See part 13a for notes
Santana smiles when Brittany reaches over to the cigar box on the nightstand and takes out the printed-out pages put back in there. She leans up on her elbow and smirks at Brittany as Brittany pushes up onto her forearms and puts the papers in front of her, looking at them curiously.
“'The Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science',” she reads and Santana just smirks wider at the little wiggle of her toes she gives. “Sounds fancy.”
Her eyes get bigger the more she reads, her fingers tracing the blurry pictures of fishes and dolphins and all the other weird marine creatures that Santana knows she's probably going to spend the rest of her life vicariously learning everything about. It makes her feel like she's swaying from side to side happily, the look on Brittany's face filling her with hope because of how happy and relieved it looks.
She shifts closer to feel the energy radiating off of her.
“Are you excited?” she asks softly, her hand tangling in the hair at the back of Brittany's neck.
Brittany looks up at her and purses her lips to hold back a grin, turning it into a small, timid little smile. “Scared, too,” she admits. “There's a long way to go and a lot to do first.”
Santana opens her mouth to speak but Brittany cuts through her.
“It'll be worth it,” she says, taking the words right from Santana's mouth.
She takes a deep breath to steady herself and is glad she's laying down. “Yeah,” she whispers. “It will.”
Brittany is silent as she continues to read everything that Santana knows like the back of her hand. She watches her just as quietly, a smile on her face as Brittany acquaints herself with the information, glad when her smile just gets bigger and bigger instead of more daunted at what needs to happen. Santana was scared too, but now she's not anymore. She's just full of hope.
“Is this the box your abuela gave you?” Brittany asks when she reaching back up to put the papers away. Santana snaps from her reverie to give her a nod and a smile. Brittany gives her a smile back before pulling the box down to nosily look in it.
She looks through all the keys with little interest before she finds the photo of Libby that Santana suddenly really doesn't feel comfortable owning anymore. Brittany doesn't look too comfortable with it either and Santana giggles a little as her eyes go wide. She turns it over and tucks it at the bottom of the box before moving to the next thing.
“Does this work?” she says and Santana peers at what she's looking at to find the old camera her grandmother had left in there. It's just another thing that finally makes sense to her and she laughs a little, thinking of the huge box of photos in the living room.
She shrugs her shoulders. “You're the expert,” she says. “You tell me.”
Brittany tries to take a picture but it doesn't work. Strong hands struggle as she tries to move the cigar box out of the way and Santana helps her and takes the camera so that she can heft it back onto the nightstand. Blue eyes narrow then and Brittany puts the camera down in front of her to inspect it curiously. Santana asks no questions when Brittany pushes her way between the pillows, just watches as Brittany creates a dark little cave with pillows before popping off the bottom and opening up the back of the camera.
“Oh!” she says, suddenly retreating quickly. “Never mind, there's a new film in here. We must just have to reel it on.”
Her fingers work timidly yet quickly and Santana shakes her head fondly because she has no idea how Brittany knows all this crap, has no idea why she thinks she's not smart enough to do anything. She finds joy in the tiniest things and Santana giggles as she grins widely once she's figured out how to load the film and worked out the little levers she has to pull and turn in order to reel it on.
Brittany smiles proudly when everything clicks into place before putting the bottom back on and holding it out to Santana.
Santana just kisses her quickly before shaking her head. “I think you better keep a hold of that,” she says softly. “What even was that?”
Brittany shrugs. “I like cameras,” she says and then she holds the camera up to her face. “Should I take your picture?”
Santana pulls the camera away and shakes her head. The picture of Libby in the bottom of the box, and the entire box of photos downstairs without her in them, make her feel sad all of a sudden. She thinks of back then, probably when this camera was the most advanced thing in the world, and how her grandmother and Libby probably couldn't take a picture of themselves together. It makes her just feel really sad and she finds herself shaking her head adamantly as she pulls Brittany to her and squashes their noses together.
“Together,” she whispers against her mouth and Brittany must notice the determination in her eyes because she begins tugging at her, maneuvering them until Santana's laid half atop her in her arms with their cheeks pressed together.
Brittany stretches her arms up above her head with the camera in her hands and holds it as steady as she can as she turns the dials on the top. Santana doesn't look at it, just turns her head to Brittany's chin and kisses it until Brittany turns her head and kisses her softly on the lips.
The click is almost anticlimactic but Santana smiles anyway. Brittany's arms fall until the camera is resting over their stomachs.
Santana really misses modern technology when she remembers that they can't look at it yet. Brittany looks just as disappointed and she breathes out sadly before giving a little chuckle, her shoulders shrugging.
Santana can't stand for that. “Where's my phone?” she says and Brittany turns her head before finding it sat on the nightstand. She hands it to her quickly and Santana finds her camera application before giving it back. “Again,” she says and Brittany nods.
They hold the phone together as they look over it and Santana feels Brittany's breath hitch at the sight of them. A lithe arm tightens around her waist and she clutches it with her spare one before urging Brittany into another kiss.
“Is that what we look like together?” Brittany whispers against her lips and Santana gets what she means straight away.
Even when they're sweaty and gross, make-up-less, messy-haired and naked, they still somehow manage to look like the most perfect thing ever. Santana doesn't think that Brittany's ever looked more beautiful. She doesn't think she's ever felt more beautiful.
She nods, their noses brushing until Santana kisses the tip of Brittany's and tilts her head back to look at her. “I think so,” she says.
Brittany smiles. “Let's test it again,” she says and after that, all Santana hears, is the fake mechanical whirr of her camera phone, going off again and again and again, as Brittany attacks her with kisses.
Later, when she's flat on her back and her breath is still heaving from her, she looks through her camera reel to see how many pictures they took and quickly realizes that it's not so much about how many they took but how many they now have to hide from prying eyes.
She has no idea how Brittany managed to take pictures of her while she was doing that or how she managed to even hold the phone while Santana was doing it back to her. She doesn't really want to know.
She just wants to look and appreciate and, really, just take some more because there's way too many pictures of her for it being her phone and all.
Brittany doesn't argue when she pushes her on her back and straddles her hips, just does as she's told and smiles warmly for the camera.
For her and only for her.
“Not for Facebook,” Brittany mutters against her shoulders a little after that, when the sun is going down and all the good light has gone.
Santana bursts out laughing and scrolls to another picture of parts of Brittany that only she wants to be able to see.
“Yes, baby,” she agrees lowly and huskily in a whisper. “Definitely not for Facebook.”
“When I was little,” Santana starts softly, carefully, like she's handling delicate crystal. “I used to come sit out on this balcony and wish that you'd get to come here one day.”
Santana nods and her hands keep stroking through Brittany's hair like they have been for a couple of hours now. “Mhm,” she says. “I used to lay out in this ridiculous hammock and look up at the stars and wish that you were here or at least that you'd get to come visit. I wanted you to hear the ocean and see the stars...”
“And see how big everything is,” Brittany says quietly, pulling the blanket up to her shoulders and looking up at Santana from where she lays on her stomach.
Santana's lets her thumbs curve over Brittany's jaw as she nods. The hammock sways a little, creaking in the breeze.
“I wanted to build sandcastles with you on the beach, too,” she grins. “My abuelo used to make awesome sandcastles and we'd get water from the sea and make a moat. It was awesome.”
Brittany's face turns on her stomach, lifting the fabric of her shirt a little. Her hands tighten on Santana's thighs on either side of her waist.
“I'm sorry I never got to meet him,” she whispers. “I would have loved that.” Santana strokes the back of her fingers over Brittany's collarbones, listening and knowing she isn't finished. “I'm—I'm really happy that I got to meet your abuela.”
Santana nods. “Me too,” she whispers.
“I'm glad that you got to be there with her,” Brittany continues. “I'm glad you have that...”
“Me too,” Santana whispers and she's glad for the quiet that they lapse into. It's easier to let the tears roll down her cheek this way. The sound of the waves in the distance is soothing and Brittany's hands rub comfortingly over her thighs.
“Can we go see the cats with six toes before we leave?” Brittany asks a while later and Santana's glad for the change of subject, glad that she can smile at it.
“Sure,” she says softly. “They're at Hemingway House, though, so we'll probably have to take Quinn and Artie with us too. And Rachel will probably want to come too, and like... Sam's Sam, so...”
“That's okay,” Brittany says. “I like hanging out with them.”
Brittany turns her head to kiss Santana's palm quickly. “Told you they'd see how awesome you are.”
Santana chuckles. She feels tired. “I know,” she says. “You were right.”
“I'm always right,” Brittany says and Santana sighs when she stops. She really just wants to listen to her voice all of a sudden.
She reaches out one of her hands and Brittany takes it quickly, holding it over her shoulder.
“Tell me stuff,” Santana whispers softly.
“I love you,” Brittany says happily in response.
Santana giggles. “Other stuff,” she mumbles. “Tell me what you want, things you want to do, places you want to go... so I can take you there.”
Brittany goes quiet for a moment and Santana can hear her thinking, can see her biting her lip in thought.
“Well,” she says, elongating the letters. “I already swam with dolphins and got you, so...” Santana smiles a too-happy smile. Her fingers dip beneath the collar of Brittany's shirt, tracing a collarbone. She listens. “I don't know... I always wanted to go to Australia.”
Santana smiles at that. “Why?”
“I wanna find Nemo,” Brittany giggles low in her chest. Santana feels it vibrating through her, making her smile wider. “And like... it's far away and there are beaches and... I don't know...”
Santana's breath hitches when she feels Brittany playing with the gold band around her ring finger again. It makes her feel a million things but only want one.
“What else?” she whispers, her eyes drooping closed.
Brittany kisses her palm. “Europe,” Brittany whispers softly. “I want to go to Europe.”
Santana shifts until she cradles Brittany better in her thighs, in the dips of her body. Brittany goes with it easily, snuggling closer. “Where?” Santana asks. “Where in Europe?”
Brittany hums in thought and turns her chin up to the sky. “Paris,” she says after a while. “I want to climb the Eiffel Tower on a windy day.” Santana doesn't say anything, just listens. “I want to go to Amsterdam. I wanna see my family there. And I kinda wanna get high there too,” she chuckles.
Santana tickles her a little until she giggles some more, shifting until Santana stops. It takes her a few minutes to calm down and speak.
“I want to go Flamenco dancing in Barcelona...” she breathes. “I want to see the Swiss Alps and I want... I want to go everywhere.” Her head tilts back and Santana reaches to trace her smile with a fingertip. “I want to go everywhere with you.”
Santana smiles. “Me too,” she whispers. Brittany kisses the tip of her finger softly. Santana feels things inside of her glowing. “We'll do it... we'll do all of it.”
Brittany turns over carefully, getting caught a little until she manages to fit herself with an elbow either side of Santana's waist. She presses a kiss over Santana's stomach before folding her hands over it and resting her chin on them.
“Yeah?” she asks. Santana nods, her hand pushing blond hair behind perfect ears. She rubs the lobe of one between her finger and thumb before tracing softly down Brittany's jaw with her fingers. Blue eyes flutter at the sensation, so she does it again, bringing another hand to the other side and repeating the actions until Brittany's breath hitches. She shifts in a different way and Santana smirks a little.
Brittany bites playfully at her stomach through her shirt but it doesn't stop her.
“I kinda want to go to Italy too,” she says softly. “Can we go to Italy? I wanna see what real gelato tastes like.”
“That sounds fun, Britt Britt,” Santana says softly, sleepily. Brittany smiles. Santana's imagination flutters into action at that and she hums, thinking about Brittany in the Mediterranean sun. “We can go to Rome,” she says. “And you can go see the Colosseum and we can go to the Vatican. We can climb the Spanish Steps and eat Gelato near the Trevi fountain. Or we could go to Naples and eat the best pizza in the world. Or we could go find some little village in Tuscany and we can pick grapes in a vineyard.” She takes a deep breath in. “I hear some places grow fields of sunflowers. We could spend days walking through them and then we could sit out on a balcony just like this one and drink red wine... eat fresh pasta.”
Brittany sighs and curls into her. “That sounds nice,” she says and she sounds suddenly sleepy too. “When can we do that?”
Fingers twist the gold band around her finger and Santana speaks without thinking. “When we're married,” she whispers. “For our honeymoon.”
It's like the entire world goes still for a second when Brittany holds her breath. Santana feels nervous all of a sudden and she dares to open her eyes a second later but refuses to look down. She suddenly feels like she's scared her. She tilts her back and blinks away embarrassed tears. They never get to fall because not a second later, Brittany's clambering up her body and kissing her furiously, tongue dipping into her mouth without preamble, forcing moans from her throat.
She pulls away breathlessly and presses her forehead against Santana's with a smile that can't contain all her happiness.
“And then...” she whispers. “And then we'll come back here... we'll come back here and we'll spend our lives together.”
It isn't a question. Santana gulps because that's going to take some time getting used to.
“Yeah,” she nods and Brittany doesn't say anything else, just kisses her again and wipes away Santana's pointless, happy tears.
She thinks that waking up every morning to a softly whispered “Good morning, baby” might be the best part of all this. Or maybe it's Brittany careless giggle in her ear or the way her nails dig warningly in her backside when Santana's kisses suck to hard at the base of her neck. The candid way that she talks about forever gives everything else a run for its money too, and moments like now, when Santana's kissing her way back up a stretched but no longer strung out body, that make her feel like there's nothing more important in the world.
And maybe it won't be long before they're back in Lima, and moments like this won't be as possible as they are right now for a while, but just being safe in the knowledge that they might not never happen again is enough for her.
It's more than she's had before, assurance, hope, and it makes her smile against the now-relaxed muscles of Brittany's stomach as fingers trace careful shapes over the tops of her shoulders. She giggles against warm skin and instead of looking at her like she's crazy, still-sleepy blue eyes smile down at her full of love and she can feel that. For the first time, she can feel how strong that love is.
“You're a goof,” Brittany smiles at her and Santana just giggles, sucking another hickey to Brittany's stomach until she breathes in deeply and gives her a warning tap to the top of the head.
She presses the flat of her tongue against it to soothe it before kissing it gently. “Goofy's your favorite, though,” she says with a smirk.
Brittany gives her a look that makes her want to punch the air in triumph, before curling her arm up under her head. Santana takes that as permission to continue and cups one breast as she gently presses kisses to the other.
“I look diseased,” Brittany comments idly and Santana swipes the pad of her thumb under the curve of her breast to get her attention. It works but not for long. Brittany nudges at her forehead until she pulls away then presses a hand to her chest as she peers down at the hickeys covering her stomach. “Look at em,” she laughs but she doesn't sound too unimpressed.
Santana just uses a finger to trace over them, making shapes and patterns through the marks. She pulls back a little and tilts her head to consider it. They do look a bit ridiculous. Maybe she should go get her some ice.
“I like em though,” Brittany says shyly. “If anyone sees them, they can ask me 'Who the heck did that?' and I can say 'my girl did!' and that's it.”
Santana nods. “Yup,” she says and then kisses her way up Brittany's chest to her neck, kissing there slowly and surely. “Your girl did it.”
Brittany nods and then grabs her by the cheeks pulling her away and looking at her with a grin. “I got sunshineeeeeee,” she sings suddenly. “On a clouuuuudy day! When it's cooooooldd outside—”
“I got the month of Maaay!” Santana sings along with her, laughing. “I guess—”
“You'll say...” Brittany sings, getting louder and louder. “What can make me feel this way?!”
“My girl!” They finish together before collapsing into giggles.
They stop when they hear a knock at the door. Santana reaches down for the covers automatically, pulling them over her head as she moves back to rest on Brittany's stomach.
“This better be good!” she calls out from beneath the covers to whoever's at the door. Brittany, still giggling, tries to find her mouth through the fabric, shushing her. “Fine! Come in!”
The door opens quietly and Santana can tell from that that it isn't Quinn or Sam. The footsteps are timidly quiet and there's no sound of wheels so she crawls up Brittany's body before poking her head out of the top of the covers to look at Rachel.
She looks weird.
“I'm sorry to bother you both, but...” she starts quietly and just the tone of her voice scares the crap out of Santana, putting her on edge. Brittany's hands stroke down her arms to find her hands and squeeze. Rachel takes another step forward, her hands gripping each other. “Santana... your parents are here.”
Rachel leaves a few moments later, after Santana's accidentally flashed her boobs to her and Brittany's told her to give them a second.
Santana sits on the edge of the bed, trying to catch her breath and Brittany snuggles up behind her, mouth on her shoulder, as she tells her to breathe. It's really hard to when Santana had been so sure that, if she hadn't spoken to her parents by now, she probably wasn't going to be hearing from them ever.
“You don't have to do anything you don't want to do,” Brittany whispers. “Everything will be okay no matter what you choose, okay?” She brushes Santana's hair back and presses another kiss to her neck. “Okay?”
Santana nods. She knows that. She believes that. She's not alone. It's just... she didn't account for this when she was silently piecing her life back together in the quiet moments she'd spent with Brittany. She honestly never thought she'd have to speak to her parents again and now she's just scared that they're going to make her do something that she doesn't want to. She's scared that she'll just go downstairs to have a world of abuse hurled at her, Libby and her grandmother again.
Except, shit, Brittany's here now, too.
“Stay up here, okay?” she tells her without another thought.
Brittany gives her a look and shakes her head, leaning in to kiss her lips. “Like hell I am,” she whispers against her mouth, hand buried in Santana's hair at the back of her neck. “We're in this together now,” she says softly. “Me and you forever, right?”
Santana looks down as a pinky reaches up to her, outstretched. She wraps her own around it quickly and kisses Brittany again.
“Right,” she nods.
She feels so small as she wanders down the stairs ahead of Brittany. Her grip tightens around long, pale fingers as she notices two familiar figures lingering outside the front door. Sam and Quinn stand in the way of them getting in and Santana doesn't know whether to be thankful or cringe at their actions as Rachel steps up to meet her.
“I called Frank,” she whispers quickly. “Quinn said I should. He's on his way.”
Santana just nods. Rachel looks at her expectantly.
“Can you—can you make some coffee?” she asks, just to get her out of her hair. Rachel nods and scurries away.
Brittany lets go of her hand as she steps towards the door. Artie, Quinn and Sam all turn to stop her. She holds her hands up to stop them coming closer.
“Just let them in,” she whispers, avoiding her parents' eyes as they both turn at the sound of her voice.
Brittany leans against the counter in the corner of the kitchen while Santana sits down to pour herself some of the coffee Rachel left out on the table. She doesn't look up when someone wanders into the kitchen but notices that it's only one of them: her mother by the shape of her shadow.
“You're a little late for the funeral,” she whispers softy, when her mother doesn't say anything or sit down. “You want some coffee?”
“No...” her mother says and her voice is quiet, unsure. “No, I'm fine, thank you.”
“Whatever,” Santana whispers.
She tries not to flinch when her mother sits down opposite her. It takes her everything not to jump up right at that second and walk over to Brittany. She knows she'll be safe there.
“We didn't know if we were welcome there,” her mother says softly. “We didn't know if it was what you wanted...”
She's on her feet in a second, chair squeaking against the tiles of the floor and hitting the kitchen island. Santana sees her mother flinch and Brittany take a step forward to catch her. She stops when Santana softens immediately, her eyes watering and her hands shaking.
“What I wanted,” she repeats, her voice hoarse and aching already. “What makes you think that her funeral is about what I wanted? She wanted you there! Despite everything she wanted you there, Mom. She wanted Dad there!” She sniffs. “Where is he, huh? He outside? Did you drag him here or something?”
“He—He didn't think you'd want him here,” her mother whispers, struggling. “He didn't want to upset you.”
“Upset me?!” she scoffs. “It's a bit late for that, don't you think? You didn't care about that last week when you were here! You just got up and walked away! Didn't even think twice!”
“You don't know what it's like to be a parent, Santana,” her mother says emphatically, getting to her feet and holding out her hands. “You don't know what it's like to be terrified of the choices your children make...”
Santana takes a breath. “Firstly, I have made no choices. I have had no choices about this...” Her voice shakes a little. “Secondly, you're right, I don't know what it's like to be a parent but I know that being a parent means you're supposed to love and be there for your kid no matter what. You're supposed to do what's right by your child—”
“And that's what we were doing!” her mother tries to argue.
“NO!” Santana says and her mother flinches, stepping back. “No you didn't. You left me. You left me wondering what the hell I was supposed to do for a week, Mom. A week. And then you just turn up and, what? You want to do right by me now?” Santana shakes her head and turns up her nose. “No, it's been seven days. If you wanted me to believe you then you'd have never walked out that damn door and left me wondering if I have a damn home!”
“I know!” her mother says frantically. “I know, I know. We were wrong and we were trying to do right by you but we were misled. We know. We figured it out the second we left, but that's why we're here!” she tries. “We're sorry, Santana and that's why we're here.”
Santana shakes her head and folds her arms. Brittany's arms twitch at her side like she's waiting for her to need to collapse into them.
“I don't care,” Santana whispers and the reluctance and hurt inside of her is so big that she can't handle it. It feels like bile, like vomit and she wants to throw it up but it's just stuck there and she can't do anything about it. “I don't care because if you were sincere then you wouldn't have taken seven days to come back... You'd have come back and you'd be begging at my feet for me to forgive you because you hurt me worse than anyone else and you're my parents,” she spits. “And instead, I get a half-assed excuse from one of you while the other is too pathetic to even step inside, so... no,” she shakes her head, tears rolling down her cheeks. She wipes them away furiously. “I don't care. I want you to leave.”
“Santana...” her mother tries.
Santana shakes her head, turning to Brittany. Brittany wraps an arm around her and then Santana feels her mother's hand on her back as she repeats her name over and over again.
Someone snatches it away when Santana flinches from it.
“Go,” Brittany says in a voice she hasn't heard before. “Now.”
Her mother must stop walking away because Brittany repeats herself again, stronger and with more warning.
“Fine,” her mother says. “But I promise you that we're not going anywhere until this is all figured out.”
“Where is she?”
Santana breathes out in relief at the sound of Libby's voice, her footsteps on the floor as she wanders into the kitchen. Frank's voice echoes loud and raised from the front of the house and Santana doesn't say anything when Libby wraps her arms around the pair of them and pulls them close.
“We came as soon as we could,” she whispers in her ear. “Is she okay?” she asks Brittany. “Are you okay, sweet girl?”
Santana nods and Brittany helps her to turn into Libby's arms, their positions changing as Brittany's hands fall to grip at her waist.
“Let's go upstairs,” Libby whispers. Santana nods. “Come on. Britt, bring that coffee. It's already too early for this shit.”
Brittany laughs once and does as she's told.
Libby sits her down on the couch and pours her a cup of coffee. Brittany opens the door to the balcony like she's told to then stands and leans against the frame as Libby calms Santana down.
“You know she'd want you to give them a chance,” Libby says softly and Santana wipes her hands over her tears, not sure why she's crying anymore. “She'd want you to forgive them.”
Santana scoffs. “I don't care.”
Libby makes a noise in her throat. “Yes, you do,” she grumbles and Santana breathes out because she's right. “You and I both know that you do because you and I know that she's right.” Libby clicks her tongue. “You know that she'd sigh and she'd grumble and she'd say stop wasting your energy on holding a grudge and use it to try and forgive them instead.” Santana rolls her eyes and Libby laughs. “I know. It's fucking annoying but she was like it for seventy-one years and it always worked for her.”
Santana sniffs as her tears subside. She nods and shakes her head, glancing up at Brittany and then to Libby and watching as they both give her narrowed smiles. All Santana can think about is how she knows that, if she does what her grandmother would want, then there's no doubt that her parents are probably going to try and stop her seeing both Libby and Brittany. She already knows she's going to fly off the handle when they suggest it. And even then, they're smart, they're wily, they'd figure out a way to make it happen without her even realizing it.
“I know,” she whispers, shrugging her shoulders. “I know but they left when I told them I was gay... I mean...” She breathes out. “What kind of relationship would that be if I just... forgave them for that?” she asks. “I mean, you've done nothing wrong and they don't want me to have anything to do with you,” she chokes and shakes her head. “I don't want them to keep you away from me if I go back to Lima...” she admits. “I don't even want to leave you when I do go back to Lima...”
Libby's face falls and she clicks her tongue, reaching forward to pull Santana into her shoulder.
“You stop that right now,” she whispers in her ear and Santana just cries harder. “Are you listening to me? You need to stop with this thinking that you need to look after me just because your damn grandmother told you to.” She pushes Santana back by the shoulders to look at her. “I told you. You don't have to worry about that. I'll be wherever you need me to be. There is nothing to worry about with that.”
Santana breathes out in relief a little. Libby wipes away her tears.
“And I've been thinking about this little Lima problem. I think I've got a solution,” Libby admits quietly, nervously.
Santana stops sniffling to look at her, hopefully. She's glad someone does. Libby pinches her chin to hold her steady. “Yeah?”
Libby nods. “How 'bout I move to Lima?”
Santana breathes out because, no, no... she can't make her do that. She can't make her give up her life and move across the country for her. That's not fair. She doesn't have to do that and that's what she tells her.
Libby growls at her. “Listen to me,” she says, raising her voice. “My knowledge of taking care of teenagers extends to handing them condoms at a sexual health clinic and yellin' at them when they're rude to me on public transport. I have never been a parent but I am a grandparent.” Santana frowns in confusion. Libby breathes out and falters for the first time but she carries on. “Because, as far as I'm concerned, I'm your grandparent and I will love and look after you no matter what, do you hear me?” A tear rolls down her cheek. “I will take care of you, even if that means moving to Ohio, and you can look after me. Do you understand?”
Santana just throws her arms around Libby's neck and they sniffle into each other's shoulders for a few moments before Libby speaks again.
“You will never have to be forced to stay away from me,” she whispers softly. Santana nods. “And I will not let you go back to your parents if I'm not sure they're not going to at least try to love you for exactly who you are.” She sighs. “But you've got to give them a chance, sweet girl, you've got to let them try.”
Santana nods, knowing she's right.
Libby pulls back a little while later and pushes Santana's hair from her eyes, beckoning Brittany over.
“Now,” she says, picking up her coffee. “The three of us are going to sit here, and we're gonna work out a plan.”
She has Brittany's hand in her left and Libby's in her right as she walks down the stairs. Frank looks up from where he's lowly talking to Quinn and Artie and glances up at them as they hit the bottom step with a sigh.
“What's happening?” he asks softly, more to Libby than to Santana.
“Are they still outside?” Libby asks softly.
“Refusing to leave,” Frank tells them.
Santana looks up at Brittany as Libby lets go of her hand.
“Good,” Libby says as she wanders away and into the kitchen. “Let em in, Frank. Both of em this time.”
“Not you,” Libby says when her mother tries to sit in the chair opposite Santana. “Him,” she clarifies and points at her father.
Santana gulps as he refuses to look at her before sitting down. Her mother lingers in the doorway, just like Libby and Brittany linger behind her. She momentarily wonders where Frank is but assumes he's probably blocking the exits so they can't walk away again.
“Talk to her,” Santana's mother prompts when her father just sits there.
He clears his throat and stares at the table. “I don't know what to say.”
“How about you start off by telling me what your problem is?” Santana whispers. She doesn't feel like her daddy's little girl anymore and it's more jarring than anything else she's felt in a while. “You're a doctor, Daddy,” she whispers. “You fix gay people every single day. You save their lives. Why are me and abuela so different? What makes us so special that you've got a problem with it?”
He shakes his head. “I have no problem with it,” he stutters out. “No problem whatsoever. I don't care if you're gay. I don't even care if she was. I mean... I'll admit that it's really hard to get my head around the fact that you're going to spend your entire life struggling and fighting—”
“The only one I'm struggling and fighting with right now is you,” Santana cuts through him softly.
He nods and she watches as he swallows to clear his throat. A bottle of water lands on the table a few seconds later and Santana looks up to find Brittany just about to retreat. Her father gives an awkward nod.
“Explain better,” Santana says softly. “I'm not a child. You don't have to hide things from me.”
“So explain,” she says and she refuses to beg.
Her father takes a drink of the water before putting it back on the table. She's never seen this man, who she used to look up to and know without a doubt that he'd be the only man she ever loved, look so pathetically small. She wonders if he's her father at all because she doesn't even feel like she recognizes him.
“I've—I've always had a feeling,” he whispers softly. “It's a cliché, right? To say that you've always known that your child was diff—different? Well... I think I knew that you were—were—”
“Gay, Daddy...” she whispers, helping.
“Gay,” he agrees. “But I just always had a feeling that you were going to be exactly like her, too,” he shakes his head and then Santana sees it in a glint in his eye. Grief, loss, regret. It makes her breath catch. She sees a little boy who just lost his mother. “I knew that you were going to be beautiful and you were going to be smart and that you would take no shit from anybody...” He trails off and takes another sip of water. “And I knew—I knew without a doubt that if I didn't do something you would end up resenting me just like she did.”
Santana breathes out harshly at the words, confused by them. “What?” she says and it's almost a laugh.
Her father reaches a hand up to his face to wipe his cheek. He shrugs and then she watches as he breathes in to stop himself from crying. “I was scared,” he whispers. “I was terrified that you would become her and you would resent me like her and...” he chokes. “You're my baby girl,” he whispers. “I couldn't live with myself if that happened.”
Santana's never seen her father cry. He didn't even cry when her abuelo died, but now he's sat in front of her and he is.
“I spent my entire life feeling like she resented me for something,” her father whispers and his hand reaches out until he' almost touching her fingers before pulling back, knowing not to. “I could feel it, you know?” he explains. “Like, she would look at me and there would be something there, something missing and I just... I was scared of it. I clung to your abuelo because he didn't have that. He always looked at me like if I wasn't there he wouldn't have anything, but I just wanted so desperately for that look in her eye to go away,” he sighs. “I tried so hard. I tried to make her proud but it was always there and I never knew what it was because I just... She was the perfect mother.”
He shrugs and Santana's mouth falls open. She looks at him and draws him in, knowing she'll probably never see something like this again.
“And then she was there and she's telling me that she's got cancer and that she's in love with this woman...” he gestures to Libby. “This woman who she had to give up because of me, that because of me she had to give up the thing that made her most happy.” He chokes out a breath. “Do you know how guilty that made me feel?” he asks breathlessly and Santana shakes her head because she doesn't know anything right now. “So, I got angry,” he says. “I got angry because I was mad at me and not her, but I took it out on her and then she was yelling at me because I was trying to argue about what everything would do to you, but she was telling me that I was the one that was going to end up messing you up because I was forcing you to live the life I wanted you to instead of asking you wanted and I just...”
He shakes his head and leans back in his chair. He gives in with a shrug.
“She was right and I was selfish...” Suddenly his face is in his hands and he's sobbing. “And now my mother's dead and I just... I never got to say sorry. I never got to say sorry and I've been at home for days thinking I was doing the right thing before it occurred to me that I'm just doing the thing I never wanted to do. I'm making you resent me and I just... you're my daughter and I love you. I was never angry at you. I was never angry at your grandmother. And I could never forgive myself if I just... I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sorry. ”
Santana doesn't say anything, just reaches into the front pocket of her overalls and takes out the folded up paper inside there before tossing it across the table.
Her father stops and looks at it. “What's...”
“Read it,” she tells him. “Read it out loud.”
He nods and is slow to unfold the paper. Santana folds her arms across her chest and watches as her father's eyes flicker over the handwriting and notices whose it is. He gasps and splutters but then he looks up and catches her eye before nodding.
“My dearest Santana,” he reads, clearing his throat. “If you've got your hands on these envelopes, then I'm probably cold in the ground by now. But, don't worry, it's okay. This is how things are supposed to be. I'm going to assume that you probably know the truth by now. I know that Libby said she would always make sure you did if I couldn't manage it; I'm just hoping that you don't disregard what she says because your daddy told you something different. I'm also hoping that you're not some ridiculous age like thirty now and that the letter from the University of Miami is still relevant. I hope you don't mind but I saw that you'd put the envelope you were going to send them in the trash and took it out and sent it anyway. No one should have to give up their dreams and I know how much you wanted to go. I remember you telling me how you and Brittany were going to go there when you were eight years-old and that you were going to be a doctor and she was going to be a marine biologist.” Her father looks up and over at Brittany then and Santana gulps at it nervously. “I can see that there's something stopping you from doing that right now but I'm hoping you can work it out before it's too late. I just don't think you should compromise your own happiness because you're worried you'll upset someone else. I told you. Do what makes you happy as long as it doesn't hurt anyone and I'll always be proud of you.”
Her father looks up at her and she gives him a look that tells him he needs to go on. He nods before doing it.
“I know that this might be a lot to ask of you, Cookie,” he goes on. “But take care of Libby for me. She waited nearly fifty years for me and I just can't bear to think of her being alone again after all that time because I'm not there. It's not fair. No one should ever have to be alone if people love them. If you love someone you should never give up on them. Sometimes, doing the right thing hurts more people than it does protect them. Look at me, your abuelo and Libby. Sometimes I look at your father and wonder if things would have been better if I'd have just gone with Libby, if I'd have given your grandfather the chance to find someone who could love him just as completely as he loved me. But then I think about it and wonder if your father would have met your mother, if you'd have ever been born and you were a miracle enough already as it is. I don't think...” Santana looks up when her father stops. He clears his throat and looks around at her mother. “I don't think I like the thought of a world where you'd never been born. I might have lost some things in my life, but I got more than I ever bargained for getting you as a granddaughter. I just wish I'd been more honest; then maybe your father wouldn't have reacted like this. But I don't blame him for it. He's...” Santana's eyes soften and she watches carefully knowing what her father's about to say. “He's stubborn and he gets scared. Just like me. And just like you. So don't hold it against him. Hopefully, this will just make things end up how they should be. I know what your father's like. He's probably brooding around blaming himself now. So, just tell him to stop being silly and that I know he's sorry. Maybe give him a kiss for me too...”
Santana swallows when her father has to stop to hold his head in his hands. Without thinking, she reaches her hand across the table and waggles her fingers. He looks at them before quickly putting his hand in hers before she can pull it away. It's clammy with tears.
“Go on,” she whispers softly.
He nods. “I love you, Cookie,” he reads. “I think out of everything that's ever happened to me, I'm most proud of you. And, even though there are a lot of things I'm not proud of your father for doing, falling in love with your mom and raising a daughter like you is definitely the one thing I'm most proud of him for. Tell him that. And tell him I love him and forgive him too.” Her father looks up at her and nods, understanding why he's reading this. She gives a quick nod in response but he's too busy reading. “Be happy, Cookie. I don't know what I'd do if you were sad, so don't go falling apart because I'm gone. Just think about it this way: I'm not hurting anymore. I'm just off waiting somewhere for you to all come find me. Look after Libby for me. All my love always, Abuela.”
Her father looks at the letter for a few moments once he's done before quietly handing it back to her. She folds it and pockets it safely away before looking up at him sternly.
“Do you see?” she says softly. “None of it was to hurt you and none of this was Libby's fault. None of this was anyone's fault. It's just a shitty thing that happened.”
Her father nods. “I know, I'm sorry.” He looks towards Libby. “I'm sorry,” he repeats. Libby gives him a sharp nod.
They sit in silent and Santana lets her father squeeze her hand. Her mother sits down beside him a few seconds later and Santana breathes through how they're both suddenly clutching at her arm desperately. It's a little too much too soon and she drags it away until they both look at her nervously.
“Where do we go from here?” her mother asks softly.
Santana shrugs her shoulders and sighs. “I can't just move back home,” she whispers. “I can't... I can't trust you to be my parents right now. Not after this. Not so soon. You left me for a week, Mom,” she whispers. “I know that there's all this other stuff and it was only a week but you still did it and it hurt me. You get that right?”
They look at each other before nodding.
“I can't come back home and pretend everything's going to be okay,” she says softly. “I'm going to head back to Lima on Monday but I'm not coming home. I talked with Brittany's parents and I'm going to stay with them until I can find somewhere to live.”
Her dad narrows his eyes. “How will you afford it?” he asks softly.
Santana shrugs. “My inheritance,” she says softly. “They have to let me have some of it if I need somewhere to live. I can rent somewhere for a while. Libby's going to come stay with me and, if things work out, maybe I'll come home but, if not, I'll stay there until I go to college. Britt and I are going to try to get into UM.”
Her father smiles. “Like your grandfather.”
“And Abuela,” she nods. “And Libby for a little while too. Stanford just isn't for me.”
Her father nods in understanding.
“We are sorry, Santana,” he says softly. “We'll do anything you need us to do.”
Santana looks at them and shrugs. “I just need you to think about me for once,” she whispers.
They look at each other.
“Then that's what we'll do,” they say, and maybe, for a second, Santana can let herself believe that they might.
“I can't believe school starts in a little over a week,” Brittany says as she folds Santana's clothes. All of hers are still tucked in her duffle because everything she's been wearing since she got here is Santana's. “It's going to be so strange.”
She wasn't lying to her parents. The plan is to leave tomorrow and none of the others had any arguments about that. Her parents asked her if they should wait but she told them to leave. They didn't argue, and flew back shortly after leaving the house yesterday.
Santana smiles as she takes the clothes from Brittany and packs them into her suitcase. “Tell me about it.”
“Everything's so different,” Brittany says and she stops. “Like, nothing's the same.”
Santana kisses her quickly because if she thinks about it too much she actually does start to get a little startled by it.
“You're the same,” she whispers against her lips. “I still love you. That's no different.”
Brittany smiles against her lips and wraps her arms around her. “Me too,” she nods softly. “Except now everybody knows it.” She pauses and pulls back a little. “At least, they will, right?” she asks with a frown.
Santana smiles against her mouth and presses another kiss there. “Maybe we should make this official,” she says and then drops to one knee. Brittany's eyes widen. “Be my girlfriend?” she asks around a chuckle at Brittany's face.
Brittany's grin goes big, even as she calms down a little. She yanks Santana towards and kisses her languidly, pulling her back until they're laying on the floor.
“About time,” she whispers against her mouth.
Santana grins against her mouth. “Is that a yes?”
Brittany nods, her hands tugging Santana close by the ass until their locked together.
Santana pulls back and gives her a huge smile. “Then tell me about it.”
The bags are packed and the beds are made. The house is clean and Sam and Artie did a pretty good job of eating all the stuff from the pantry that they couldn't take with them. There's a pile of luggage by the front door already, a map underneath Santana's car keys and all that's left to pack away is the blankets they'll use tonight when they sleep on the couches.
Everything else is left for Uncle Frank and Aunt Dena to sort out for the next lot of vacationers coming to rent the house in September.
“You guys have got everything together a little early, don't you think?” Libby says when she finds them all standing around staring at the suddenly strange-looking house. She wraps her arms around Brittany and Santana before laughing at their faces. “Happy to be going home?”
None of them really know what to say.
“Come on,” she says. “Frank's waiting at the bar. He's taking us out for dinner.”
They eat dinner with Frank and Libby who fill them up with as much food as they can before exchanging hugs and promises that they'll see them in the morning. Frank pulls her to one side and hands her an envelope. She doesn't look in it but knows what it is, just from the shape. Her eyes roll automatically.
“Just in case,” he whispers and he sounds so much like her abuela that she hugs him again. He squeezes her tight. “And for the apartment. I don't know how long all this legal stuff will take so... just in case. Keep it safe.”
She wants to thank him but she doesn't know how. She'll see him again tomorrow before she leaves but everything is too overwhelming for her right now.
“I'm proud of you,” he whispers and then he's pushing her away towards where Libby is hugging Brittany.
Libby gives her a kiss on the cheek and a hug before holding her at arm's length. “I'll see you in the morning,” she says. “If you want, we can all get breakfast before you go.”
Santana nods and feels safe knowing that she'll leave tomorrow and then Libby will join her just a few days later, ready to start their apartment hunting. “Okay, cool,” she nods.
“And we can discuss color schemes,” Brittany softly. “And furniture.”
Santana laughs and kisses her on the chin as she wraps an arm around her waist. Libby pinches her cheek with a smile and then tells her to get out of here and go have a little more fun before they have to knuckle down and study.
They walk down Duval Street one last time and Santana buys them all extra large ice cream sundaes at the only place in town that sells vegan ice cream too, even if it only has three flavors, before guiding them all to wander around Mallory Square. They watch the performers and Sam tells them he's going to be a fire-eater when he grows up and they laugh at him. Laughing is easier than thinking about going home.
Brittany pulls them towards one of the old wooden docks and sits down before tugging off her Chucks and then doing the same to Santana's. The others sit beside them and wordlessly follow their actions. Santana just smiles as Brittany rolls up the legs of her overalls for her before urging her to dangle her legs over the edge. Soon they're all sat in a line, looking out onto the horizon with nothing ahead of them but the ocean.
Everything feels possible, but some things feel more certain.
The quiet is kind of nice until Quinn suddenly starts laughing hysterically. Santana turns to look at her where she sits beside her and narrows her eyes.
Quinn clutches at her chest and tries to calm herself down but it's impossible.
“I'm sorry... I'm sorry...” she laughs uncontrollably, “but this has been the worst summer ever!”
Santana finds a grin falling on her face and she turns to Brittany to find her smiling into the soupy remnants of her second ice cream sundae. She snorts and shakes her head as she finds all five of them grinning or laughing.
“Yeah,” she nods reluctantly. “Ever.”
Everything goes quiet just as quickly then and something goes unspoken between them. Brittany leans over and squeezes her hand tighter as she kisses her cheek. Her head falls to rest against Santana's shoulder and Quinn loops an arm through hers as they think about where they are, where they're going and what they've been through.
Santana feels an undeniably happy smile teasing at the corners of her mouth. With Artie's arm around Quinn and Sam's arms wrapped around Brittany and Rachel, Santana's never felt less alone, or this happy, despite everything that's happened. She bumps shoulders with Quinn then presses a kiss to Brittany's forehead before she says the only words on her mind.
“But I wouldn't change a second of it,” she says certainly. “Not a single one.”