Three Little Words
(or Five Times Santana Didn't Say I Love You and One Time She Did)

Written: April 3, 2011

Rating: A hard R, or very soft NC-17

Pairing: Santana/Brittany, some Brittany/Artie

Spoilers/Timeline: Through 3.16 Original Song

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters, nor do I make any profit from writing about them.

Summary: It's the three little words that are always on the tip of her tongue that scare her the most.

Note: Lyrics for each subsection are as follows: i - On Directing by Tegan and Sara, ii - 3 Libras by A Perfect Circle, iii - Flames by VAST, iv - Fuck Was I by Jenny Owen Youngs, v - User Friendly by Marilyn Manson. And finally, i(2) - Landslide by Fleetwood Mac.

i. i lose my grip i lose my focus

If Quinn really thinks she's going to get away with something like this, she has another damn thing coming. No one makes Santana Lopez look like a fool and gets away with it. She isn't someone to be messed with; she's someone to be feared. The time will come when Quinn has her back turned and that's all it's going to take. Santana is going to kick her and her post-pregnancy stretch marks back to last year.

Back to when Quinn was pregnant and Santana became head cheerleader.

Santana angrily storms into the ladies' restroom at the end of the hall, the door banging off the tiled wall behind it and making the two girls primping in front of the mirrors jump with surprise. Santana doesn't need to say anything to them; they see her face and quickly rush past her and out the slowly closing door. Only when Santana hears it fully shut does she take a deep breath and approach the mirror to survey the damage caused in her scuffle with Quinn.

She audibly groans when she sees the tiny trickle of blood on her bottom lip.

Demoted from head cheerleader and exiled to the bottom of the cheer pyramid because of her boob job, and now visibly marred from a blond-haired goody-goody post-natal little priss. Yep, there's no way she's ever going to live this day down.

The door opens off to her side and Santana doesn't even bristle; there's only one person in the whole damn school who would dare to walk into the restroom with her after what had just happened out in the halls of McKinley High. She continues to inspect her split lip and waits for the questions that will inevitably come.

"Violence is never the answer. Why were you trying to kill Quinn?"

Santana exhales and can't help the wry smile that appears on her face. The small split in her lip stretches, making her hiss quietly. She looks over to Brittany who's only a few feet away now and uses the back of her index finger to wipe away the fresh drip of blood on her lip.

"Because she told Coach Sylvester about my summer surgery and now I'm banished to the bowels of the pyramid. Not only that but she also scored the newly vacant position of head cheerleader."

Brittany looks confused. "Why, did you quit?"

"I didn't!" Santana replies harshly but she's not angry with Brittany.

Brittany must realize this too because she steps closer, undeterred by Santana's apparent hostility. She grabs some paper towels from a dispenser above the sinks and wads them up, then holds them to Santana's lip to absorb the bright red blood there.

"I didn't," Santana repeats, much gentler this time around. "Coach Sylvester said that I have low self-esteem and that I don't fit the head cheerleader position anymore because of it."

"That's stupid, you're the most confident person I know," Brittany replies. She dabs Santana's lip again and pulls the paper towels back to inspect the split.

"I know I am," Santana says. She grabs the paper towels from Brittany's hand and takes one more swipe at her lip before balling them up and tossing them into the trashcan. "My old boobs were fine as hell."

"They were," Brittany nods.

"I just think that these are even better. What's wrong with making something great even greater? I'll tell you what: nothing. Coach Sylvester is a total nazi."

Brittany looks down and has a good long look at Santana's chest. It doesn't make Santana self-conscious; Brittany has seen them many times before and usually without any clothes covering them up.

"I like your new boobs," Brittany announces and for a few moments, Santana forgets why she's pissed off in the first place.

Brittany just has a way of doing that; of leveling Santana out, of keeping her grounded, of bringing her down when Santana is pretty sure she's about to lose her shit. Maybe that's why they're best friends. Maybe that's why they're so close.

Maybe that's why Santana chooses to be around Brittany more than any other guy or girl out there.

Or maybe it's because of the way her stomach starts to tickle in that stupidly annoying way whenever they share a moment like this.

Brittany disturbs the moment though, as she's often prone to doing, with a thought that snaps Santana back to reality.

"They remind me of my birthday."

Santana furrows her brow a bit and starts to look away but literally has to do a double-take. She can wave off most of Brittany's off-hand comments but . . . she's too curious this time to just let it go.

"What?" she asks.

"They remind me of my birthday," Brittany repeats, stepping even closer.

She places her palms flat on Santana's stomach and starts a slow trail upward until they're gently cupping over her breasts. Santana's breath hitches in her throat and she takes a cursory glance at the bathroom stalls to make sure that they're well and truly alone.

"Every year," Brittany continues, her gaze fixed on Santana's chest as she slowly caresses it, "my parents buy me balloons for my birthday."

Santana opens her mouth to speak but words literally elude her this time. How exactly can she respond to that? Fact is, she can't. There's nothing to say. Brittany, in her own unique way, has completely distracted Santana from the atrocity that just happened in the school hallway . . . and has even made her feel less self-conscious about what Coach Sylvester had said about her new boobs.

Words failing her, Santana leans in and presses her lips to Brittany's, kissing her soft and slow and carefully enough that her injured lip doesn't become more injured. There's no taste of rusty blood; just the sweetness of Brittany's lips and her bubblegum flavored lipgloss. Brittany's hands slide up to her shoulders and push her back just enough so that their foreheads are touching but their lips aren't.

Santana takes a deep breath, trying so hard to figure out exactly what she's feeling. Brittany always does this to her; always makes her feel better. Stronger. Happier.

It's like love, but it's with a girl so it can't be. That would just be ten shades of fucked up that Santana doesn't know if she can deal with.

Then again . . . she's the strongest, fiercest person she knows, so maybe she can deal with it.

The words are on her lips and, thanks to Brittany, Santana feels brave enough to maybe try them out. She opens her mouth and manages to get out, "Britt, I . . ." before Tina and Mercedes walk into the bathroom talking about the merits of tots versus dim sum.

Everyone freezes except for Santana who jumps back in surprise. Brittany just looks at her, her gaze unyielding, searching for more. Hoping she'll continue whatever it is what she was about to say.

But the words are lost again and Santana hefts her bag over her shoulder and storms out of the room, not wanting to know what Tina and Mercedes' thoughts are on what they stumbled in on.

ii. difficult not to feel a little bit disappointed and passed over

The day before had seemed so promising. A duets competition in glee club that she was sure to win - there was no way she would give up a free dinner to Breadstix to any of the glee club losers - and a nice and healthy make out session on Brittany's bed. Santana had felt on top of the world.

But then Brittany had started up with all of the Melissa Etheridge bullshit and . . . no. Just no. That isn't going to happen. Having sex with Brittany behind closed doors is one thing. Waving a rainbow flag and parading around the glee club room is something completely different.

Brittany obviously hasn't taken the rebuff too badly; by the time today comes around, she already has another duet partner.

Santana's a bit more than surprised when she makes her way down the hall at school and sees Brittany walking behind Artie, pushing him along while they discuss their song selection. They make eye contact as they pass one another and Santana turns around, watching them head in the opposite direction.

One thing is obvious; this is Brittany's power play. People think that she's all body and no brain - and honestly, sometimes they're right - but Brittany does indeed have a brain and when she focuses, she can almost always get what she wants.

Brittany knows exactly what she's doing here, and she's accomplishing two things all at once: she's getting a pretty kickass duet partner who may actually give Santana and Mercedes a bit of competition, and she's successfully making Santana jealous.

Santana and Brittany aren't girlfriends, they're both clear on that point. They have sex with each other, and they have sex with other people. They're young and they're hot, so why shouldn't they?

But the unspoken rule, the one that they always follow without even realizing it most times, is that the sex with other people is just sex. There's no love, there's no feelings; it's just a physical act.

And that's why Brittany's ploy to make Santana jealous here is totally working, because this is Artie they're taking about. He's not exactly crawling with babes, and he's probably the one guy in the entire school that won't use and lose Brittany. He's a keeper, and if he and Brittany get together like that, there will be feelings. He'll fall in love with her and he'll treat her right, and Santana will lose Brittany for good.

She knows all of this just by witnessing the act of Brittany pushing him down the hall.

Brittany turns around and looks at Santana. She points to her own chest and then gestures that no, Santana won't be getting any of that.

That simple action is not a deal breaker for Santana, but what is is the fact that Artie may be getting some of that. No, not may, will. This is Brittany she's talking about, after all.

And when she pulls up to Brittany's house a handful of hours later and Artie is wheeling himself out of the front door and to a waiting car with a goofy smile on his face, Santana knows that she was right. Artie did get some of that, and now Santana is in real danger of losing Brittany to him for good.

She waits until Artie's mom pulls away from the house before stepping out of her car and making her way up the front walkway. Mrs. Pierce opens the door and greets her when she knocks, then lets her in so that she can go up to Brittany's room. Her heart is beating hard in her chest the whole time and she can feel anger burning in her cheeks.

She's not here to yell though; Brittany doesn't deserve that. Besides, that would probably push her right into Artie's waiting arms anyhow, and there is no way in hell Santana is going to give her that final push. Not if she can help it.

Brittany can have sex with as many people as she wants; she just can't fall in love with Artie. That's not allowed.

Santana lets herself into Brittany's room without knocking and finds her sitting on the edge of her bed, running a brush through her wet and freshly washed hair.

"Hey, Britt-Britt," she says casually.

But then she takes in the state of the room - rumpled blankets and the picture of Brittany's cat face down on her nightstand - and the sense of casual starts to dissolve. She looks over at Brittany again, trying to cool her growing anger, and notices that's she's wearing a light yellow terrycloth robe. When Santana realizes that Artie got to see and explore everything that's beneath it, she makes a fist so hard that her nails dig into her palms.

"God, you had sex with him!" she says with exasperation . . . and maybe just a hint of disgust.

Really, it's Artie. How would that even work?

"Yeah," Brittany replies, her brow furrowed. "But we have sex with other people all the time, Santana. You never cared before."

"Because it was never with Artie!" Santana exclaims, throwing her arms up in the air.

"I don't understand what the difference is."

"The difference is," Santana begins, "that you popped his little cripple cherry. He's going to be like a lost puppy now, Britt. You're never gonna be able to get rid of him now that you fed him."

Brittany looks even more confused.

"I don't know what you're talking about. He had dinner before he came here." The simple statement makes Santana laugh with disbelief but it doesn't deter Brittany from continuing. "And besides, he won't fall in love with me. He still loves Tina. He told me so himself."

Santana sighs. "That's not the way it works, Brittany."

"I'm pretty sure it is. But I mean, I can't help it that I'm not Asian. It's like . . . reverse racism." She waits for a beat and then adds, "I feel so oppressed."

Santana tries to come to grips with the discussion and she takes a seat on the bed next to Brittany. She tries a different approach.

"Britt, Artie isn't like normal guys - and no, it's not because he's a robot. I already told you that he's not."

"I know."

"For him, sex isn't just sex. It's something more. For him there are feelings and sentimentality; he's going to be pining for you so hard now."

"But that's never what happens. No one ever falls in love with me afterwards," Brittany says, stating what she thinks is the obvious.

It breaks Santana's heart just a little.

"That's because we don't have sex with people who would ever love us, Brittany. You don't love everyone you have sex with, do you?"

Brittany thinks about it for a moment. "Not everyone, no." She looks lost in thought and Santana watches her, hoping beyond hope that Brittany understands. Finally Brittany speaks again. "Wait, does that mean we love each other because we keep having sex together but we don't keep having sex with anyone else we hook up with?"

Brittany's thought train has never been one to travel directly from station to station; it takes detours and pit stops and Santana is fairly used to being surprised by her questions. She wasn't expecting that question though, not in a million years, and once again she finds herself completely at a loss for words. She opens her mouth to speak but nothing comes out. There's no way she can give an answer to that question; she asks herself the same thing every time they're together and has yet to figure out the answer even in her own mind. Forget being able to put it into words.

Thankfully an interruption comes in the form of Brittany's mother knocking at the door, announcing that Artie is back because he forgot his backpack. Brittany picks up the bag from the floor and stands up to hand it to her mother. Santana takes the opportunity to sneak past them and runs out of the room and out of the house before the conversation can get her in any more trouble.

She's already busy trying to figure out a way to kick her own ass as it is. God, why did she even bother going over there?

iii. when i am with you there's no reason to pretend

While everyone else is stressed out and worrying about their sectionals performance, Santana is the perfect picture of calm and cool. There's no reason for any of them to be nervous, really. So long as Quinn and Trout-Mouth don't stink up their duet, they've got this competition in the bag. Mr. Schue finally giving her a featured solo was probably his best decision ever.

She's leaning up against a wall backstage filing her nails when she sees Artie speed on by like a tornado on wheels. She doesn't know why he looks so visibly upset but seeing as that he doesn't have Brittany glued to his side as per usual, she figures it has something to do with her best friend.

Yes, they're still best friends, and yes, they're still screwing even though Brittany and Artie are an official couple. Brittany had been worried about being a cheater but when Santana told her it wasn't cheating because the plumbing is different, that seemed to make it okay for them to continue doing what they'd been doing for over a year now.

Still, that doesn't mean that the whole Brittany/Artie thing doesn't bother her. It does, like crazy. She'd called it from that very first day she'd seen them together; she knew that Artie would fall in love and treat Brittany well and that the blonde would fall in love with him too. Cut to a few months later and they're happy and sweet and it makes her want to vomit every time she sees them together.

So that nauseous feeling in her stomach? It has nothing to do with nerves. It's something she's gotten used to feeling almost twenty-four/seven.

Making sure that no one's watching her, she heads in the direction that Artie just came from until she sees Brittany in one of the green rooms, sitting on one of the arm chairs with her knees under her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs. She looks despondent and while Santana knows that it's wrong, she feels a little bit happy anyhow. Maybe the Bartie-fest is finally over.

"Penny for your thoughts?" she asks as she slowly walks into the room.

Brittany looks up at her through her eyelashes, her chin still resting on her knees.

"I don't have any pennies. This outfit doesn't have pockets."

The corners of Santana's lips turn up just for a second but then she sits down on the arm of Brittany's chair and tries to be more serious.

"It's just a saying, Britt. Forget about it." She takes a deep breath and then asks, "What's going on with you and Artie-boy?"

"I lost his magic comb and now I'm going to make us lose."

Brittany sounds absolutely dejected but still, that doesn't make sense of anything that she just said. The only thing Santana gets from it is that Brittany's worried about her performance. There's no reason for her to be; she's the best dancer Santana has ever seen.

"There's no such thing as a magic comb," Santana starts, finding that a good place to begin as any.

"But there is," Brittany counters. "Artie gave it to me and said that if I comb my hair with it, there's no way we can lose."

"It's just a regular comb," Santana dismisses. "Magic is for losers who can't depend on themselves to get things done. But you, Britt-Britt? You don't need, magic. You are magic. When you dance, no one can top you. The world just stops and stares."

Brittany thinks about it for a second. "Now I feel even more self-conscious."

Santana can't help but smile. "You don't need to. I'm gonna rock the song and you're gonna be totally badass out there tonight. You always are."

"I know, I really am," Brittany agrees after a moment, a small grin creeping up on her lips.

They share a smile and Brittany reaches out, taking Santana's hand in hers. Santana sees Mr. Schue appear in the door out of the corner of her eye but she doesn't pull away; he can think what he wants. It's perfectly fine for best friends to hold hands.

"Five minutes, girls," he announces. He gently bangs his palm on the door to make sure he has their attention, then disappears down the hall.

"I better go and warm up," Brittany says. She stands up, still holding Santana's hand.

Santana doesn't want to let go but she does, staying seated on the arm of the chair until Brittany is out of sight and she's left alone in the room. She finally takes a much needed deep breath and tries to steel herself. She's not used to heart-to-heart talks and all of this sappy shit; it's just not her style.

Shaking her head, she stands up and walks out of the room to join the others. She does her best to ignore the way that Artie and Brittany seem to have made up in the two minutes since Brittany left her side. The nauseous feeling comes back but she pushes it down. Her hands clench and unclench and she focuses on the task at hand.

She's going to show everyone exactly what she's made of.

Like she'd originally thought, the show goes off without a hitch. Her voice is flawless, their choreography is perfect, and not even Finn's occasional rhythm impairment throws them off. The routine ends with a bang and they get a well deserved standing ovation.

The worst part of these damn competitions is waiting around to see if they've won, but it's different this time. They're excited and smiling rather than anxious; after a performance like the one they gave, they pretty much know they're taking the trophy home.

Sure enough, the guest judge announces that New Directions has indeed won. Sure they tied with The Warblers, but hey . . . first place is first place, even if they have to share it.

They jump around excitedly and hug as they gather up their trophy and run off stage to congratulate one another. For a moment, nothing is wrong in Santana's life. She sang a kickass song, they did a kickass job, and she's getting a kickass kiss from Brittany.

... she's getting a kickass kiss from Brittany?

Her eyes widen when she realizes that, somehow while hugging, they began to kiss. She guesses that it's because it's just a natural reaction for them; add in the excitement and thrill of the win and it just happened. She quickly pulls back and stares into Brittany's eyes, not bothering to hide her fear that they're probably busted.

There are no gasps of surprise though; no fingers being pointed and no laughter at her expense. A quick glance to either side reassures her that everyone is so wrapped up in their own excitement that no one has noticed the little slip up. Not even Artie, who usually watches Brittany like a smitten, crippled little hawk has noticed. He's trying to pop a wheelie to Puck's encouragement and whooping.

When she finally meets Brittany's gaze again, she notices that Brittany hasn't looked away the whole time. That she's still staring at Santana, a sweet smile on her face.

"You were right, I am magic," Brittany says.

She leans in and presses her lips chastely to Santana's cheek, then runs off to celebrate with everyone else.

Santana is left feeling stunned but tries not to let it show. Instead she cheers excitedly when both Rachel and Tina come over to give her a hug and congratulates them on a job well done even though she knows she was the star of the show.

Their hugs feel awkward; nothing like Brittany's.

Dammit. She's so screwed.

iv. if we weren't such good friends i think that i'd hate you

The only thing worse than Valentine's Day is being alone on Valentine's Day, and that's exactly what Santana is this year. It's not that she doesn't like the idea of romance; flowers and jewelry and fine dining are some of her favorite things, actually. In fact, Puck doesn't know it yet but that's exactly what he'll be giving her in just a few hours.

Sure, the day may have started out pretty crappily. She still isn't sure what that whole Gang Up Against Santana Fest in glee club was all about, but she's not going to let it ruin her day. Not when Brittany and Artie playing schmoopyface all around the entire frigging school is already threatening to do just that.

She takes a peek down a busy hallway and makes sure there is no sign of wheels before confidently strutting down it and directly over to Puckerman's locker.

Now, Santana isn't used to being rejected. She gets what she wants when she wants it, and most of the time that includes people too. Puck isn't her boyfriend and never will be, but he's one of the hottest catches in the school and he's not half bad in bed. Besides, he's not clingy which is a huge bonus in her book.

Suffice it to say, she's more than surprised when he flat out tells her no. It stings, sure, but she's not willing to give up yet. His vision is clouded by the huge sunblot that is Lauren Zizes but all he needs is a good reminder of what he's missing.

Of course, Santana had never planned on Lauren overhearing their conversation. She also hadn't planned on a rumble today - she just had her nails done yesterday - but when Lauren charges, Santana throws down and gives back as good as she can. Unfortunately, her best isn't quite good enough and Lauren ends up tossing her around like a ragdoll. She gets in a good bite or two, enough to keep it from being a total clobbering, but before she can break out her really catty moves, Coach Beiste comes along and breaks them up.

She's not the kind of person who wallows in self-pity though so she gets on with her day like normal. Things start looking up - way up - when she realizes that she can wreak a bit of havoc between Quinn and Finn. Revenge is what she does best . . . well, that and sex, but it looks like sex is off the menu for today.

Not long after sixth period, she makes her way to her locker and takes out her candy striper uniform. Mike Chang happens to walk by and raises an eyebrow in question when he sees it but she just slams her locker and glares him down. Just because it's school doesn't mean that a sexy nurse outfit might not come in handy on occasion.

And now is one of those occasions.

She heads to the nurse and borrows Wes Fahey's mono, then promptly heads to Finn's kissing booth and passes the germs along. It's not like they've never kissed before - she did take his virginity after all - but he's still surprised when she slips him a bit of tongue in the middle of the hall with dozens of people standing around watching. The whole thing is just part of her master plan to reveal the sordid little affair between him and Quinn. She just can't wait for those germs to spread and incubate like wildfire.

Glee club is about to get very interesting.

A soft tap on her shoulder catches her attention and she turns around to see Brittany standing there, looking her up and down. Santana tries to act nonchalant but she's still feeling a bit bitter that Brittany isn't planning on ditching Artie later on so that they can get their cuddle on.

Brittany looks confused, which honestly isn't out of the norm for her.

"Wait a minute," she begins, "Mercedes said that Lauren Zizes beat you up so hard that you had to go to the nurse and get a blood transfusion from Coach Sylvester, but she didn't say that you became a nurse."

"I didn't," Santana says easily. "And Wheezy needs to mind her business. I showed Lauren how we do it in Lima Heights Adjacent. She wont's be gettin' up in my grill anymores."

"Okay," Brittany continues, still looking pretty confused. "But that doesn't explain why you're suddenly a nurse."

Santana rolls her eyes and starts heading down the hall. Just as she expects, Brittany follows along at her side, waiting for further explanation. She heads into the restroom at the end of the hall that no one uses and lets herself into one of the bathroom stalls so that she can get changed. Brittany waits for her just outside the door, talking to her excitedly about her plans for the evening.

"Artie is taking me to Breadstix. He said that I can get anything that I want, even dessert."

"Wow, what a stand up guy," Santana replies dryly.

She chuckles a bit at her own joke - stand up, ha! - despite that fact that it went right over Brittany's head. When she's done changing back into her regular clothes, she tucks her candy striper uniform into her bag and opens the door, having to awkwardly step around Brittany to get to the sinks. Placing the bag on the porcelain sink ledge, she pulls out her hairbrush and runs it through her long dark hair, trying to fix it up after wearing the little paper hat.

"So if Puck is going out with Lauren Zizes tonight, who are you going out with?" Brittany asks after a few moments of awkward silence.

"Please," Santana scoffs. "As if I really want to slum it up with Puckerman anyhow. While you're all out pandering to the gods of retail holidays, I'll be watching a nice slasher flick and getting my mani-pedi on."

She's fully aware that Brittany is watching her every move but she doesn't look over at her; she can't show a chink in her usual armor. Not on a day like today; not on a day for lovers when her own lover is choosing to be with Artie rather than her.

"You can come out with me and Artie," Brittany offers, smiling now. "It can be like a double date, except you'll both be there with me."

And even though they've double-dated in the past, the very idea of having to sit across from Brittany and Artie at a Valentine's Day dinner makes her lips curl up in a quiet snarl. She slings her bag over her shoulder and turns to face Brittany. She knows that the girl doesn't deserve her wrath but . . . she just can't help it.

"I'd rather go with Puckerman and his beast."

She steps around Brittany and almost makes it to the door before she feels a hand close softly around her wrist. Slowing to a stop, she looks down at the floor before taking a deep breath and turning to face Brittany again.

"Alright, I'm sorry," she says before Brittany can say anything, sounding as though she literally has to force the words out, which is mostly true. "This day is just ten shades of wrong." She shakes her head and meets Brittany's gaze, trying to put on a more friendly face. "Have fun with Artie. I hope your day is special and . . . whatever. Guess it already is since you're dating Special Olympics."

And as friendly as she's trying to be, she just can't help that one last barb, nor can she hide the smirk that creeps up on her lips.

"You can make it even more special," Brittany says quietly, looking at Santana through her eyelashes. It's the look she uses to get what she wants.

Dammit. Santana knows that whatever it is, she's gonna do it, too.

"How's that?"

"A Valentine's Day sweet lady kiss?" Brittany requests, smiling playfully.

She pulls Santana closer by her wrist but just moments before their lips meet, Santana remembers something. Quickly pulling back, she puts her fingers over her own lips - her mono tainted lips - and shakes her head no. The last time Brittany had mono, she fell asleep on the bus ride home on a Friday afternoon and everyone thought she was missing until they found her again on Monday morning on the ride to school.

"Raincheck," Santana replies finally. She can't help but notice Brittany's disappointment and, unable to help herself, she leans in a gives her a quick hug.

Well, it was supposed to be a quick hug, anyhow. Instead they hold one another for nearly a minute, Santana taking in the scent she'd grown so familiar with and now missed more than she'd like to admit. Brittany's lips graze her shoulder and when Santana's stomach starts to do that familiar little flippy thing, she literally has to bite her own lip to stop herself from saying what she really wants to say.

What she's never told anyone before.

But instead she pulls back and quickly walks out the restroom door, not sparing Brittany another glance. When she's half way down the hall she both congratulates and curses herself for her level of restraint.

She's not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing anymore.

v. i'm not in love but i'm gonna fuck you 'til somebody better comes along

The last place Santana thought she'd ever find herself on a Saturday is in Rachel Berry's house. She promised herself that she'd never be seen there unless she was egging the windows or toilet-papering the lawn, but here she is, drink in hand and surrounded by the other glee clubbers and Kurt's new boycrush. The even worse part? She's actually having fun. There's a liquor cabinet full of booze, they're all drunk, and everyone is just cutting loose and having a great time.

She hates to admit it, but Rachel is kind of a trip when she's drunk. Personally, she's always thought that wine coolers taste like pink too.

While half of the group plays quarters and Kurt watches Blaine have some kind of seizure on the little stage, everyone else decides to partake in some body shots. Brittany, already laying down on a table and trying to count stars, gets volunteered as the body.

And what a body it is.

Santana shakes some salt on Brittany's taut stomach and licks it off in a long, lingering swipe. She tries so hard not to notice the way that Brittany stares at her when she stands up straight and bites into the lime, or the way Brittany's biting gently on her lower lip, a sure sign that the girl is turned on.

Instead she downs her shot of tequila and steals Sam's shot too before he can drink it, needing it far more than he does. When she's done with the second shot, she tosses the glass over her shoulder and pulls Sam in for a deep kiss, trying to remember the fact that she's there with him and that Brittany is there with Artie. They're not there together, and as much as she'd like to properly use her tongue on Brittany, the 'sweet lady kisses' will have to wait. Tonight Sam gets that benefit; and besides, if she squints her eyes enough through the alcohol haze, he could kind of pass for Brittany . . .

She spends what feels like an hour making out with him on the sofa, fighting every urge in her body to turn around and see just what Brittany and Artie are up to. Fact is, she doesn't really want to see; the alcohol she's consumed will probably throw her into a frenzy of emotion that will end up in either tears or blood, and really, it's probably not politically correct to beat up a guy in a wheelchair.

They finally pull apart when Rachel starts yelling about playing spin the bottle. Sam seems more enthused to play than she does so Santana stands back from the rest of the group that forms into a circle in the middle of the room. Her gaze immediately falls upon Brittany who is partially undressed and just as drunk as Santana is. Her cheeks are flushed from the alcohol and when she spins the bottle, Santana holds her breath. She'd give anything for that bottle to land on Berry or Mercedes or even Kurt or Blaine.

Now that would be some funny shit.

But no, the gods of teenage angst must be pissed off at her because the bottle stops squarely on Sam. Immediately she feels heat rising in her cheeks and she's not sure if it's because of the alcohol or the innate anger she feels at the thought of her man kissing her Brittany.

Without thinking she blurts out something about those guppy lips belonging to her, but in her mind she knows what she really means; she knows that it's Brittany she's more worried about here and not about her boyfriend.

Neither Brittany nor Sam spare her a glance as they lean in and lock lips in - she's not going to lie - a really hot looking kiss. She feels a flare of lust begin to spread throughout her body, quickly followed by anger. The alcohol is definitely getting the best of her emotions, especially when she sees Artie cheering Brittany and Sam on. It's literally the straw that breaks the camel's back and she can't contain herself anymore.

"You know what? This is not - hey honeys!" she shouts out, the plural-ness of the word slipping past her internal censor. "This is not a Big Red commercial. No me gusta!"

Instead of doing her trademark storming off, she grabs Brittany's arm and yanks her up, getting everyone's attention. Lauren Zizes yells something about a chick fight but Santana is too busy tugging Brittany along toward the stairs to stop to comment.

They get about eight steps up when Santana finally hears someone calling after them. It's not Brittany; no, Brittany is quietly stumbling along behind her, not questioning Santana's sudden outburst. After their time together as best friends, Brittany knows better than that.

But apparently Artie doesn't. He's followed them to the bottom of the steps and is now calling after Santana with an arm outstretched to Brittany.

"Hey!" he slurs through his alcohol induced haze, a small smile on his lips. "L'eggo my girl-o."

All it serves to do is enrage Santana even further. She steps in front of Brittany on the steps so she's between her and Artie and glares down at him.

"You want her? I'd like to see you come and get her."

She storms up the rest of the stairs with Brittany right behind her, ignoring the hurt look that Artie gives her.

"Santana!" Brittany scolds quietly. "That was mean. Stairs are his Everest."

"So sue me," Santana replies without looking back, trying to hide the emotion in her voice.

They reach the top floor and Santana leads them into the first room they pass by. She doesn't turn on the light, she doesn't look around; she merely steps inside, pulls Brittany in, then closes the door and has Brittany pushed up against.

Within seconds Brittany's fingers are threaded through her hair, keeping her pressed close as their lips meet in a deep, hard kiss. It's a quiet agreement; Santana is wordlessly claiming her territory and Brittany is letting her. All argument and confusion is gone; right now it's just the two of them, warm skin and wet kisses, wandering hands and ragged breaths.

Santana doesn't know why she's doing this; it's something innate in her that she just has to do. She can't fight it; her body is in control and it's taking what it wants no matter how much her brain is screaming at her to stop, wait, think.

The kiss is comfortable; it's perfectly natural, and it feels so damn right. Yet here they are, hiding away in a dark bedroom where no one can stumble in on them.

Santana grins softly against Brittany's lips as she feels Brittany reach behind herself and fumble around until the sound of the door lock sliding into place is heard. For a few minutes they don't worry about the friends they've left behind and the boyfriends that are undoubtedly wondering exactly what's going on.

For a few minutes it's just them.

And it's perfect.

Santana moves her right hand from Brittany's hip and slides it across and down her abdomen, fingers inching down until they pass the waistband of her shorts. Brittany slides down the door a few inches and parts her legs more, giving Santana access to what they both seem to want so much right now.

"Santana," Brittany breathes, then gasps quietly as Santana's fingers finally come into contact with her hot, wet flesh.

Santana leans in to kiss her once again, silencing her breathy moans and sighs as she slips two fingers inside and starts to move them. The angle is a bit awkward and Brittany's shorts are so tight that Santana's palm is pressing hard against her clit, but that actually makes it better. So much better.

It only takes a few minutes until Brittany comes hard against Santana's hand, her fingernails digging into Santana's back through her shirt. She buries her face in Santana's neck and they stay like that for a few minutes while she tries to catch her breath.

Santana softly caresses Brittany's side with her free hand, both hating and loving the silence between them. It's only when Brittany looks up at her with question in her eyes that the silence gets to be too much. Unable to move away seeing as that her hand is still in Brittany's pants, Santana does the only thing she can think of: she leans in and captures Brittany's lips in what turns out to be a heartstoppingly tender kiss.

Something radiates within her and she feels like she just might burst if she doesn't say something soon. After a few moments she pulls back and looks into Brittany's eyes, feeling those all too familiar words creeping onto her lips again.

But then she realizes that they're in Rachel fucking Berry's bedroom and that eleven of their closest friends are just two floors beneath them, probably wondering what they hell they're up to. Fear grips her with its icy claws and in a split second, she's standing a few feet away from Brittany and wiping her fingers off on Rachel's bedspread.

They need to get back to their boyfriends because that's the way it's supposed to be. That's how they're supposed to be. She's not gay and neither is Brittany; they just happen to like having sex together. But even if she was - and she's totally not - labels are for clothing and soup cans.

"Come on," she finally says. "We better get back before everyone thinks I'm going Chernobyl and taking you down with me."

She walks to the door but Brittany doesn't move out of the way. Instead she looks at Santana with that penetrating, unyielding gaze.

"Santana, what was that?" she asks quietly.

"Chernobyl? Some kind of gnarly nuclear meltdown," Santana answers as if it's obviously the answer Brittany is seeking. Still, Brittany doesn't step out of her way.

"No, what was that," Brittany says. "What just happened?"

Santana swallows down her nerves and fear and puts back on her mask, because that's what she does best.

"It was sex, Britt-Britt. I thought you would've figured that one out by now."

"I know what sex is," Brittany replies, shaking her head dismissively. "But that wasn't just sex. It was different. You were different."

Santana sighs and rubs at her forehead with her fingertips.

"It was only different because it was the first time that Rachel's room has seen anything even resembling a sexy good time," she says with a smirk but gets serious once again when she realizes that Brittany isn't budging. "Listen Britts, it was just sex, just like it always is. Whatever you think it was, it wasn't and it won't ever be because we're not all loved up and we're not going to start wearing Birkenstocks and flannel shirts."

Brittany thinks about that for a moment before replying, "I thought flannel shirts were for lumberjacks."

And Santana can't help but chuckle.

"Exactly. And while I might like to . . . take a walk in the forest now and again, I sure as hell ain't a full-blooded lumberjack, and neither are you. Now let's get back to the party before Rachel sobers up and kicks everyone out. We's needs to get our drink on."

Without another word, she quickly reaches past Brittany and unlocks the door knob, then slips out of the room before Brittany can stop her again. She makes her way back down to the party and sits on Sam's lap like nothing has happened.

Something did happen though, and Santana is very much aware of that. It was different, and as much as she wants to pretend that it didn't, it did change things.

The only thing she's sure of right now is that it was a one time deal. Sex is fine, but whatever that was . . . it can't happen again.

She just can't be in love with a girl; not even Brittany.

i. oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?

When she finally says those three little words, it doesn't exactly turn out like she expects.

"Hi. Can we talk?" she begins when she works up the nerve to seek out Brittany after their performance with Miss Holliday.

"But we never do that," Brittany replies evenly. She's not sure if Brittany is mad or if she's just being Brittany, so she continues.

"I know. But I wanted to thank you . . . for performing that song with me in glee club. 'Cause it made me do a lot of thinking."

And then the flood gates open and she just lets everything out; every feeling, every fear, every desire. She acknowledges her feelings for Brittany and that she wants to be with her. Just her. Her fear must be apparent because Brittany tries to comfort her, and yeah, it works.

It works just enough that Santana finally is able to say the words that have tried to come out so many times now. The words that she's never said to anyone before and had never wanted to until recently.

"Still, I have to accept . . . that I love you. I love you, and I don't want to be with Sam, or Finn, or any of those other guys. I just want you. Please say you love me back. Please."

"Of course I love you, I do," Brittany answers back without hesitation. It fills Santana with a hope that she can't even express. "And I would totally be with you if it weren't for Artie."

And in an instant, Santana feels herself deflate; feels her heart ache and her stomach clench. She should have expected this from the beginning; in fact, she did. Artie came along and friggin' actually loved Brittany and showed her how to feel, and now Brittany does feel; she feels enough for him that she's choosing him over Santana.

"Artie?" Santana blurts out, her sadness giving way to confusion and despair.

This is not how things go in the movies. There should be kissing and smiling and laughing, and possibly birds singing and deer gathering around to celebrate their mutual love. That's the way is happens in fairytales and Disney films.

But this isn't a Disney film, it's life, and once again life seems to have it out for her.

"I love him too," Brittany explains. "I don't want to hurt him, that's not right. I can't break up with him."

"Yes you can!" Santana argues, feeling her anger start to take over. "He's just a stupid boy."

The sound of her blood pumping hard fills her ears and she can barely hear what Brittany is saying anymore. Tears roll down her cheeks and when Brittany reaches out to touch her, she literally has to pull back and tell her "Don't."

See, this is why she never wants feelings involved. All they ever do is hurt. Brittany looks regretful, but not as regretful as Santana feels. It's the first time she's ever put herself out there for anyone, and this is what happened. It's a mistake she won't be making again anytime soon.

When she finally loses the last of her composure and starts to full out cry, Brittany tries to hug her. It's more than Santana can take.

"Get off me!" she says through clenched teeth as she pushes Brittany away, then turns around and walks off as quickly as she can.

She ignores all of Brittany's calls for a week and avoids her at school as best as she can considering that they have almost the exact same schedule. They have a run in or two and Brittany tries to talk to her but Santana is done talking. She tried talking and look where it's gotten her.

Unfortunately for her, she can't exactly change where she lives. Also unfortunate is the fact that despite the many things that Brittany forgets on a daily basis, including her middle name and where the glee room is, she hasn't forgotten how to get to Santana's house, nor has she forgotten how to sweet-talk Mrs. Lopez into letting her in to Santana's room.

Santana is sitting on her bed watching the latest episode of Teen Mom when she hears the soft knock on her door. She doesn't say anything; her parents know better than to disturb her when she's in a mood like this, so she knows that only leaves only one other person who could so boldly be on the other side.

"Santana? Can I come in?" comes Brittany's quiet voice from the other side. "It's me, Brittany."

Again, Santana doesn't reply. She crosses her arms over her chest and turns the sound up on the television.

A few moments pass by and Brittany speaks again. "Brittany Pierce," she enunciates, as if the clarification will make Santana want to open up the door any more than she already doesn't.

"Thanks for the clarification," Santana spits out, eyes focused on the television. "Here I thought Britney Spears was stopping by to annoy me. How disappointing that it's only you."

Yes, she immediately feels guilty for speaking that way to Brittany but she can't help it. She's hurt and angry, but mostly just hurt. There's no way she's going to welcome the cause of said hurt into her bedroom sanctuary.

Her words obviously don't thwart the girl though because the door knob squeaks quietly and a few seconds later, Brittany is standing at the foot of her bed trying to get her attention.

"I don't care if you want to be mean to me," Brittany begins even though Santana won't look at her. "I understand, I do. But every time I try to talk you run away, and I'm starting to wonder if it's not because you're mad at me but because my breath smells." She looks down at her hands and then back up at Santana who is still ignoring her. Mostly. "You were always the one who reminded me to brush my teeth. I think I've been forgetting again."

"Your breath is fine. It's the rest of you that I can't deal with," Santana replies evenly, trying to look past Brittany and to the television. She's succeeding for the most part until she notices Brittany bending to have a seat on the edge of her bed.

Suddenly Santana snaps her head so that she's looking directly at Brittany and shoots her a menacing glare. Well, as menacing as it can get when she still has such a soft spot for her.

"What?" Brittany asks. "Can't I sit down so we can talk?"

"Not on this bed you can't," Santana answers.

She continues to glare until Brittany gets up and looks around awkwardly, then finally settles for a spot on the floor next to the bed. Santana can just barely see the top of Brittany's head over the high pillow-top mattress and she smirks with satisfaction as she goes back to watching the television.

Several minutes pass by and it's just about as awkward as it can get. Santana is trying to pay attention to Teen Mom and not on Brittany but she can smell her scented lotion, hear her breath, and there's no way that she can focus on what's happening to the latest teen tramp. The tension inside her body is becoming so strong that she finally bursts, unable to take the silence any longer.

"Listen, if you're going to talk, get it over with and get gone. If I miss the latest blowout between Jenelle and her crazy mother because you're blathering on about how much you love Wheels McLoser, I'm seriously going to lose. My. Shit."

Brittany sits up a bit taller so that she can see Santana's face over the high mattress. Santana instantly notices how sad she looks but she bites back any ounce of sympathy she almost feels.

Good. Let Brittany hurt like she does.

"You can be mean to me all you want, but there's no reason to be mad at Artie," Brittany says. "He's only ever been a nice guy to me. He didn't make me pick him; I did that all on my own."

Her reasoning only serves to infuriate Santana. The last thing she wants to hear is more praise for Artie.

"How's about you stop telling me how to act and feel in my own house?" she bites back. "You can't seriously expect me to have warm fuzzy feelings for the guy who stole my girl away."

"I was never your girl, Santana," Brittany answers quietly. She takes a deep breath and looks down at her own lap and once again, Santana feels that stupid nagging sympathy for her. "You made sure to remind me of that every time we got close."

"Then why the hell did you push so hard for me to talk about my stupid feelings?" Santana asks angrily, moving over to the edge of the bed and swinging her legs over the edge so that she can really look into Brittany's eyes for this one. She needs to see what's in them. "If you knew you wouldn't break up with Artie for me regardless of how I felt for you, why did we do the whole stupid kumbaya thing when you knew that it wouldn't change anything?"

"It wasn't stupid," Brittany replies quietly, looking up to meet Santana's gaze. Her eyes are filled with unshed tears but Santana is on the attack now and she can't seem to stop herself.

She always has had a problem with restraint.

"Well look where it got us, Britts! You're still with Artie and I can barely look at you without feeling completely loca and wanting to dish out some serious hurt."

"But haven't we already hurt each other enough?"

Brittany's voice is quiet, meek, and instead of showing compassion, Santana throws one last dig in there. It's what she does best.

See above, re: restraint.

"Apparently not," she replies with a bitter chuckle. "Oh, and just so you know? The plumbing might be different but it's still cheating."

A tear finally escapes from Brittany's eye and she wipes it away with the back of her hand before standing up and making her way to the door. She stops just in front of it and Santana's breath catches in her throat. This is really it. This is how the story of Santana and Brittany is going to come to an end.

"Artie said the same thing to me today," Brittany says quietly, looking down at her feet, still facing away from Santana. "It didn't make me cry when he said it though."

She opens the door to leave and that's when Santana feels herself leaping up from her bed and closing the distance in what felt like the blink of an eye. The force of her body closes the door and traps Brittany in the room with her though she's still facing away from Santana.

"Wait, what?" Santana asks, confused. "What else did he say?"

Brittany takes another deep breath and Santana watches as she wipes what must be another tear away.

"He said that it was cheating; that having sex with another person, even if partially clothed and with different plumbing, is cheating and that it isn't right."

"Well was he mad?" Santana asks after a few seconds and Brittany shakes her head.

"No. He said that he understood. Artie loves me and I love him, I do, but he thinks that we're not in love. He says that's saved for someone special, and that even though we love each other and make each other happy, we'll just never be that special someone for each other."

Santana takes a minute to let it all sink in and steps away from the door and away from Brittany. She slowly walks back over to her bed and sits on the edge, grabbing the remote control from her pillow so that her hands have something to fiddle with. It's a lot to digest, especially since she's pretty sure that what Brittany is saying is that . . .

"He broke up with me," Brittany finishes Santana's thought.

When Santana looks up, their eyes meet and she feels all of the anger melt away. Her body relaxes and she can finally breathe easier without her nose doing that little whistle thing that only she can hear, or so she hopes.

She averts her eyes away after a few seconds and presses her lips together in a tight line. Her eyebrows quirk up a bit and she uses the remote to turn the television off, then tosses it back onto her pillow.

Sometimes her whole lack of restraint can be a good thing, believe it or not, because she decides that she needs to have a moment of pure honesty with Brittany.

They deserve that much.

"I can't be your second place, Brittany," she says quietly, shaking her head. She can't look up and meet her gaze; it'll just make her feel way too damn vulnerable. "My whole life is a series of coming in second place. I can't be that with you. I just . . . can't."

And then Brittany is right in front of her, down on her knees and looking up in such a way that Santana has to meet her gaze. Her hands are on Santana's knees and even though there are still tears in her blue eyes, there's hope in them too.

"You've never been my second place. Artie was when you told me you weren't in love with me. You've always been my first place, Santana. I promise."

"Please don't be messing with me right now," Santana says, feeling her own eyes fill with tears.

"I'm so not," Brittany replies. She smiles brightly and climbs up from her knees, then takes a seat on the bed next to Santana, turned sideways with one leg tucked under her so she can face her. "Artie was right; I couldn't be in love with him because I'm already in love with you. You're my special someone, Santana."

And with those words, the hurt melts away to join the already forgotten anger and all Santana can feel now is love. She can feel it in her heart for Brittany, and she can feel it radiating back from Brittany just as strongly.

"That might just be the smartest thing you've ever said," she says with a soft smile, the one reserved just for Brittany.

"I've been getting smarter lately," Brittany confesses quietly as if sharing a secret. "I think the secret is in Artie's glasses. He let me wear them once and they made my brain feel all weird and smart. So . . ." she digs into the front pocket of her sweatshirt and pulls out a slightly bent pair of glasses, ". . . I took them."

Santana can't help but burst out laughing at that. She takes the glasses from Brittany and tosses them onto the carpeted floor, then pulls Brittany into her arms and lays her back on the bed until she's hovering above her.

"You don't need those ugly things. Your heart outshines your brain anyway."

"That's because it's full of you," Brittany replies with a smile that melts Santana's heart.

"See?" Santana says with a smile. "You say something all sweet like that and it almost makes me forget that I'm the consolation prize."

She laughs a bit but instantly notices the confused look on Brittany's face.

"What does picking you have to do with stars?"

"Consolation, Britt. Not constellation." She opens her mouth to say something else but instead leans down off the bed and grabs Artie's glasses, stowing them safely on the bedside table. "I think maybe we'll hang on to those, just in case."

Brittany laughs and rolls them over so she's on top. Santana laughs too and when she looks up into Brittany's sparkling eyes, she sees the truth plainly there:

She really has always been Brittany's first place, and Brittany has always been hers.

The End.

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