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my favorite animals (by brittany s. pierce, age 9)

1. lions (they’re brave and eat meat)

They’re cutting out shapes.

Brittany accidentally cuts off someone’s head--she knows it’s going to happen before it does, but she can’t stop the scissors, and then when that happens she accidentally cuts the entire chain in half.

Her partner, a blonde girl named Quinn, looks at her super angry, like the shapes matter (Brittany knows they do but also knows they don’t, not really) and says, “I hate working with you. You’re stupid.”

(It’s not the first time someone calls her stupid.

It also won’t be the last.)

Two minutes later, Santana gets yelled at because she pulls on Quinn’s hair and they both get in trouble somehow, just because they’re always together and Brittany did break the chain.

“Sorry,” she says to Santana, when they’re inside during recess and everyone else is outside playing in the sun. “It was my bad. Quinn was right.”

Santana just stares out the window and then mumbles, “You’re not stupid. You’re pretty.”

(She never says either of those things again.

They’re five.)

*

2. penguins (they’re fussy and funny and they mate for life)

She hears her parents talk about their friendship when they’re ten.

“I just think she needs to make some other friends,” her dad says, in that voice that adults use when they don’t want kids to hear. Brittany stays upstairs instinctively and tries to hide behind the rail on the landing, which doesn’t work because she’s not stick thin, but she feels pretty invisible anyway.

(Most of the time they yell at each other about her grades in math. And English. And everything else, really.)

“Honey, I know that they’re really close, even for best friends, but--” her mother says.

“It’s just not healthy. She depends on Santana so much, and the way they are now obviously isn’t going to last forever,” her dad says. “There’s going to come a point soon when one of them will discover boys, or a hobby, or something, and--”

Brittany grips the railing hard and closes her eyes, because this isn’t a conversation about things that are real; they’re pretending that Santana is going to go away or something, and maybe this is something that adults do by themselves, because conversations about things that actually happen are really boring. (Like mortgages, whatever those are.)

When she sneaks back into her bedroom, Santana is already there, sitting in the window and dangling her legs.

“Hey. Where were you?”

“Do you like boys?” Brittany asks, rather than responding.

Santana gives her a funny look. “Not any boys that we know.”

“Oh. Okay,” Brittany says, because it’s totally the right answer and she doesn’t have any other questions anymore.

Santana slips out of her shoes and lies down on her side of the bed and turns on her side. She’s probably been crying, which happens all the time now, but Brittany doesn’t bring that up because Santana doesn’t like talking about it. Or maybe she just doesn’t like it when people point out that tears don’t just go away and people can see them.

Santana’s parents really suck.

Her overnight bag is by the window, and this happens all the time these days. Brittany’s not even sure whose parents paid for the double bed, but it’s not hers--it’s theirs.

They’re friends with Quinn, now, but that’s never going to be the same. And that’s fine.

*

3. dolphins (they are smart)

When they’re thirteen, Santana outlines the plan.

Brittany is the best dancer ever. Nobody needs to tell her that, and she guesses she should probably be a little more offended at how relieved her parents are that she’s good at dancing, but it doesn’t really matter because it makes her so happy.

Santana used to take the classes with her, but just wasn’t as good at it and stopped. (Santana doesn’t like doing anything she’s not good at, and she’s always the best at everything she does do, so that makes sense.)

The plan is that they will both go away, when high school is over, and Brittany is going to become a famous dancer and Santana is going to become rich and they’ll live together as best friends and it’s going to be amazing.

(She has no real concept of where LA is, but in pictures it’s always sunny and that’s where Ryan Atwood lives and she really likes Ryan Atwood.)

“What about when we get married, though?” Brittany asks, when Santana looks at her expectantly.

“Well, then we’ll live with our husbands,” Santana points out. “But that’s like, ages away, Britt. That’s not going to happen anytime soon.”

“Right, but--why?” Brittany asks.

Santana’s been spending more nights at her own house lately, because she thinks it’s stupid to constantly sleep over when she’s lonely. Like maybe it’s wrong to be lonely, or maybe it’s wrong to not have her own bed. It just sucks, but it’s another one of those things Santana doesn’t talk about.

“Why what?”

“Why are we marrying boys?” Brittany repeats.

They’re sitting across from each other on their bed, and Santana picks at the duvet and finally just says, “Who else would be marry?”

That’s so big a duh that for once, Brittany feels like the smarter one. “Each other?”

Santana looks up after a moment with a fond smile. (Brittany won’t know what the word patronizing means for another five years, and so for now, it’s sort of a smile that’s just theirs.)

“Britt, you can’t marry another girl. You know that. It’s against the law like, everywhere, and also, it’s really gay.”

“Yeah, but--”

The look on Santana’s face changes. “No, seriously. Just--you know, this is really far in the future, we’ll be like twenty five or something. And we’ll marry guys and be best friends forever.”

“Okay,” Brittany finally says, because it feels like the correct response, and Santana really likes it when she’s accidentally right about things.

(It doesn’t happen so often anymore. She’s wrong all the time, now, about nearly everything.)

*

4. those skull monkeys (they like to play)

Boys are for kissing.

Brittany is pretty sure they’re also for other things, but Santana tells her not to be a whore, which is easy enough because whores make money and Brittany has like five dollars on her, at most, because she loses all the lunch money her parents give her all the time. (They used to give it to Santana for safekeeping but that is another thing that just isn’t happening anymore. She’s too old now, or something. It’s stupid, because now she’s just hungry all the time.)

Santana is obviously really good at kissing, because she’s really good at everything she does, and she’s been spending most of her time kissing Noah Puckerman, who is like the boy Santana, except so much more trouble than she is. (Brittany also thinks Noah Puckerman probably doesn’t cry at Bambi, but she could be wrong about that.)

It’s weird to have Santana do something that she’s not also doing, because they’re going to be cheerleaders together next year and they’re taking most of the same classes (for now, because Santana will be doing all AP subjects soon even though that’s basically a secret, for some reason) and they eat the same things and like the same music.

Mike Chang is really nice and likes dancing at parties and stuff, and Brittany discovers through Mike Chang that she likes kissing almost as much as dancing.

Santana approves of Mike, because he’s not a pig. “He won’t push you,” she says, later that night, when they’re removing each other’s make up.

“To do what?”

“You know, stuff,” Santana says, before running a wad of cotton carefully underneath Brittany’s eyes.

“No, Santana,” Brittany says, and she doesn’t even know why she’s annoyed, but it’s like every time they talk now, they don’t actually have a conversation. She’s being left behind, and she doesn’t understand why. “If I knew I wouldn’t ask. Duh.”

Santana leans back and blushes a bit when she says, “You know. Sex.”

Brittany has abstract notions of sex because she loves the Discovery Channel and when ducks do it it’s like really angry and violent and horrible, and she knows she has a funny look on her face when Santana’s expression goes all soft and she says, “You don’t have to. Mike won’t make you, and--”

“But why would anyone ever?” she asks.

“Well, when you like someone,” Santana says, with sort of a shrug.

“So you’re going to have sex with Puck,” Brittany pushes, because none of this is making any sense at all anymore.

“Probably not now, but when we’re in high school--I mean, it’s what people do.”

That doesn’t sound right, either. “Quinn doesn’t want to have sex.”

Santana rolls her eyes. “Quinn doesn’t want to have fun.”

“She’s our friend, San,” Brittany admonishes.

“Yeah, maybe,” Santana mumbles.

One of those cartoon lightbulbs goes off over Brittany’s head like, seconds later, just from looking at Santana. “So wait. If sex is fun, and you do it with people you like, why aren’t we having sex?”

Santana laughs and throws a cotton wad at her. “You kill me sometimes.”

That’s Santana shorthand for you’re really dumb right now but it’s kind of cute, but lately, it feels like it’s not so cute anymore that she’s dumb. It feels like Santana is starting to realize that maybe, this is as good as Brittany’s brain is going to get. (And like she’s not really going to be good enough, when Santana actually figures that out.)

She doesn’t ask why it’s funny to suggest that two people who really like each other and like having fun might want to also have sex together if it’s supposed to be all of those things.

Apparently, they don’t like each other like that.

Or maybe, Santana just doesn’t like her that way.

*

“I’m going to have sex with Mike,” she declares, later that night.

Santana looks at her very strangely, just for a second, but then sighs and says, “Remind me to tell you about condoms.”

“No. I’ll look that up myself,” Brittany says, because the last thing she wants is for her parents to be right about how she needs Santana for everything.

She can do some things: dance, use Google for easy questions that don’t lead to like really long answers.

If she can do that, she can figure out condoms.

*

5. dogs (they’re loyal and soft)

Sex is like dancing.

Sometimes it’s slow and tight like ballet, and other times it’s fast and hard like hip-hop, and Brittany doesn’t even really think about what she’s doing a lot of the time; her body takes care of that for her.

School is like, the worst thing ever now that they’re in high school and everything is so hard, but Coach Sylvester takes care of their grades and she cheats off Quinn and Santana whenever she can, and whatever. She’s happy, because cheerleading is like dancing and sex is like dancing so it’s like a triangle of automatic happy.

Sex doesn’t end up happening with Mike Chang, who likes her but “not like that”, which she still doesn’t understand, because they’re friends and he’s cute and they laugh together so much (so really: why can’t they have fun?), but she likes Matt Rutherford as much as she likes Mike Chang, so that’s fine.

(She’s starting to wonder if it’s normal to like this many people, because Santana doesn’t really like anyone and Quinn only likes herself. And maybe Finn, but Brittany’s not entirely sure about that part, yet.)

Puck and Santana are together a lot of the time, now, but Santana keeps saying it’s nothing serious and she’s never even spent the night with him. (Like that matters. Sex is like ice cream, you can have it anywhere at any time.)

And maybe Santana doesn’t need to be told that spending the night is kind of not the point, anyway. Brittany overhears some of the other Cheerios call Santana cheap at some point, and that’s just ignorant, Santana’s car alone costs like forty thousand dollars or something.

So whatever, the point is, Santana’s getting a reputation, and Brittany’s getting a reputation with her. They’re both cheap.

She looks it up on UrbanDictionary and that tells her a bunch of things, one of which is slutty, and slutty isn’t bad, because it’s the opposite of stuck up and prude. Which is bad, because everyone hates Quinn. (Well, Brittany doesn’t, but she’s stopped saying that out loud when Santana complains about her.)

“Are we slutty?” she does ask Santana, at some point. They’re out by the pool and Santana frowns at her for a moment.

“Who said?”

“Don’t hit anyone, I just want to know,” Brittany says, taking another sip of iced tea.

“We’re not. We’re--” Santana starts to say, and then twists her lips. “You need a boyfriend.”

“Ew,” Brittany says, because boys are for kissing and sex, but she likes way too many of them to have just one. That looks really stupid; Finn and Quinn argue all the time and they’re not even really dating yet, and Puck and Santana are--she doesn’t even know. “Wait, are you dating Puck?”

“Duh,” Santana says, mildly.

“Oh,” Brittany says.

In what she will later recognize as being one of Santana’s sparing moments of kindness, a hand covers her arm a moment later, and Santana says, “Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do I mean, what?”

“What would it mean? Dating him?”

“I’m not like, in love with him or anything,” Santana says.

It is seriously like all the muggy stuff in Brittany’s brain that stops her from being able to ever understand anything clears out, on the spot, just at those words. She looks straight at Santana and she just knows. She knows exactly what their problem is.

“Shit,” she actually says, and Santana looks at her immediately because she never swears (she knows enough bad words because of Santana, but she doesn’t really like them).

*

Two days later, she ends up in Ms. Pillsbury’s office, by herself (which even Ms. Pillsbury seems to think is weird), and says, “Can two girls love each other?”

Ms. Pillsbury’s eyes get super huge and then she says, “I thought you wanted to talk about your grades.”

“It seemed like maybe it was better to say that when I made the appointment,” Brittany says, uncertainly.

Ms. Pillsbury looks at her questioningly for a moment and then says, “I have some pamphlets you might want to read.”

“I’m super bad at reading. You’re probably better off just telling me what’s in them,” Brittany says, with a sigh.

(In the next thirty minutes, she finds out that her best friend of almost ten years is a really big fucking liar about nearly everything ever.)

*

6. honey badger (it doesn’t care about anything)

She’s really mad, because they could’ve been doing this for a really long time now.

This being:

Santana’s crawling into her bed after a night of drinking and Brittany has just about had it with all of her rules about things they can’t talk about, but whatever, maybe talking isn’t really what she wants to do anyway. She’s much better with her body.

(Everyone says: “It’s crazy how someone so dumb is so good in the sack.” She’s never been in a sack, so whatever.)

“San?” she asks, and Santana rolls over onto her back and gives her a really dopey look, exactly like one of the seven dwarfs, but kind of sexy anyway--her eyes are doing that thing that boys’ eyes do when... and oh, that’s funny, now even that makes sense.

“We should make out,” Brittany says, softly, because this is probably not something that her parents need to hear.

What?” Santana blurts out, sitting up.

Which is good, because it brings them closer together, close enough to kiss, and Brittany is so much stronger it’s not even funny, so Santana doesn’t really have much choice.

Not that she protests much, beyond one muffled sound and a really surprised look when Brittany pulls back.

Really: why the hell haven’t they been doing this for years now? She’s so mad about all the dumb things they’ve been doing instead, because she’s known that this is what she wanted since she was ten.

“I’m really pissed at you,” she says, out loud, because Santana should know.

“You just kissed me,” Santana says, or slurs, or whatever.

“I’m going to do it again, and I’m not going to stop because you’re like, freaking out or whatever. It’s what we should be doing. Okay?”

It’s basically the first time ever that Brittany sets a rule, and really, if she’d known it would be this easy--

“I hate you sometimes,” she whispers into Santana’s neck later that night, when they’re really done kissing.

She only means it a little, though.

*

7. turtles (shells are cool)

Nothing changes.

The plan is the plan, because Santana can’t even really handle talking about them kissing and stuff, and Brittany’s dumb but not stupid. Marriage can wait. They’ll get around to it, eventually.

Her first priority is more like, getting Santana to not be so weird about everything. Everyone knows how close they are, but apparently that’s a bad thing, too.

She doesn’t get how high school popularity works, she just knows that she is popular and that stuff is really important to Santana. (Her grades are, too, but she won’t admit to that. This, she’s pretty honest about.)

“It’s just not okay,” she says, when Brittany asks why they can’t make out in the hallway whenever they feel like it, and then adds moments later, “Unless we do it to impress boys.”

“That’s easy. I’m super flexible. They’re always impressed,” Brittany says.

Santana winces, which is weird, but then just rolls her eyes and says, “If we do it in front of boys, it’s for them. Okay? Do you get what I’m saying?”

“Sure,” Brittany says, because kissing Santana is awesome and who cares why she does it?

Santana’s really clever and will totally figure out eventually that they’re in love, and Brittany’s really patient. (It comes with never understanding anything, according to her dad.)

*

8. foxes (they’re really … i don’t know what the word is)

“We should sing a song together.”

They’re not even like, important words.

Somehow they mess everything up, though.

*

They barely even talk anymore.

The last real conversation they had was basically just this:

“Santana, we can’t. I have a boyfriend now.”

Eyeroll. “Artie? That crip? Seriously?”

“Santana....”

“Whatever. Yeah, you have a boyfriend. So what? This doesn’t count. It’s not real.”

“If it’s not real why are we doing it?”

“Because--oh, for fuck’s sake, Britt. It doesn’t count because I’m a girl and he’s a boy. This is like practice.”

“For what? I already know how to do boys.”

“For life.”

“I thought you’d be happy. We both need boyfriends, remember? It’s better that way.”

Angry hurt look. “Yeah, whatever. It’s better that way. Either way, it’s not cheating. Now can you stop cramping my style completely and help me get your skirt off? The zipper’s stuck.”

She really wishes Santana would figure things out already, because then she could stop dating Artie and they could be together and it would be amazing. But with every passing day, it becomes more and more obvious that Santana is not going to figure things out, and that the only way she even gets to see her best friend anymore is when she climbs up the trellis every other night and they make out and stuff in the dark.

Sometimes, she’s sure Santana cries when she heads back home, but she’s so sick of how dumb Santana is being that she can’t even bring herself to ask or care.

This is never going to work if they’re both so stupid about it, and it’s been clear for years now that Brittany is always going to have the monopoly on dumb.

*

After the first month, it becomes harder to pretend that things are going to work themselves out. Things get complicated instead. Artie talks about his feelings. Brittany’s so confused and surprised about that that she ends up talking about hers, too, almost on accident.

He accepts that she’s stupid, and he doesn’t explain things nearly as good as Santana always does, but at least he answers all of her questions:

“Are you ever going to be able to walk?”

“No, not unless there’s a medical breakthrough.”

“Like a burglary?”

He laughs and shakes his head. “No, I mean not unless they discover something really new. With all the science we have now, they can’t do anything.”

She discovers something new every day she talks to him. It makes her feel like maybe she’s not destined to always be completely clueless, and that maybe he needs her in the same way that she needs things explained to her. Not just because she’s strong and can push him places, but because he needs someone to talk to who doesn’t judge.

“You’re the least judgmental person I know,” he says, one night, when they’re out to a movie together.

(He deferred to her choice and then, after they’d bought tickets, said, “But next time, we’re going to go see an action movie, okay?”

They both get choices, which--

Every day she spends with Artie makes her angrier with Santana.)

*

“Jesus, did you see what Berry was wearing today?” Santana says with a laugh, when they’re heading out of the gym together two days later.

It somehow just rubs Brittany completely the wrong way.

“You’re the most judgmental person I know,” she says, in response. It comes out a little sharp, like a tack.

Santana looks baffled because she never snaps at anyone. “Um. Yeah?”

“I just thought you should know. It’s stupid,” Brittany tells her.

*

Her parents have another conversation about their friendship, but this time with her.

“Is there something going on with you two? We never see Santana anymore.”

“I have a boyfriend, and she has classes and SAT Prep and stuff,” Brittany says, shortly.

Her parents exchange a look, and her dad smiles after a moment. “Guess I can stop setting the sprinkler on random, then.”

“No, don’t,” Brittany says, because she’s not even really sure she wants to see Santana right now. And the sprinkler doesn’t affect Artie, because he always takes the path, and calls before he comes over.

*

“Do you think you can love two people?” she asks Artie.

He’s getting better at sex, or maybe she’s getting better at sex with him, but the best part is pretty much this--where they lie together afterwards and just talk for a few minutes about something completely random.

“I think you probably can,” he says, with a little smile. She leans over him for his glasses and carefully slides them onto his nose, before flicking at it until he laughs. “Why?”

“Sometimes I wish I had less love in my heart,” she says to him, somber, and he scratches at the back of her neck.

“Is this about Santana?” he asks, softly.

“I think I need to stop loving her,” she says, and he pulls her in a little closer and presses a kiss to her head. “It’s just making me feel bad.”

“That’s sort of her specialty,” Artie comments, and it’s true so they both laugh a bit.

But at the back of her head, Brittany thinks, it is, but I used to be special.

*

9. kittens (claws but secretly nice)

Santana literally ruins everything.

Brittany wanted to sing a song, but that was months ago.

Now, she just wants Santana to be honest with her, and so she goes over to her house pretending that they’re going to have sex (and honestly, she doesn’t feel special very often but Santana looks a little desperate for it, which--why won’t she just figure it out already?) and instead just insists that they talk about their feelings.

Not that she needs to talk about hers. She knows exactly what she wants, and she just wants this stupid situation with Santana and Artie to end. (She wants it to not hurt to be her best friend, all the time.)

Santana is never going to admit that maybe, they’re in love, and maybe that’s a little bit gay. It’s never going to happen, but if she pushes hard enough, Santana will be so angry with her that it will get ugly, and that will make it so much easier to stop loving her so much.

*

Santana literally ruins everything, because she admits it.

*

There’s a reason that Santana always makes the plans and Brittany just executes them.

She’s not smart enough to plan things. She really just isn’t, and when she tries, everything goes horribly wrong.

*

“We need to talk,” she tells Artie, when literally the entire school ends up finding out about what Santana said to her at the lockers, and Santana gets Slushied and everything is basically the biggest mess she’s ever seen.

Artie is also smart, but not as mean as Santana and so sometimes she forgets. Still, he wheels away from her a little and says, “Is this about you and Santana?”

It’s always about her and Santana. “Yeah.”

“Have you been cheating on me all this time?” he asks, in a really small voice, and Brittany almost punches herself in the face because this is so not what she had planned.

“No,” she says, and sits down on his bed helplessly. “I mean, it’s not cheating, right?”

He stares at her. “What isn’t?”

“You know. Girls...” she says, trailing off completely at the look on his face.

He takes a deep breath, and when he releases it she realizes he’s crying, which means she’s also crying (and Santana’s probably crying somewhere too, actually, so basically everyone is crying now).

All he says in the next fifteen minutes is, “She doesn’t deserve you”, just once.

Well, that, and “You should probably leave.”

(It’s completely true, and it’s what rings in her head after Artie explains to her that Santana is still a big fucking liar about everything.

Brittany doesn’t honestly know if she can ever trust her again.)

*

10. elephants (they remember everything)

Senior year is hard.

She’s obviously not going to college, so that’s not it, but it’s hard because everyone she loves is mad at her in different ways.

Artie doesn’t break up with her. She really thinks he will, because now that she knows what she’s been doing with Santana (and why is she so slow? Why isn’t anything obvious ever obvious to her?) this is so much worse than that whole thing about his virginity and he totally broke up with her about that.

But he doesn’t.

He asks for a week of space, and at the end of that just says, next to her locker, “I can forgive you, but you can’t have both of us.”

“I know,” she says, because the square root of four is rainbows and really, she knows that she loves both of them but she only trusts one of them.

(He made Santa real, for her. She’s never going to tell him that she obviously doesn’t actually believe anymore but just really loves the holidays, because nobody has ever done anything like that for her.)

There’s who she loves, and then there’s what’s right, and right now they’re exactly the same thing.

“Is there anything else we need to talk about?” he asks, carefully.

This honesty between them is actually the most special thing in her life right now, and so she says, “I miss my best friend. I don’t know how to get her back, but I think I need to get her back, if that’s okay.”

He smiles faintly and says, “As long as you don’t get her back with your vagina...”

“Ew,” she says, but he has a point, and so she shakes her head and says, “Artie, I’m really sorry. You know I just don’t know things a lot of the time, but I’m going to work on that.”

“Okay,” he says, like it’s that simple.

(In the end, with him, it is.)

*

With Santana, nothing is ever the same again.

*

11. ducks (they swim AND fly AND walk)

Boston isn’t what she thought it would be. Not that she really thought about it much, but the real world is so different from McKinley, where she was just always that blonde cheerleader who had so many friends and used to sleep with a bunch of people but now just sleeps with that guy in the wheelchair.

(When they talk about her, at the end of their senior year, nobody even mentions her in the same breath as Santana anymore. BrittanyandSantana was more than half her life, and it’s like it just flew somewhere, one day. She wonders if maybe it’s like, halfway between New York and Boston now, or something.)

Artie’s aunt has converted the garage for them, which is actually really awesome, and between the two of them they actually do very well. She starts dancing almost as soon as she gets there, and Artie goes to classes and does really good in school and works as an administrative aid in the Architecture Department on top of his disability allowance. That part makes total sense.

What doesn’t is that she becomes responsible for the groceries, and paying things like the bills, just because it’s really hard for Artie to even find ATMs that are at the right height, and the really messed up thing about all of this is that he just trusts her to take care of it.

“You can’t be that dope a dancer and not know how to like, buy bread,” he says, when she stupidly stands there with a grocery list (which, well, she can at least read now, thanks to Mr. Schue) and waits for someone else to take over.

“Yeah, but--what kind? I mean, what do you like? Is there a budget? How much does bread even cost?” she asks, helplessly.

Artie pulls her down for a kiss and says, “You know, all of those are actually pretty sensible questions that you can figure out as you go.”

She straightens after a moment and looks at their little apartment and says, “We’re like totally adults now.”

“Happy?” he asks, even though he’s already back to looking at Grand Theft Whatever on the HD TV, and whatever, she’s not going to complain about that--she has the attention span of a fruit fly. (No really, they tested it once.)

“Yeah,” she says, and it’s completely true.

She shrugs into Santana’s jacket without thinking and goes and buys three different types of bread, all of which are overpriced, and Artie just rolls his eyes and says, “We’ll have soup every night of the week to get through all this. Whatever, baby, it’s cool. I like soup.”

*

Boston is really big, and kind of scary, but she’s there as part of a team and it sort of works out just fine, even though sometimes she forgets to pay the bills and sometimes she’s halfway ready to throw one of Artie’s XBox controllers out the window.

That’s just life. (Santana’s prepared her pretty well for how complicated it gets, as it turns out.)

*

12. lizards

The first time she sees Santana again is over Christmas, at a party that Rachel’s family is throwing, and it’s hard to say what exactly, but it’s clear that something has changed in the last few months.

“Hey,” she says, because that’s sort of their new thing now.

Santana smiles and says, “Hey.”

“How’s Rachel?”

“Deranged,” Santana says, dryly.

“Santana...”

“No, really, she’s fine. We have a pretty good routine,” Santana says, smiling a little. “What about you guys?”

She doesn’t sound like she’s choking just asking the question, which is a serious improvement as far as Brittany’s concerned, so she’s honest. “We have a pretty good routine, too. You probably won’t believe this, but I’m in charge of the money.”

Santana fights a laugh, pretty unsuccessfully. “Seriously?”

“Yeah, I still can’t do math but I have good instincts about groceries and stuff,” Brittany says, with a shrug.

She never feels more adult than when Santana’s face sort of relaxes until she looks like she’s ten again, and like none of this ever happened to them, but the words that come out of her mouth are, “So here’s the thing. I’m sorry, you know, for everything. But most of all for never telling you that you’re going to be a great fucking dancer.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, come on. The best ever,” Santana says, with a kind smile, before spotting Quinn in the doorway and letting out a little squeal. “Jesus Christ, I can’t even leave you alone for three months. What is with your fucking hair?”

“Oh my God, don’t even,” Quinn says, pulling a hat further over her head before kissing Santana on the cheek and then pulling Brittany into a hug. “How are you guys?”

“Good,” Brittany says, offering Santana a little half-smile over Quinn’s back.

Santana smiles back and says, “Yeah. We’re good.”

(In the look they share, just in that moment, Brittany remembers what it’s like to actually be friends with the only person in the world who knows her better than she knows herself.

It’s a pretty good Christmas present, especially since she ruins the rest of Christmas completely by accidentally letting on she knows Santa isn’t real.)