Title: Empire State of Mind – Chapter 3: Will and Hope
Rating: generally 15 – R (may reach NC-17 in some chapters)
Word Count: 8200
Disclaimer: Glee is copyrighted and belongs to the creators and Fox. As this work is an interpretation of the original material and not for-profit, it constitutes fair use. Use of other personalities is not a reflection of their real lives and is completely fictional. Title taken from Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind, this fiction does not use any other material from the song.
Summary: AU Two very different young women find themselves in the big city of New York about to embark on the biggest career moves of their lives.
A/N: I can't thank you enough for your patience. I know the updates are taking a little longer than I had hoped and I appreciate you sticking with it, reading and reviewing, it means so much. This is a labour of love and I really enjoy sharing it with you. You keep me going.Without further ado, here's some quality Britt-Britt Santana time, enjoy :)
Previous Chapters: Prologue / Chapter 1: Sweat and Tears / Chapter 2: Hustle and Bustle
She blinked, willing the sleep to disappear as the dull morning sun gently seeped through the gap in the curtains and across the bed. She shielded her eyes with her arm, offering a brief respite from the unfamiliar and sudden stream of light. Glancing at the clock beside the bed, she sighed with a proud satisfaction, the time later than a normal waking day. The smile slowly crept across her face, eventually reaching her eyes. Lifting her arms above her head she stretched with an earnest effort, decreasing the kinks that had formed in the night. Sighing once again, she relaxed her muscles and took a deep breath. Today was the day. This had been the second day so far this year, that phrase had echoed through her mind upon waking, only this time it was different. This time it promised so much more, she thought with strong will and a sense of hope.
She was not notorious for being a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. Santana Lopez was far from it. Although if you considered arriving home in the early hours a morning person, then she would shrug and agree, but a Night Owl would be a more accurate description. However, she kept regular hours, she had to, otherwise the girl would have long gone insane with the long hours she worked. Santana considered her kitchen like a well oiled machine, an army of workers that were always aware of each other's duties. She had them trained to the highest standards. The girl had worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in Europe as a young apprentice and spent hours studying her masters, their technical skills as well as their abilities to manage and maintain a team within the kitchen. The Latina was confident in her own skills as a teacher and in her staff's capabilities to leave them at their own devices. She had an exceptional sous chef who was in her eyes, an ideal deputy. Upon first impressions, Santana believed Finn Hudson to be an oversized, bumbling mess. She was first to concede her opinion had in fact been inaccurate and could not praise the guy enough for his knife skills and confidence in and around the kitchen. He had been the longest serving chef at Empire State of Mind, having started out as a kitchen hand after dropping out of school. He was not the cleverest, but he was one of the most talented sous chef's Santana had ever had working for her.
She found herself smiling, musing that she could leave the restaurant without worry or hesitation. She trusted her team. Team. That was a word that had been drummed into her from her early working life. Another word associated with Santana Lopez was 'will'. She had a lot of it. So determined was the chef, she worked incredibly hard to succeed. She oozed willpower and was very much a girl of decisive action. Laying contently in her bed, the covers cosy up to her neck, keeping her warm in the winter-come-spring coolness she pondered the life she had led thus far, satisfied with the distance she had travelled professionally. Today was different. It was a rare day off. She had fleeting mornings or afternoons to herself, but today she would not step foot in the restaurant at all, it was her day, a personal day. Her eyes wondered around her room suspiciously, so rare was it for her to be lying there without having to jump out of bed and into the shower.
Her mind drifted to the reason she was not going in to work today and smiled lazily, burying her head back into her pillow shyly. She was alone, yet she was acting like a bashful girl, merely at the thought of one person. Santana had been looking forward to this day since it had been arranged haphazardly with Brittany. Their schedules clashing until they were able to negotiate a whole day together. The blonde had dined in the restaurant several times since their Valentine's day encounter. Santana managed to snatch moments with her favourite customer when there was a lull in service and was even able to achieve an evening of drinks with the blonde on one occasion. Having spent more time with Brittany, the more she wanted to learn about the charming, carefree dancer. It had been polite conversation, lightly scratching the surface, keeping things friendly and neutral. They both spoke fondly of their careers, how they came to be where they are, not having an opportunity to delve much deeper in the short time they had. Conversation flowed easily, never short of something to say. It was something Santana was not accustomed to. It usually took her time to warm to people, colleagues she managed with just fine as she was thrust into an environment where she had to get along with people. However, her own social skills were somewhat lacking. She always appeared standoffish and a little unapproachable. However, Brittany had barrelled through any proverbial walls and struck Santana by surprise.
Brittany was beautiful. Santana could not deny that. Every time the brunette saw her, her intense brown eyes softened, simultaneously blurring the razor sharp edges of her heart. Brittany's laidback approach to life and her optimistic personality added to the attraction Santana found growing for the blonde. Her desire to spend more time with the dancer was becoming overwhelming, yet she remained unsure if it was the want for friendship or something more. Besides, Brittany was straight, the blonde mentioned herself her mother was trying to marry her off. Santana was determined that she should focus on friendship, that she had in fact not come here looking for romance and Brittany ticked all the boxes for being a loyal and trustworthy friend. Something she had silently been yearning for all her life. Kurt had been the closest she had to that. Quinn, she thought held potential, but the blonde was as feisty and guarded as herself and had the potential to be a match made in hell. Kurt had offered sound advice and a good ear when the brunette required it, although, that was a rare occasion in itself. With Brittany it was different. They just clicked and it was refreshing and exciting. Her strong will would see her through and make sure this budding friendship would be one to last, because she felt it was more than worth it.
Turning over, glancing at the time on the clock beside her bed, Santana decided she had procrastinated long enough. She rolled out from under the covers, grateful for the approaching spring and the slowly warming climate and lazily sloped off toward her bathroom, ready to enjoy her second favourite part of the day. A relaxing warm shower. The first? Bed time of course. She fleetingly wondered if that would ever change.
What a glorious day. Waking up eagerly with a genuine smile on her face, Brittany sprung into action almost immediately. Another quick stretch and yawn later, the blonde jumped up on to her feet and bounced enthusiastically up and down on the matress, pumping her fists into the air with joy. Jumping from the bed she landed gracefully on the plush carpet and skipped whilst humming into the bathroom. Brittany Pierce was a notoriously happy person. Very seldom would she find herself in a state of melancholy and the anticipation today brought her, forced an extra spring in the blonde's step. She was elated to have a day off where there would be no vocal coaching, no dance rehearsals, no work outs, no media promotion and lastly, no show. She sighed with content as she rested her hands on the porcelain sink, her eyes lifting and settling on her mirrored image. Brittany Pierce from Lima Ohio. This life was a far cry from the one she had back home, it was everything she dreamed of and so far it had not disappointed. What had brought her to New York was her career. She had no other expectations. Brittany was the type of person who took life in her stride. Professionally, she was driven and worked hard to get to where she was, it was her love of dance and performance that had excelled her. However, personally, Brittany glided through life, easily making friends, finding the good in everyone and everything and generally having a positive outlook on the world.
She smiled at her reflection. Already she had befriended the entire cast and crew of her show, she knew everyone by name and always greeted individuals with a smile and a small wave. She had a knack for putting people at ease and feel included. It was who she was, who she was brought up to be. Brittany had been persistently busy, her schedule had been relentless and for almost a month she had been battling for a free day that would coincide with a certain Chef's, having been ecstatic when the brunette agreed to have Brittany show her around the City she was yet to explore. Puck had been insufferable since learning of her 'date' with Santana. She was not one for violence, yet on several occasions, the dancer had threatened her friend should he continue to speak of Santana and their fledgling 'relationship' in the manner that he did so. Brittany smiled. At heart Puck was a decent guy, despite his attempts to woo his co-star, they had forged a friendship like no other she had previously experienced and had a belief that it would be one to last. Brittany had bamboozled the womanizer and earned a deep respect, resulting in an unlikely kinship. Following her slight wobble around Valentine's Day, Puck had been a constant support, especially when it came to her feelings for Santana and the thought of her mother's disapproval. Although, if the blonde were to be completely honest with herself, she was unsure how she felt for the brunette and vice versa. She just knew she wanted to spend more time with her and get to know her. If that led to other things, it would be a bonus. For all Brittany knew, the Chef was straight. She thought back to the conversation they shared on Valentine's Day at the bar. Santana had stated herself and Kurt were not each other's type which had led the blonde to think and over think, before convincing herself it was nothing.
Throughout the brief moments they had shared since, Santana gave nothing away. Conversation remained light, speaking mostly of work, the trials and tribulations of their respective journeys. Although different careers, they had found their stories familiar, may be even crossing paths at several points during their times in Europe. Brittany had squealed in excitement having realised this, Santana looking on adorably at the enthusiasm radiating from the dancer. The blonde could not help but wonder what would have happened should they met earlier. The Chef, ever the realist explained that despite coming close in the past, they had now met, it was fate and everything happens for a reason. Brittany smiled widely, remembering the conversation, elated that Santana thought of their meeting as being destined. She hummed merrily as she began to prepare herself for their meeting. Today promised so much. She hadn't felt like this since her opening night, since the beginning of her Broadway career. It had been a monumental day and somehow, one simple day with Santana had filled Brittany with a sense of hope that was almost overwhelming. Almost.
Santana checked her bag one last time, ensuring she had everything she needed, satisfied for the fourth time she closed the door behind her. Still slightly paranoid, she looked down at her attire, jeans, grey sweater, leather biker jacket, scarf, comfortable flat shoes. She knew the type of city New York was, she was also aware that exploring the great city would involve a vast amount of walking, so comfort was key. The chef, always prepared in the kitchen, was never really one for organisation at home, part of her outfit choice had been made with the blonde at the forefront of her mind. It just coincided that she would actually be comfortable in her chosen attire. With a smug grin, she descended the stairs with a bounce she wasn't sure ever existed before. Panic struck her being as her phone chirped to indicate a new message. Her hand shaking nervously, she snaked it into her purse and pulled out the item, she half sighed with relief, whilst the other half of her continued with an underlying worry as she checked the name that flashed across the screen. With trepidation she opened the message, and released the breath she hadn't realised she was holding. She smiled wryly as she read the good luck message from Quinn, despite the chef's insistence the previous evening it was just two new friends hanging out today. It had brought a reaction of raised eyebrows and questioning glances to which she ignored, for her own sanity if anything else.
Stepping out onto the street from the subway, Santana made her way to the centre of Times Square. It had seemed like the ideal place to start according to her tour guide, even though she passed through this part of town at least twice a day to-ing and fro-ing from work. She knew it would also be the case for Brittany, however, she did not want to question the bubbly, excited blonde and agreed. The brunette slowed for a moment, fully taking in her surroundings, so many times she had traipsed through the infamous landmark, but was yet to appreciate the unique atmosphere it offered. With her gaze set on the tall buildings with neon signs, the gigantic billboards advertising Broadway Shows, television shows and movies, she stopped, open mouthed as her eyes landed on a familiar face. "Brittany." she whispered. As if on cue, she found herself engulfed in strong hold, arms wrapped firmly around her shoulders. Opening her mouth once again to retaliate, Santana realised it was hardly a stranger's style in New York and relaxed as she turned into the hug and locked eyes with a very chirpy blonde. "Hey." she greeted with a warm smile, wrapping her own arms around the other woman.
"Hey to you too." Brittany replied. "I see you've met my alter ego." The blonde laughed at Santana's confused expression and nodded to the poster fifty feet in the air the brunette had been gazing at.
"Oh." started Santana with a slight blush. "Yeah, it's . . . Wow." she offered struggling for words. Reluctantly she broke free of the blonde, Brittany clung on to Santana's arm, not completely wanting to lose contact. "Is it new?"
"It's a couple weeks old, but I forgive you for not noticing." Brittany shrugged.
"I guess I walk through here with my eyes closed." the brunette laughed. The dancer smiled, Santana's laugh was a sound she could easily get used to.
"Doesn't beat the real thing though right?" The blonde asked rhetorically. "Hey." she began, changing the subject. "I love your jacket, it's so . . . you." she offered.
"Erm." Santana thought momentarily at the words, "Thanks." she smiled coyly. "You look, great by the way." she added, it sounded like an afterthought and mentally she berated herself for it. She had not intended to offer a compliment to the blonde simply as a result of Brittany's praise. She had briefly appraised the dancer's low cut v-neck sweater as she had been privy to a view of Brittany's cleavage. It was the fear of being caught that led the brunette to regard the rest of the outfit, a pair of snug stonewash jeans not entirely dissimilar to her own, a charcoal grey fitted jacket and a matching flat cap. Silken, golden locks were loose, flowing over her shoulders, much like her own. A chance look down to the ground and Santana frowned at the other girl's choice of footwear. "Brittany." she stated, gaining her companion's attention.
"Yeah?" the blonde asked lightly, her head tilted to the side.
"Your boots." she said simply. The blonde was wearing pair of worn brown knee high leather boots with a heel, making the dancer a good few inches taller than Santana than usual. Brittany regarded Santana, before her arm tugged the brunette closer.
"You like them?" she asked, "Do you have some sort of shoe fetish . . ." the blonde trailed as she watched various thoughts pass through Santana's deep brown eyes.
"We're exploring the city right? I thought we were going to . . ." Santana stopped mid-sentence, Brittany visibly distracted by something over their shoulders. The brunette turned her attention to what had the dancer captivated, her eyes widened in response, "catch a tour bus. Right." she said as the big red open top bus pulled up beside them. "I thought you were going to be my guide?" she quizzed the girl beside her.
"Of course I sort of am." Brittany replied as she flashed pre-bought tickets to the guide. The two women clambered onto the bus, the blonde dragging Santana up the stairs and into a couple of vacant seats. "You're going to need this when we get off." Santana narrowed her eyes as the blonde passed her a map. "The bus." Brittany added for clarification. Santana smirked, the blonde was adorable.
"I know that." she offered, "But why do I need the map?" she asked suspiciously. Brittany shrugged, feigning innocence.
"Just in case."
"You don't know this city at all!" Santana gasped, pointing accusingly at the girl beside her.
"I don't know what you are talking about." Brittany offered weakly with a guilty grin. "You might get lost." she shrugged again. Santana laughed heartily she found the dancer so endearing. Being duped was not something Santana usually took kindly to. In fact, conspiracies and surprises usually riled her. Had anyone else been at the bottom of such an elaborate plan to spend time with her, she would have accused them of number one, stalker behaviour and number two, general weirdness. However she had gotten to know Brittany in small bite sized chunks and knew her well enough by now to know she was full of good intention and would never even think of deception. It endeared her to think Brittany wanted to spend more time with her and would think up a diversion such as this.
"You planned this." the chef smiled, unable to harbour any ill feeling towards the blonde.
"Ok, yeah. I've only been here a few times on vacation and I've lived here about as long as you have." she conceded. "But I didn't know how else I would get to spend a whole day with you." Brittany admitted.
"I'm flattered." Santana said. "I really am, but you could have just asked."
"When I asked, I didn't really know you. But I wanted to." Brittany admitted. She shifted her gaze downward, "And you seem a little scary sometimes." Brittany admitted. "And I've heard what some of the staff say about you at the restaurant." this last statement really piqued Santana's interest. She narrowed her eyes somewhat, waiting for Brittany to elaborate. "Of course I don't believe them." she said. Her fingers fiddled with the hem of her shirt. "Not now. You might be mean to them sometimes, but you're different with me." Santana knew the things the restaurant staff would say about her. She ran a kitchen to the highest standard and she made sure that was maintained, in whichever way possible. "I don't think Artie likes you." Brittany offered as an afterthought.
"The feeling's mutual." The brunette mumbled. "I guess I can't complain right?" Santana said, she stilled Brittany's hand with her own, forcing the piercing blue eyes to meet hers. She smiled reassuringly. "You know I don't make friends easily." she began. "But you've made it so much easier for me." Brittany opened her mouth to speak, having been lost for several moments in the honesty radiating from her friend. However a booming voice came over the speakers, wiping all thoughts out of Brittany's mind. She mentally cursed, having wanting to continue this conversation, the moment very much lost thanks to an over eager, tip seeking tour guide. One saving grace however, was the feeling of Santana's warm palm in her own and the light caresses made with her thumb over the back of Brittany's hand.
After street upon famous street of notorious buildings, listening to the ramblings of the tour guide, Santana found herself surprisingly relaxed and enjoying herself. For one, she was sitting extremely close to Brittany, their thighs and shoulders touching, sending the occasional shiver through her being. Every now and again the blonde would squeal with excitement, point out something obscure to the brunette or snap a photograph with her cell phone. As they passed through down town Manhattan and toward Battery Park, the blonde sat up abruptly. "We're getting off." Brittany said quickly, pushing Santana out of her seat.
"Wha-" the brunette struggled to get to her feet and landed unceremoniously on her butt in the middle of the isle.
"Well ladies and gentlemen, what can I say, I have women falling at my feet." The tour guide announced into his microphone to a giggling bus, whilst leering at Santana on the floor. "Hot women too." he sneered. Brittany was quickly at her companion's side.
"Hey, knock it off jerk." Santana yelled as she yanked on the blonde's arm, pulling herself up.
"San, I'm so sorry." Brittany offered quietly as she helped Santana off the ground.
"If you wanted a date you just had to ask." the tour guide laughed, trying too hard to be a comedian. The brunette, now steady on her feet thrust a finger into his face.
"Don't flatter yourself you washed up Broadway wannabe. If I wasn't already gay, you sure would have turned me." she spat. "Britt?" she called, grabbing a hold of the blonde's hand. "I wants to get my caffeine on." she pulled the startled blonde down the stairs of the bus and out onto the sidewalk.
"No tip?" Brittany asked. Santana turned and looked at the blank expression on the dancer's face. She felt it rise from the pit of her stomach, up through her chest and exploded through her mouth, the laughter was contagious and Brittany could not help but join in. The brunette was doubled over, she hugged an arm across her stomach. As the giggles subsided, she straightened, ran a finger along her eyelashes, ridding them of dampness and sighed. Blue eyes shone impossibly bright, gazing at her in wonderment.
"I'm sorry I pushed you onto the floor." Brittany offered. Santana shrugged, those eyes had her hypnotised, there was no way she could be mad at Brittany, she appeared to have a warm, calming effect over her. "Coffee?"
"Sure." Santana smiled, "Let's get it to go. I want to look at that some more." she said, turning and pointing to the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
A ferry trip and walk around Liberty Island later, Santana and Brittany disembarked onto Ellis Island. "Is this like Aristocats?" Brittany asked, her eyes travelling over the building before them. Santana frowned, 'Aristocats?' she thought. She turned her head to the blonde beside her.
"Like the Disney movie?" she asked.
"No like the prison on the island in San Francisco." the blonde explained. "I've seen that place, it's scarier than this." Santana smiled, she linked her arm through Brittany's and guided her up the steps and into the foyer.
"No." Santana said, "This wasn't a prison." she began. "It is where the European Immigrants had to come when they arrived in America."
"Get out." Brittany said excitedly. "Really?"
"Yeah." the brunette said.
"I bet my great great grandparents came through here." she sighed thoughtfully.
"Where were they from?"
"The Netherlands." the blonde replied. "I don't know much about them. My Dad's parents died when he was young."
"I'm sorry to hear that." Santana offered and squeezed the arm that was wrapped around her own. Brittany shrugged, she had never really had the time to think about her ancestors, nor had she particularly been interested, yet she could not quite help but think she had missed out on the grandparent/granddaughter relationship so many of her friends loved. Brittany had Valerie's parents when she was younger, however both were strict Christians and less than fun. Now only her grandmother remained alive and did not manage to see her very often. "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine." Brittany smiled reassuringly, guiding Santana through the halls. "This is like a museum." she observed.
"Yeah." Santana smiled, "Yeah it is." her heart fluttered. The more time she spent with the other girl, and the more conversation they shared, the more the brunette found herself growing fonder of the dancer. Never had she met anyone so carefree and uncomplicated. Brittany was quirky, a breath of fresh air and unlike anyone Santana had met in her life.
They sat crossed legged, next to one another on the grass of Ellis Island over looking downtown Manhattan. The famous skyline presenting itself in all it's glory, as the sun set a silky sheen on the river, neither girl able to tear their eyes away from the scene before them. "It's beautiful." Santana sighed. They had sat in the serene tranquillity and calm, a comfortable silence enveloping the two beauties as they simply enjoyed the moment.
"I'm not sorry." Brittany stated out of the blue. The brunette turned her head to look at the girl beside her. A questioning look adorned the chef, urging the blonde to continue. "I'm not sorry I pushed you onto the floor on the bus." Santana became further confused. Before she could say anything, Brittany continued. "Because of that, because you fell on your butt," Santana rolled her eyes, she was fully aware of the events. "I learned something personal about you."
"That I had a soft landing?" the brunette replied with a small laugh.
"What?" Brittany asked, her eyes searching Santana's. "No, you have a nice butt." she said quickly.
"You learned I had a nice butt?"
"No I'm just saying you have a nice butt."
"Thank you." Santana replied. "But what did you learn?"
"You're gay." Brittany stated without accusation or malice. Santana bit her lip nervously, her gaze diverted to her feet.
"Yeah." she said quietly, unsure of the dancer's tone and what thoughts were presiding in her mind.
"It's ok." the blonde replied with a smile. Santana lifted her eyes and returned Brittany's smile. "You never told me."
"You never asked." the brunette conceived with a shrug. Brittany rested her head on Santana's shoulder.
"You can tell me anything. You can trust me."
"I know." Santana replied. She did know. Brittany was the first person in a long time she felt she could trust, she was someone Santana felt completely relaxed around, and whilst she was not used to volunteering information about herself, she was sure Brittany would be the person to help her learn.
"There's one more place I want take you before it gets dark." the blonde said sleepily from Santana's shoulder.
"Are you tired?"
"No, I'm fine." Brittany replied.
"Lead the way then oh personal tour guide." the Latina laughed. "Although I am very comfortable right here." she lay her head atop Brittany's, gazing out to the tall buildings as the whole of Manhattan went about their daily business. Brittany smiled as she felt the pressure of Santana's head upon her own. She tentatively reached across the brunette's lap and picked up her hand, giving a gentle friendly squeeze. The Latina scrunched her eyes closed. It was too perfect, she had thought, she had never felt so relaxed and so wanted. The dancer had gone out of her way to befriend the brunette and it overwhelmed her somewhat. Reluctantly she pulled away from a confused blonde, jumping to her feet, she was in danger of feeling things for Brittany and she had to distance herself if she wanted to be her friend. Sensing the surprise of her sudden movement upon Brittany, Santana smiled and held out her hand. "Come on." she said waving her hand for the blonde to latch onto it. "Before it gets dark." she explained. The dancer beamed, flashing her teeth and took the proffered hand, yanking herself to her feet.
"If you would like to come with me Miss Lopez, I shall take you to our next destination." Brittany offered her arm to the brunette who laughed at the girl's formality. The blonde began walking, causing the brunette to look around nervously.
"Err, Britt?" she said, shortening the other girl's name without noticing, "The ferry is that way." she said, pointing in the opposite direction. The blonde's eyes widened slightly before turning around.
"Very good. You've been paying attention." she feigned, aware of the fact she made a faux pas. It caused Santana to laugh, it was like a symphony to the blonde's ears and was determined to make the brunette laugh as often as possible. Santana did not correct her companion, she knew the game she was playing and was content to play along for she was having the most fun she had endured in a long time, her mind was in her own little world as Brittany guided them both toward the ferry.
By the time they had gotten to the top, the blue sky had taken on a brand new persona. It was painted with an artistic quality. The shades of blue and purple, pink and orange bounced off the surrounding buildings and reminded Brittany of an elegant rainbow. She gasped at the beauty and clapped her hands slightly with excitement as she hit the cool air of the dusk evening. Santana smiled, the view could not be more perfect. Not only was the sky as magical as a painting, the city lights began to twinkle as the night drew in, office blocks and apartments dotted with random speckles of light. Then there was Brittany. A thousand what smile to brighten the darkest of days, to light up the sky of night. Golden locks glistened in the fading sunlight, a halo encircling the blonde. Her face aglow from the warm rays, eyes as bright as day. The brunette felt an eerie calmness wash over her and softly laughed as Brittany summoned her closer to the edge, her silken brunette locks flailing lazily in the light breeze. She inched closer, her stomach gently somersaulting as she gained ground, unsure if it was her friend or the sheer height the cause , nervously she stepped closer. Sensing her trepidation, Brittany held out a steady hand, for which a genuinely grateful Santana took hold. Breathing a sigh of relief and momentarily closing her eyes, her knees gently touched the wall, indicating the chef had gone as far as she could. Taking one last deep breath, she opened her inquisitive brown eyes and gasped at the sight before her. She was in awe. If she had thought the view looked spectacular from several feet away, it was nothing compared to what she was seeing right now. She bit on her bottom lip as she felt a strong, warm pair of arms wrap tightly around her waist, releasing it when she felt Brittany rest her chin upon the brunette's shoulder. "Don't be afraid." the blonde whispered tenderly. "I've got you." she reassured. Her words penetrating Santana's mind, the meaning behind them full of ambiguity.
"It's beautiful." Santana stated with simplicity. Brittany smiled and licked her lips subconsciously before replying.
"I think that's your favourite phrase today."
"When I moved here, I didn't know this city offered so much beauty." she said quietly as leaned back into the blonde's embrace.
"It's full of surprises." Brittany admitted, unsure if they were still talking about the city itself.
"Thank you." The brunette said, she patted the hands clasped around her stomach before gently breaking free of the dancer's grasp.
"For what?" the blonde asked.
"For today." began the chef. "For showing me there's more to life than chef whites, sharp knives and sweaty kitchens."
"You make your job sound so exciting." Brittany laughed.
"Only when I get to meet people like you." Santana admitted shyly, her eyes drifted to the floor once more. Brittany had an effect on the brunette that had her behaving almost completely uncharacteristically. When Santana Lopez wanted something, Santana Lopez would go out of her way to get it, so much was her will to succeed. Brittany appeared to zap all energy from the brunette, leaving her unsure with a misplaced confidence. Brittany gazed at her with a look the other woman could not quite place.
"Santana?" Began the blonde.
"Brittany?" Santana mimicked with a smirk.
"Ohmygod, it is you, I knew it was you. I bet my wife fifty bucks it was you." A tall chunky, mousy haired man was barrelling towards the two women. "Take a picture Dana. Come on!"
"Excuse me?" Santana asked, exasperated. "You can't just come over here and interrupt our, our . . ." she was unable to complete that sentence, as she was unsure exactly how to define this outing.
"Gerry honey, the lady's right." the wife said as she approached. "I'm so sorry."
"Hey, no problem." Brittany said.
"We saw your show last night, you were terrific." Gerry said as he sidled up to the blonde. "Dana, the camera." he said pointing to the item around her neck. Santana was visibly riled, unused to such intrusion. Brittany shrugged her shoulders and offered an apologetic pout. Santana rolled her eyes and huffed.
"Gimme the camera." she demanded, her hand out, waiting impatiently for the offending article. "Get in." she sighed as Dana reluctantly handed over her prized possession.
"Are you sure?" she asked timidly.
"Yes." Santana replied and lined up the shot. No sooner has she held up the camera had she pushed her finger down on the button.
"Is it ok?" Gerry asked.
"Perfect." sneered Santana.
"Your friend is a little crabbish." Dana noted quietly to the Broadway star.
"She needs feeding." Brittany explained with a firm nod. The other woman nodded along with her. "Can I ask you a favour before you leave?" Dana nodded her agreement with eagerness. "Could you take a photo of us?" she asked holding out her cell phone. The older woman took the phone from Brittany's grip and waited as the blonde pulled Santana into her side, firstly earning a questioning gaze before realisation set in. Brittany threw her arm across the back of Santana's shoulders, the Latina leaned further into the dancer, her arm hugging Brittany's waist. Both smiled widely as they posed, relaxing once the shutter sounded loudly. Dana handed the phone back to the blonde and voiced her thanks.
"Right. Well thank you Ms Pierce." Dana offered.
"You're welcome." she replied with a smile and watched the couple slope off, Dana slapping her husband's shoulder as they retreated. "I'm sorry about that." the blonde offered in way of apology to her companion. Santana sighed and shrugged her shoulders.
"No, I'm sorry, I forget you're like a star around here."
"It was cute." the blonde smiled as she bumped shoulders with her friend, which earned her a raised eyebrow.
"I have been described many things Brittany, and cute is not one of them." Brittany's eyes shifted upwards with a light shrug of her shoulders as Santana inadvertently scolded her.
"First time for everything. Who knew you could be so possessive." the blonde offered with a smirk. Santana opened her mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by a rolling roar. "I guess you are hungry." Brittany laughed. The brunette's cheeks flushed pink with embarrassment.
"I guess so." Santana agreed. "Want to get some dinner?" she asked hopefully. Brittany pondered the question for a moment, her brows furrowed in thought. Santana waited impatiently for the blonde to respond.
"Of course." she said brightly, finally putting the chef out of her misery.
"Tease." Santana accused as she nudged Brittany towards the exit.
"You've seen nothing yet." Brittany mumbled, leaving a confused brunette motionless, unsure if her ears had heard correctly.
Dinner, it turned out was a quiet affair, both women tired from their exhausting day. Shy smiles and casual gazes were shared across the table as the two ate their burgers. Santana was adamant she wanted a casual meal, having spent so many hours in upmarket restaurants. She craved normalcy, she craved something as detached as possible from her everyday life. She also craved a burger. That is how Brittany and Santana found themselves in McDonalds. It was quick, it was easy, simple food, Santana smiled at the irony, it was how she depicted her friendship with the dancer. Empire State of Mind was the epitome of hard work and maintenance, something the Latina had battled with in previous years when it came to making friends. She chuckled as Brittany slurped on her milkshake, indicating she had reached the end of her drink before slamming the empty cup onto the table and letting out a satisfied sigh.
"You liked that?" Santana asked with a huge smile.
"Strawberry, my favourite." the dancer replied. "I don't drink them often, but when I do, I remember how much I love it." she offered.
"It makes it more special." the brunette declared. "Makes you appreciate something more when you don't have it as much."
"It does." Brittany said, she stroked her fingers over Santana's that were placed on the table before her. The blonde was intoxicated by the brunette, she had certainly left a lasting impression on Brittany, who from their brief meetings was left wanting more. "Like a prize." she muttered as she gazed into the warm, inviting brown eyes before her. Santana's bashfulness was prevalent, a blush sneaking upwards, caressing her cheeks. Sensing the slight nervousness emanating from the brunette, Brittany retreated slightly, polishing off the rest of her fries that sat in the lid of her burger box. "I didn't think you would want to eat in a place like this, I mean, it's hardly gourmet." the blonde laughed. Santana shrugged.
"Sometimes I just want a complete break. Sometimes I become critical of the food I'm eating and it detaches from the company and feels like work. I didn't want that with you. Today is all about the company." she explained.
"You're so smart." Brittany gasped as she stared at the other woman in awe.
"Not really, it's how it is. It was purely selfish motivation." began the chef, "And it's true, it's like if you hung out at musical shows in your spare time, and don't tell me you've never deconstructed a music video."
"I did once, I tried to record Janet Jackson on VHS and when I pulled it out of the machine, all the brown tape stuff got caught and it got messy." Santana narrowed her eyes as Brittany began her story, smiling widely with adoration by the time her tale had ended. The brunette didn't have the heart to correct the blonde who seemed happy enough in her own little world. Santana could not help but adore everything about the woman before her. However there was one thing she had not been privy to when it came to Brittany. She had not seen her perform and she was longing to see for herself what had earned the dancer so much praise.
"I want to see your show." Santana stated, her chin resting comfortably in her hand that was propped up by her elbow on the table.
"Really?" Brittany shrieked with excitement earning a few stares.
"Yeah. Really." the brunette agreed. "I mean, you've seen me at my place of work, sooooo," she drawled, "I want to see you at yours. I want to see for myself just how good everyone says you are."
"Do you even like musicals?" Brittany asked. The brunette shrugged.
"Not particularly." she started, "but I like you." Brittany could not help the grin that spread across her obviously happy features.
"I'll get you tickets."
"I only need one." Santana stated with a frown.
"Don't you want to take someone?" Brittany asked puzzled.
"I don't need to." the brunette stated.
"Bring Quinn." the blonde suggested.
"Why Quinn?" the chef replied curtly.
"I don't know," Brittany said with a shrug, "I guess you guys seem close." The brunette frowned, wondering exactly how her friendship with the restaurant manager was perceived. Brushing it off, Santana thought carefully for a moment, she raised an eyebrow and formed a smirk.
"I could bring Kurt. Berry would be so pissed." she laughed.
"That's mean." Brittany chuckled.
"Trust me, it's not." Santana replied, wiping a small stray tear from the corner of her eye, "Besides, she's seen it already."
"I'll get you two tickets." Began the blonde, "On one condition."
"What's that?" the chef asked with trepidation.
"You cook me dinner." the blonde ordered. "At your place." Santana's eyes widened slightly, taking in what Brittany was asking of her, or was she reading too much into it? Right, friends have dinner at each other's apartments all the time, she needed to calm herself down. Slowly her head started to move, nodding in agreement.
"Yeah." she concluded. "You do realise you just invited yourself around to my apartment?"
"I know." Brittany shrugged, "I figured I could be waiting forever if I left it for you to invite me." Santana laughed at the blonde's reasoning. She knew it to be true. The brunette was over protective of her private life and had the blonde not been so brazen, the thought would never have crossed Santana's mind.
For a March evening it was unseasonably dry and fairly pleasant. There remained a chill in the air, leaving both girls shivering as they stepped out into the cool air. Without hesitation, Brittany hugged herself into Santana's side, not shy of human contact. The chef smiled again, now accustomed to her new tactile friend. It gave her comfort, being so far from home with little friends and no family. Santana sighed, it was like Brittany was all of her friends and family rolled into one, she felt relaxed and safe and wanted. She vowed not to take it for granted. The Chef had never had anyone to call her best friend, she had close friends and confidents, but never anyone she felt so comfortable with than she did with Brittany. She hummed with satisfaction, earning a quizzical look from her friend.
"You ok?" the blonde asked.
"Perfect." Santana replied with a raw honesty. They had decided to walk the few blocks to Brittany's home, it may have been cold, but with the warmth of one another in their huddle, they quickly warmed up as they pounded the sidewalk. Neither had wanted the day to end, prolonging their time together by walking the distance was welcomed by both women. As they approached Brittany's building, they slowed down, not wanting to part. "I've had the best day." Santana admitted.
"Me too." Brittany smiled sweetly. "Thank you Santana. Today is the first day since I got here I haven't thought about home." she admitted. The chef thought, donning a confused expression which encouraged the blonde to continue. "Even in London I would think of home every day and being so far away. But, I don't know," she shrugged, "somehow I didn't need to today."
"Until now." Santana smirked.
"That's not the point." Brittany replied, slowly coming to a halt outside of her building. "I don't know what I'm trying say." she admitted slightly forlornly.
"It's ok." the brunette replied. "I think I have a new best friend and that means I'm not going anywhere, so you can take as long as you need to figure it out." Brittany's response was a simple hug. She took Santana into her arms as if they had been doing it for years, it was seamless and easy. The Latina snaked her arms around the dancer's waist, relaxing into the warmth radiating from the other woman.
"Thank you." Brittany said again.
"What for this time?" Santana mumbled into the blonde's shoulder. Brittany pulled away, taking Santana's hand into her own.
"I know it's not easy for you to open up and talk about your feelings." she started, her ocean blue eyes conveying pride, "I feel honoured that you feel you can say things like that to me. And just so you know, you're my new best friend too." she concluded with a radiating smile, only to be matched by Santana. "Do you want to come in for a coffee or something?" she asked with hope.
"As much as I would love to, I'm going to pass." she watched the disappointment flit across Brittany's eyes. She squeezed the hand she was still holding, "But hey, next time." she promised.
"Next time." Brittany repeated, happy at the thought they would be spending more time together in the near future. Santana was completely different to anyone else she had ever met. Most of her friends had been dancers, actors or singers, having spent so much time in the entertainment business and for the most part they had been as open and optimistic as herself. Sure she had encountered other people and would always get along with them very well, it was her nature to do so. Santana seemed like someone who would keep people at arm's length and no matter how sure of herself she was in her profession, she appeared wary of befriending anyone. Her first feelings towards Santana when she was sat at the bar of the restaurant was empathy, despite being surrounded by people at work, she was not in a hurry to leave or go home. This indicated to the dancer that Santana was alone, she had not even checked her cell phone for messages. Being new in town, she herself had little contact with people outside of the theatre or dance studio. So perceptive was the blonde, she made a decision there and then. She ordered a beer. Her thoughts were interrupted as Santana leaned forward for a brief departing hug. Brittany made another decision. She placed her lips gently upon the Latina's smooth cheek, offering a sweet goodbye kiss. It earned a shy blush, downcast eyes and a wry smile. The blonde gushed at the cuteness emanating from the brunette. "You're so cute." Brittany laughed softly. Santana's eyes shot up, immediately searching the dancer's, a hint of amusement mixed with shock.
"Let's get one thing straight Pierce. Santana Lopez does not do cute." she stated sternly. "Hmm, what did I tell you earlier?" The brunette recalled, "You're lucky I like you, not many people get away with calling me cute once, let alone twice." Santana noticed the glint in Brittany's eye, "And don't think you can say things like that all the time." she warned, pointing at a smirking blonde.
"Whatever." Brittany laughed, much to the other woman's dismay. "Now, go home." The blonde ordered, "Anyone would think you couldn't keep away from me." she winked. Santana rolled her eyes, she knew it to be true, but no one else needed to know that. "Go home San." Brittany reached out and ran a finger over the spot she had just kissed, "Rest that pretty head of yours."
"Ok, I'm going now." She reluctantly agreed.
"You ok walking home?"
"I'll be fine, I'm a badass." Santana stated proudly.
"Bye then badass. Text me when you're home."
"I will." The brunette promised with a smile and reluctantly turned to leave, starting her journey with slow small steps. "Thank you Brittany." she called out over her shoulder. She looked back, offering a smile and a small wave before she turned the corner. Sighing with happy satisfaction, she meandered home, replaying the day in her mind, Brittany very much at the forefront of those thoughts.
Laying in bed having shed her clothes and crawling straight into the covers from exhaustion, Santana lifted her phone and typed out a quick message of thanks and assurance that she had arrived home safely. In only the few seconds it took for a reply to beep loudly, the brunette had already found herself drifting off. The reply was simple. It was the photograph taken at the Top of the Rock of herself and Brittany earlier that evening. She smiled lazily, eyeing the photo as her eyes drifted shut and into a peaceful slumber, phone still clutched in hand, her heart full of will. Just over a mile away, the same scene occurred in a Chelsea apartment, blonde hair splayed across a pillow as the bed's occupant lay happily dreaming, cell phone laying in her hand, her heart full of hope.