loud to anyone and lays with her head in her lap when the blonde does the same, and she doesn’t even think to question why she feels so content when they turn the lights off and pull each other closer under Santana’s duvet. She likes the way Brittany feels in her arms when she sleeps, and she knows that they’ll be best friends forever, that people don’t get to experience this kind of closeness twice.
She isn’t scared to be vulnerable with her. She doesn’t feel the need to lace her words with the venom that is typical when addressing anyone else. She is soft and warm when she’s around Brittany. She’s Sunday mornings, and shared secrets, and swimming in her backyard until their fingertips are shriveled (she gets that electric feeling back in her body every time Brittany presses a kiss to the ends of them once they’re toweling off and whispers “pruny”).
It feels like a natural progression in their relationship when they kiss mouth to mouth for the first time. It’s after school has started; they’ve joined the Cheerios together, taken all the same classes, manipulated Figgins into switching their lunches to the same period. They’re inseparable. So it doesn’t feel odd. And there’s so much buildup of Brittany’s lips in the months leading up to it that Santana finally loses the small bit of control that she has. There’s so much of Brittany’s lips pressed to the corner of her mouth, to her cheeks, her eyelids to wake her up lazily in the mornings, to her collarbones just before she drifts off to sleep, to the crook of her elbows just because she can, that Santana never stops to think that maybe these aren’t things that best friends do and the affection she feels for Brittany isn’t the way that someone should regard their best friend.
But they’re sitting on Santana’s bed and Brittany is braiding her hair, still wet from her shower, and Brittany drops a kiss to her shoulder. It warms her whole body and makes her heart do that inexplainable thing that it only seems to do around Brittany. She freezes.
“Britt,” she murmurs, turning her head slightly.
“San.” Brittany hums, fingers scratching lightly against her scalp before she drops her hand to Santana’s hips. “All done,”
Santana can’t help it.
“I want to kiss you.” She blurts out, cheeks flushing with embarrassment. She starts to backtrack, huffing. “I mean, I think we should kiss because I’ve never really kissed anyone, just stupid pecks, and boys are going to expect more from us now. I just don’t want to seem like a loser if I don’t know how. God knows I’d never live that shit down,” she shrugs, “and there’s no one I trust more than you, so it makes sense, right?”
Brittany looks thoughtful for a moment, watching Santana’s face intently. It makes her nervous until the other girl grins and whispers, “okay, sure.”
It hits her only when the hands gripping her hips begin guiding her to turn around in her arms that this is actually going to happen. She can feel the steadily increasing thumping of her heart in her chest, hear it in her ears, feel it between her thighs, when she finally turns to see the way Brittany is looking at her. Her eyes are hooded, mouth slightly parted, and she’s looking directly at Santana’s lips like she wants her. Brittany wants her. She worries her lip between her teeth out of anxious habit.
“Don’t be nervous, San. It’s just me,”
She thinks that’s the problem and is about to say something back, a sarcastic quip maybe, but Brittany doesn’t give her the chance. She’s already leaning down, and it must be instinct, because Santana’s arms lift on their own to wrap around Brittany’s neck.
The first touch of their mouths is debilitating. Her head spins, and she can’t help the shaky breath that leaves her lips as Brittany’s part around hers. She’s never felt like this and, granted, she’s never really been kissed like this, but she feels like she’s on fire and completely at peace all at once. She can feel Brittany smile against her, feels the squeeze of confident hands on her hips, and finds herself throwing a leg over Brittany’s hips to straddle her. She doesn’t know if she’s anchoring the blonde to her bed or herself to the blonde. Either way, it feels like the Earth is going to slip right out from under her if she doesn’t get closer.
So, she does. She kisses Brittany until neither of them can breathe. She kisses her until her lips are swollen, and they’re whimpering against each other’s mouths, both of their cheeks are tinged with color, and she feels a familiar wet feeling between her legs that she gets when she touches herself. She wonders if Brittany feels it, too.
She doesn’t know if she says it or if Brittany does, but she lays her cheek against her chest and grins.
“Yeah,” she says simply. She closes her eyes for a moment, feeling weightless.
Everything is going great until Brittany dreamily mumbles, “I hope it feels that way with boys.”
Santana feels like crying. Mostly because she doesn’t understand how Brittany could be thinking about anyone else after they’ve just kissed each other like that. It hurts her, makes her chest feel heavy, makes her feel stupid for suggesting it, when she realizes Brittany didn’t feel it, too, after all. She realizes she’ll have to pretend that it didn’t make her feel anything. She doesn’t want to ruin what they have. She doesn’t know what she’d do without Brittany. The thought scares her, and a laugh bubbles out of her throat but nothing is funny and she feels a little helpless.
She clears her throat, forces out a “me, too.”
She doesn’t like the uncomfortable way her heart skips a beat at the lie.