Title: A Little Less Sixteen Candles
Pairing: Quinntana friendship (side Brittana).
Word Count: ~4000
Summary: Brittany asks Quinn to look after Santana for her when she goes on vacation during the summer.
Author’s Notes: This is, like, 60% pop culture references and 40% feelings. I don’t even know, basically. Yes it’s named after a Fall Out Boy song, don’t hold that against me.
Brittany goes away with her family the week after school lets out, and Quinn comes over and sits next to Santana silently, ignoring the way Santana keeps checking her phone for messages that aren’t there and drumming her fingers on the arm of the sofa impatiently.
Quinn channel surfs until she finds a Friends rerun and then Santana finally looks up and her face breaks into a small smile at the familiar jokes. Quinn watches it tugging at the corners of her mouth, and then Santana laughs and Quinn ducks her head, tucking a short strand of blond hair behind her ear, well pleased with herself.
She doesn’t mean to, but she comes over early one morning and hovers outside Santana’s bedroom door after Santana’s mom lets her in, one hand on the handle, and ends up overhearing Santana’s side of a phone conversation with Brittany. She stays there frozen until she hears Santana say “I miss you, Britt,” with a catch in her voice, and then she knocks lightly and Santana goes silent for a moment before calling out, “Yeah?”
Quinn pushes the door open and smiles, ignoring the tears in Santana’s eyes, and the wet line down her cheek that she’s tried and failed to brush away. “Hey, wanna go shopping?”
Santana looks away for a moment, and Quinn sees her swallow, then she says into the phone, “I gotta go Britt, Quinn’s here.” Brittany says something Quinn can’t hear and then Santana passes her the phone, “She wants to say hi.”
Quinn presses the phone to her ear as Santana slides out of the room, “Hey Brittany.”
“Quinn!” Quinn can practically hear Brittany’s smile through the phone, “You’re taking care of San for me, right?”
“Of course I am.”
“Good. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks, tell her I love her okay?”
“Okay,” Quinn says faintly, and then there’s a click and Brittany is gone. Santana reappears then, fresh faced, and Quinn holds out the phone and says, “Brittany says she loves you,” and watches as Santana blushes as her fingers close around the cell.
At the Lima Bean, Santana asks if she still drinks soy lattes and it’s as close as they come to admitting the gulf between them for the last year and change. Quinn nods, and Santana waves her towards a table as she orders their drinks.
Santana takes her coffee black, and Quinn watches her dump four packets of sweetener into it and then swirl the stick around before she takes a sip. They sit in silence for a moment as they drink, and it’s comfortable somehow, like they’ve finally remembered how to just be around each other. Santana catches her eye over the top of her cup and there’s that smile, tugging at the corners of her mouth again, and Quinn smiles into her drink, glad that Santana’s finally smiling at something that isn’t a sitcom.
Mercedes is the only one who bothers to tell them about the party at Rachel’s. Probably Rachel felt weird about asking Quinn, and Santana only ever seems to go to glee parties if Brittany is around, but Quinn lifts her chin defiantly and meets Santana’s eyes when she tells her they have to go, and after a moment Santana sighs and nods, like she always knew they’d be going in the end.
It’s weird at first, without Brittany. Brittany is the one who’s really friends with everyone, and she’s the one who talks and dances like she belongs there. Santana and Quinn stand against a wall, sipping their sodas and watching everyone else have fun. Tina and Mike are doing some kind of crazy dance in the middle of the room, and Quinn watches Santana watching them, knowing she’s thinking about how Brittany would be over there with them if she were here.
“You miss her don’t you?” Quinn says, suddenly, before she can stop herself.
To her credit, Santana doesn’t even pretend she doesn’t know who Quinn is talking about, just looks away and nods, “Of course I do.”
Quinn reaches over and squeezes her arm, then slides her hand down to Santana’s wrist and brushes her fingers over the bones there, becoming aware of how small and vulnerable Santana really is without Brittany, “She’ll be back soon.”
“Not soon enough,” Santana says with a shrug, and then she turns and walks away, towards the sofas at the back of the room, away from everyone else.
On Monday night, Santana’s parents work late, so Santana asks if Quinn wants to come over and keep her company. They veg out in front of the TV and channel surf for a while, until Santana glances at the clock and grabs the remote to very deliberately change channel.
It’s some kind of cop show that Quinn has never seen before, but Santana is obviously familiar with it because she laughs and rolls her eyes at some of the running jokes that sail right over Quinn’s head.
“Santana?” Quinn says evenly after a few minutes, “This is the gayest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Santana’s eyes widen in what looks like fear and then she says, “No it isn’t,” in a sort of strangled voice, before looking away.
Quinn watches the screen in silence for a moment and then snorts softly as the cop and the medical examiner flirt over the dead body of the week. She’s aware of Santana’s eyes on her and she looks over and rolls her own playfully, “Super gay.”
Santana huffs a little and then shoves Quinn in the ribs with her elbow, but there’s no malice or force in it, “Shut up, Fabray.”
Quinn knows Santana is aiming for her usual bitch mode but there’s something about her voice that sounds so vulnerable, so Quinn just laughs and shoves her back, playing along like it’s completely normal, and it isn’t the first time either of them has said gay out loud. “Totally gay,” Quinn adds, “Like, gayer than Kurt, even.”
Santana smiles a little at that and then they’re both laughing and shoving each other, only stopping when Santana leans into her and rests her head on Quinn’s shoulder. “Okay, okay, it’s the gayest thing on television,” Santana whispers, and it’s so quiet Quinn isn’t sure she heard it so she just covers Santana’s hand with her own and rests their heads together as they watch the end of the show.
Later, in the dark of Santana’s room, Santana rolls over and props herself up on one elbow, and she looks so scared that Quinn shakes off the fog of sleep threatening to engulf her.
Quinn murmurs in acknowledgement, and though Santana opens her mouth no words come out. She’s trembling, and Quinn reaches a hand out to comfort her immediately but Santana shakes her head and moves a little further away, “What’s wrong?”
“I have to tell you something,” Santana whispers.
“Okay,” Quinn replies steadily. She finds Santana’s eyes and tries to hold her gaze, but Santana blinks quickly and looks away.
“You know Britt and I are – I mean, uh, I’m in... uh,” Santana exhales noisily, frustrated by her inability to find the right words. She trails off and swallows hard.
Quinn stays silent, sure if she says something now, she’ll ruin everything.
“I’m gay.” It’s so quiet but Quinn hears it. “I just, I had to tell you,” Santana says quickly, the words tripping over themselves on the way out of her mouth, and then she rolls onto her back and lies there as the silence stretches, squeezing her fingers together nervously.
Quinn doesn’t know what to say. It’s not like she didn’t know, but Santana just said the words out loud, for maybe the second or third time, and she knows she has to find the right words to give her back. She turns her head and looks at Santana in the darkness, studiously avoiding her gaze, and then reaches over to take Santana’s hand and tangle their fingers together. Quinn watches as Santana visibly relaxes and turns towards her a little, something like hope mingled with the tears in her eyes.
Quinn smiles at her, as wide as she can, and squeezes her fingers, “It’s okay,” she says softly, “It’s always been okay.”
Santana smiles then, and it’s that smile that she usually saves for Brittany, and Quinn sees the relief in it, the pure happiness. Santana whispers, “Okay,” to herself quietly, trying it out, and she nods her head once.
Quinn squeezes Santana’s fingers again, and then starts to move her hand away, but Santana reverses her grip and won’t let go, so Quinn shuffles a little closer and gets into a more comfortable position, “I’m going to sleep now.”
“Okay,” Santana says again, but she doesn’t let go of her hand.
They’re lying by Quinn’s pool enjoying the sunshine when Quinn asks the question she knows she probably shouldn’t. “When did you know?”
“Know what?” Santana asks, lazily flicking a fly away from her arm.
“That you liked girls,” Quinn expands, shading the sun from her eyes with her hand.
Santana’s silent for a while, and then she laughs only there’s no humour in it. “Fourth Grade. I fell off a slide chasing Puck at recess and Brittany kissed me better.”
“It’s always been her hasn’t it?”
“Maybe it’s just her,” Quinn suggests hesitantly and watches as Santana laughs.
“Been there, tried that explanation,” Santana smirks and there’s something of the old Santana in her face, the one that used to leer at every boy she saw and make suggestive comments, “And besides,” she adds, raking her eyes up and down Quinn’s body outrageously, “Brittany isn’t the only girl I think is hot.”
She climbs to her feet and laughs at the expression on Quinn’s face before diving head first into the pool. Quinn waits for her to resurface, blushing furiously.
Santana says she wants to watch something scary so she flicks through Netflix until she finds some Korean horror film that makes Quinn jump and close her eyes approximately every ten minutes. Santana ignores her and rolls her eyes until Quinn whimpers a little and suddenly becomes very interested in her phone, avoiding the TV at all costs, and then she reaches across to take Quinn’s free hand, lacing their fingers together, and murmurs, “We can watch something else, if you want.”
Quinn meets her eyes and Santana shrugs a little, like she doesn’t care what they watch, and Quinn nods once, shyly. Santana turns the film off immediately. She flicks to the comedy section and doesn’t let go of Quinn’s hand until they’re ten minutes into Easy A, and then she shuffles closer on the couch and Quinn feels the heat of her pressed into her side, solid and warm.
It’s silly, really, but Quinn feels like Santana is back, somehow. Back to being the girl she was when they first met in middle school and they’d spend hours laughing at things that weren’t even funny, with Brittany by their side. She needed this Santana last year, when everything was going wrong, and instead she got the angry one, too busy hating herself and every feeling she had to pay attention to anyone else.
Santana’s foot nudges her shoulder and she’s pulled out of her thoughts. Quinn’s sitting back against the headboard, book open in her lap, and Santana is lying on her stomach, head at the foot of the bed, as she flicks though a magazine. Quinn sees she’s got headphones on – proper ones, not earbuds. Quinn had asked her why she’d spent so much of her allowance on them once and Santana had rolled her eyes and launched into a speech about hearing music the way it was recorded and Quinn had switched off when she’d started talking about highs and mids and bass, and how everything sounds over compressed and tinny through shitty drivers (whatever the hell that meant). The headphones at least explain the way her feet are moving though, nudging her every now and then, when they get over excited.
Quinn watches her for a minute as her hand joins in and taps out the beat, and then she starts singing under her breath as well and Quinn suppresses a giggle. There must be a pause before the next song, because when Quinn laughs, low and throaty, Santana turns to look at her, pulling the headphones down around her neck. She raises her eyebrows, “What?”
Quinn laughs again, “You’re kind of adorable now you’re not being a bitch all the time.” She grins as Santana raises a hand to her heart and pretends to fan herself.
“I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” She fans herself harder and grins wickedly, “I’m getting hot. I always knew you were only being nice to me again cuz you wanted to hit this.”
Quinn throws a pillow at her, “You wish.”
Santana wraps her arms around the pillow. “Nah,” she says, face serious, “Britt’d get mad.” Then she cracks up and throws the pillow back, knocking the book out of Quinn’s lap, and Quinn gasps in horror before launching a full scale pillow attack at her still laughing best friend.
There’s still a week until Brittany is back and they’ve exhausted the wonder that is Netflix watch instantly, so Quinn asks if Santana wants to see a movie in the next town over where they actually have a cinema with more than two screens. After Santana calms down and stops crowing about how Quinn is asking her on a date, she agrees, and they wind up going to see Captain America.
“You only wanna see this cuz of Chris Evans,” Santana eyes the poster sceptically while Quinn gets them popcorn.
Quinn waves her hand impatiently as she hands over the money, “There’s a hot girl for you, don’t worry.”
It’s a little too loud in the bright lights of the lobby, and Santana’s eyes dart around before coming back to Quinn. “Chris Evans is hot though,” she leers at the boy behind the concession stand and Quinn watches him swallow nervously.
“Come on, let’s go and find seats,” Quinn sighs and picks up the popcorn, pushing Santana along with her free hand, until they get to the dark of the theatre.
Halfway through the movie, Santana leans over and whispers, “Okay so she’s totally hotter than Chris Evans,” and Quinn snorts softly and shakes her head. Santana reaches for a handful of popcorn and adds, “Sorry,” before she settles back in her seat.
When the credits start to roll Santana starts to climb to her feet but Quinn hisses and wraps a hand around her wrist, pulling her back down.
“Um, what the hell, Fabray?”
“We have to stay ‘til after the credits,” Quinn replies as the theatre empties.
When no other explanation is forthcoming, Santana rolls her eyes, “Why?”
“So we can see the Avengers teaser,” Quinn says it like it should be obvious, but Santana is still none the wiser.
“What the hell is an avenger?”
“Oh my god, seriously?” Quinn’s eyes roll up like she’s searching for patience.
Santana stares, “Who the hell are you?” It comes out way louder than she intended, and a boy sticks his head over the seats two rows in front and shushes her. “Seriously dude? It’s the credits!”
“Is she gonna be like this through the stinger?” he asks Quinn reproachfully.
Quinn grabs Santana’s hand in warning when she starts to open her mouth, “No,” she says steadily, eyes fixed on Santana, “She isn’t.”
Santana exhales noisily as Quinn’s fingers dig into the soft skin of her wrist, but she stays silent. After what feels like an eternity there’s some nonsense with Sam Jackson that could have easily been at the end of the film and then about 20 seconds of jump cuts and flashes of scenes Santana doesn’t understand, but Quinn watches the whole thing with wide eyes and a smile on her face.
“It was Sam,” Quinn explains as Santana drives them home, “Sam had a lot of comic books.”
Santana nods but stays silent. “I’m sorry I broke you guys up,” she says after a moment.
Quinn looks away, “I kissed Finn.”
“I gave you mono,” and Santana is looking so apologetic that Quinn laughs out loud.
“God that sounds bad,” Quinn mutters, through her laughter.
Santana keeps a serious face for about two seconds and then she smirks. “I gave you mono,” she says again, and then she cracks up.
“Shut up and drive, stud,” Quinn says sarcastically, and then smiles out into the night, hoping Santana can’t see.
Santana starts getting antsy the closer they get to Brittany’s return. She doesn’t say anything, but Quinn can tell she’s nervous, and sometimes when she thinks Quinn can’t see, she stares at the picture of her and Brittany at Sectionals on her phone, flicking the screen every time the light dims.
Quinn catches her at it, and then Santana shoves her cell deep into her pocket, embarrassed. Quinn would laugh if it was anyone but Santana, but she’s seen the way Santana looks at Brittany and Brittany looks at Santana ever since she can remember, when they think no one else is looking.
“You should do the whole boombox outside the window thing,” Quinn says, when they’re lounging around the den, full of the pizza they’d ordered.
“I knew we shouldn’t have watched those 80s movies,” Santana groans, one hand over her eyes, the other resting on her stomach.
“Britt’d love it though,” Quinn nudges her with her foot.
“Yeah,” Santana says quietly, voice low. “It’s just, not yet, okay?”
Quinn nods and is silent for a minute, and then she looks over, eyes serious. “Don’t you think it’d be easier? If our lives were like a John Hughes movie?”
“For you maybe, Molly Ringwald,” Santana props her feet up on the seat next to her, stretching herself. “I’m not exactly well represented in brat pack movie canon.”
Quinn wrinkles her nose, confused, “You mean there’s no gay characters?”
Santana smirks, “No Latinas,” and then she throws a cushion at her.
Brittany calls Santana late at night, sometimes, when they think Quinn’s asleep. Quinn lies in the dark listening to the way Santana laughs and whispers quietly into the phone, talking about nothing in particular but still sounding so happy, and screws her eyes shut, willing herself to fall asleep.
Santana listens to a lot of bands Quinn has never heard of, now. She remembers before, when the soundtrack to their afternoons together was all top 40, and now it’s rare if there’s a song she’s actually heard. It fits her though, somehow, acoustic guitars and earnest voices longing for the person they love mixed in with upbeat songs with dreamy synths and shimmering electric guitars. Quinn can imagine the way Brittany dances to those, while Santana grins and hums along, drinking in the way Brittany moves.
“Why don’t you make her a mix tape?” Quinn says, as though she’s continuing a conversation they’d just been having.
Santana doesn’t even look up from her computer, “That’s so 90s it hurts.”
“I think it’d be sweet,” Quinn says, a little uncertain.
“Britt has most of this music. I mean the stuff you can dance to, anyway.” Santana looks over at her lying on the bed. “Why are you so fixated on turning my life into some lame romantic comedy?”
“I’m not,” Quinn protests immediately, flushing slightly. “I mean, it’s just…” she stops then blurts out, “Why aren’t you two together?”
Santana doesn’t say anything, just fixes her eyes on the screen and queues up some more songs, and after a while Quinn looks away too, feeling as though something important just happened though she isn’t entirely sure what it was.
Quinn stays over again, their continuing movie marathon running on until it’s too late for her to walk home. She’s just nodding off when Santana suddenly says, “Maybe I could give her one of my earrings.”
It takes Quinn a minute and then she snorts, “Brittany should give you the earring. She’s too nice to be your John Bender.”
“I’m so offended right now,” Santana says, mock indignant, and then she laughs herself.
When Quinn gets out of the shower in the morning, Santana is staring at her phone and looking like she’s about to start hyperventilating. “Britt’s back.” Quinn can hear the excitement in her voice, but she looks nervous too. “I need to shower. And get dressed.” She climbs to her feet and stares at herself in the mirror, running a hand through her messy bed hair. “Oh God.”
Quinn watches her grab some clothes and head for the bathroom, “Don’t forget your earrings. And your boombox. And the mixtape.”
Just before she goes through the door, Santana shifts her clothes into one arm and flips her off with the other, and Quinn’s laughter follows her all the way down the hall.
They drive to Brittany’s house in silence. Quinn had tried to go home, assuming they’d want to be alone, but Santana had grabbed her and hustled her into the car before she got to the end of the driveway.
When they pull up outside Brittany’s house, Santana kills the engine and then sits staring at the dash, one hand on the keys, the other squeezing the steering wheel over and over. “Why am I so nervous? It’s Brittany.”
Quinn squeezes her shoulder, “Because you love her,” she says solemnly, and then with a grin, “And because you’re whipped.”
Santana groans and lowers her head to the wheel. “Santana Lopez is not whipped.”
Quinn pats her shoulder comfortingly, “Since the fourth grade.”
“I knew I shouldn’t have told you that,” Santana says, her words muffled by the wheel.
“Hey,” Quinn’s fingers find Santana’s chin and lift her head back up. “You’re gonna get your girl, okay?”
Santana’s eyes flick away and then back; she takes a deep breath and nods, though she still doesn’t look convinced. She opens the door and climbs out, then pauses and turns back. “Thank you,” she says quietly, with as much sincerity as Quinn has ever heard. “Just… thank you.”
Quinn meets her eyes and nods, “I know.” Santana reaches back into the car and squeezes her fingers. Quinn squeezes back then nods past her, to where the front door is opening, “Now go get your girl.”
Santana turns to look and her face splits into a grin as Brittany bounds out, beaming. She takes a couple of steps towards Brittany, and then she breaks into a run as Brittany does the same, and Quinn has to supress a giggle at how much of a cliché it is. It doesn’t seem to matter now though, not when it’s Brittany and Santana.
They meet halfway and wrap their arms around each other, hugging in the only way they know how, bodies pressed so close together they could be one person, their faces buried in each other’s hair. It looks like Santana is saying something into Brittany’s ear, and then they step apart and stare at each other for a minute before Brittany leans forward and kisses Santana. Quinn watches as Santana melts into the kiss, one hand coming up to cup Brittany’s cheek, the other sliding to the small of Brittany’s back, fingers splayed against her spine, and Quinn’s struck by how right it looks, like everything has always been leading here, somehow.
The kiss is short, but when they break apart they’re both grinning, and then Brittany says something and gestures at the car, at Quinn, and lets go of Santana to come and open Quinn’s door.
Brittany pulls her out of the car and into a hug, wrapping her arms around her tightly. “Thank you for taking care of her for me,” she whispers into her ear, so Santana doesn’t hear.
“Any time, Britt, any time.”