Title: Empire State of Mind – Chapter 5: Entwined
Rating: generally 15 – R (may reach NC-17 in some chapters)
Word Count: 3500
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: Thank you to the amazing lizzylizbian who has been very encouraging and beta'd this for me (I've added something special for you). If you haven't already, read her fic, it's magical :)
Previous Chapters: Prologue / Chapter 1: Sweat and Tears / Chapter 2: Hustle and Bustle / Chapter 3: Will and Hope / Chapter 4: Tiptoe
She battled. She fought with her inner turmoil as she watched the beauty glide seamlessly across the stage. Her presence encapsulated the brunette in a way she never thought was humanly possible. Every fibre of her being was drawn to the blonde on the stage. Her mesmerising movements capturing Santana, like a hunter stalking it's prey. Only Brittany could not be further from a hunter. She simply twirled and tangoed, tantalising her audience without thought of the effects she had on people, particularly Santana. The dancer was in a domain of her own, the stage, her world for two hours almost every night. Not a single being could penetrate the bubble she found herself encompassed within. The look of concentration on her face was disguised by the actress' ability to immerse herself in the story. It was a tale of love and heartache. Brittany played the part of a woman falling in love, the possibilities of it being unrequited left her insecure. Appearing conflicted and uncertain, her characterisation was wholly believable and had Santana's heart aching for the blonde. The brunette followed the story as if she herself were on stage, feeling every spoken or sung word, every emotion and every step. It was a painting brought to life, the characters alive and moving like a paintbrush dancing across canvas, creating an image and a story more colourful than any other. It was certainly a feast for the eyes.
Feeling an overwhelming urge, Brittany broke the habit of a lifetime and looked up, engaging with one particular member of the audience. Their eyes met as if for the first time, seeking one another with distinct, supernatural accuracy. With her heart aflutter, she used the new surge of energy to propel her through the performance. Captivated, Santana could not tear her eyes away from the woman she knew she was meant to be with. Brittany commanded the stage, she owned the production, the Latina could barely believe this was the same woman she had developed an affinity with. Gone was the ache in her heart, the pain in her hand, the throb in her head. Gone was the drama at work and the incident pre-show. All that existed was the blonde and the brunette, two opposites thrown together by a force greater than the universe. Their paths had been similar, leading to one road they were destined to travel together.
The show was over almost as soon as it had begun. Or so Santana thought. Following the encore and standing ovation, the brunette sunk back into her seat, bright brown eyes not wavering from the stage. Physically she was in the theatre, commotion and melee surrounding her as the other patrons rushed to leave, each attempting to beat the other to the exit doors and into the cool night air. Every muscle in Santana's being had her on lockdown. She could not move. She wasn't sure if she even wanted to because emotionally, she was still attached to the stage. The theatre had a hold over the brunette. But it wasn't the theatre, it was the magic she had witnessed within the four walls that had her entranced.
"Santana?" a gentle voice called her name. It sounded distant, though given her current state of mind, she was barely lucid, a mix of pain, medication and confusion the culprits. When there was no response, she felt a soft hand on her shoulder. She looked at it briefly, startling her out of the trance she found herself in. "San." She heard again. Her eyes travelled from the hand, along a slender arm, over strong, defined shoulders and lastly met with concerned crystal like blue eyes. "Hey," came the greeting with a small smile. Santana was visibly drained. Brittany could only imagine how the girl felt following such an eventful day. It was late, the brunette unsure how long she had sat there, not quite aware of when Kurt had left her side and Brittany appeared.
"Where's Kurt?" she asked, her brow furrowed in confusion. Brittany cocked her head to the side slightly and stroked her hand over Santana's shoulder in comfort before running it through the long dark locks.
"He went ahead to the restaurant." she answered. She studied Santana's features, smiling slightly as the brunette closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of Brittany's fingers dance through her hair. Brittany glanced around. The theatre was empty, save for one or two staff members milling around. "I'm worried about you." she said quietly to the other woman. Santana opened her eyes and met the concerned gaze of the blonde. Without a word, the brunette dropped her head onto the blonde's shoulder, tears forming in her eyes. She blinked, willing them to disappear, eventually closing her eyes to try and keep them in. Brittany wrapped an arm around the chef's shoulders, pulling her in closer, letting her know she was not alone. "Does your hand hurt?" she asked. The gentle movement of Santana's head against her neck indicated that yes, it was causing her pain.
"Everything hurts." she answered, a naked vulnerability emanated from the brunette. It was a side of the woman Brittany had never witnessed before; however, she was neither taken aback nor deterred by it. Her heart swell with empathy, she wanted to do nothing but comfort Santana in her time of need. "I'm so confused." she added. The blonde frowned, unsure of the statement and silently willed the other woman to continue, only to be met with more silence.
They sat there, in one another's arms for a short while, just content with being in each other's company, though neither sure how the next conversation would play out. To Brittany, Santana was obviously confused about something. The last interaction between the two had not quite gone according to plan. In fact, it should never have happened. Brittany felt a pang of guilt for what Santana had witnessed between herself and Mike, yet none of it was her doing. She found herself in a very uncomfortable, compromising position and Santana had accidentally happened upon them at that exact moment. The blonde twisted her lips at the irony; if fate did have a hand in bringing them together, it was certainly making a song and dance about it.
Brittany was content to just wait, to let Santana speak when she was ready and if it took all night, so be it. The Latina was worth the wait. Santana let out a hefty sigh and turned her head, looking up at the patient blonde, who ever so tenderly held her close. "I'm sorry." she croaked, her voice broken from the raw emotion emanating from her very soul. Brittany shook her head to disagree. Softly she reached up with her free hand and swept away the fallen strands of hair that partially covered the tan skin. "Can we leave?" Santana asked, suddenly aware of the public surroundings that all evening had appeared so private and intimate.
"Of course." the blonde replied. Santana's wish was Brittany's command. Helping the brunette to her feet, Brittany did what Brittany did best, she cared for Santana. Not overly so, she added the correct dosages of helpful, kind and caring without appearing smothering or overbearing. It simply was not in the dancer's nature to be so, and that was what set her apart from the rest.
Santana appreciated the efforts Brittany went to in order to make her feel relaxed. There was no better way to describe it. She had a knack for putting the brunette at ease in almost any situation. Almost. There was still one incident plaguing Santana's mind. But that was the thing, momentarily it was one, until it became another and then another, spiralling until her brain hurt from thinking too much. Nothing had ever seemed so complicated to the brunette. She was able to compartmentalise and organise her life accordingly, and then, along came Brittany. She was a Jackson Pollock painting personified. Such a beauty, yet she caused so much chaos and disorder within the chef. It didn't have to be this way, did it? Brittany appeared more like an Edward Hopper, what you see is what you get. No overly complicated expressions deviating from the piece, just simply defined. Right from the beginning Brittany had stirred emotions in Santana she had never felt before. She could not explain it. She truly adored the blonde for everything she was. Yet here she was, following an emotionally charged day, barely understanding her own name. It was like she had been picked up during a typhoon and placed in a foreign land. Was the Brittany she was clinging onto now different from the Brittany that had cradled her in the hospital bed? Everything about today seemed to turn her world on it's head.
Brittany struggled to locate the keys to her apartment, having a very sleepy and drained brunette hanging from her did not help matters. Yet, she persevered, unlocking the door and helping Santana over the threshold. Placing the girl gently down on the couch, she immediately went to seek water, knowing Santana was in need of her pain medication. She also knew she was on a time limit. It was almost certain the brunette would succumb to sleep not long after taking her meds. "Hey." she said, sitting beside the Latina, the soft plump cushions devouring her. "Where are your meds?" she asked. Santana pointed toward the purse at her feet, at which Brittany reluctantly rummaged through until placing her hands on a small rectangular foil pack. "Take these." she ordered, holding a couple of pills and the glass of water out to the brunette. Santana complied, awkwardly taking the drink in her good hand, the pills one by one from Brittany's with the other. Her fingers grazed over the blonde's palm softly on each occasion. Brittany smiled at the innocent, yet intimate gesture and waited once again for Santana to take the conversational lead.
Santana struggled. She could see Brittany was waiting; the blonde had the patience of a saint, and goodness knew it would take a saintly figure to put up with Santana. Or so her mother often told her as a young rebellious teen. She smiled at the thought, maybe her mother had been right after all. Yet it was not something the brunette would admit to her any time soon. If ever. Brittany reacted to the smile with her own small grin having studied Santana's features closely, watching the performance of emotions flashing through her favourite pair of expressive eyes. She picked up the brunette's hand and stroked it encouragingly. "Are you trying to send me to sleep?" the weary woman asked lightly.
"No." Brittany admitted. "I'll miss those eyes of yours too much." she earned a shy blushing grin from the owner of said eyes. Santana steadied herself, studying the blonde beside her before continuing.
"You don't love him." Santana stated, causing the blonde to falter slightly in her ministrations. A statement she was not expecting; a question or accusation maybe. The chef was full of surprises.
"No." she answered, her voice penetrating the inner depths of Santana's soul, spiking the small bubble of personal trouble that hovered there. Santana nodded, satisfied with the answer, she continued to stare into the piercing baby blues.
"Which means, you're not going on tour." she concluded, earning a gentle nod from the blonde. The bubble deflated a little more. "What about the kiss?" she asked, her eyes hardening, the thought of someone else's lips upon the dancer's appalled her and to some extent intimidated her.
"Nothing." Brittany said sternly with the shake of her head. "He kissed me and it freaked me out." she admitted truthfully. Santana smirked upon hearing the words, It was like sweet music to her frail ears. At the same time, she felt a little ashamed interrogating the blonde, when really she had no claim over her.
"I'm sorry." she said immediately, without explanation, causing the blonde to frown with confusion. "I had no right to react the way I did." she admitted shamefully. Shaking her head, Brittany stopped stroking her fingers over the soft skin and held onto the hand tightly, pulling it impossibly further into her lap, her eyes never wavering from the brunette's.
"I'm pretty sure I would have reacted the same way." she admitted with a warm inviting smile. Santana responded with a matching grin, her heart feeling lighter with every spoken word. Yet there was still something. She dropped her eyes to their entwined hands in Brittany's lap. Bringing her legs up, she awkwardly sat on her knees and faced the blonde. Brittany's smile had faltered, unsure what was to come.
"Tonight," Santana began, "I think I fell in love." she confessed. Brittany's eyes widened at the admission. It was not quite what she was expecting and opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, Santana held up her hand, "But I don't know who with." If the dancer wasn't confused before, then she more than certainly was now. Santana sighed having witnessed the change of emotion upon the blonde's porcelain features. "I mean," she began, another sigh indicated she was struggling, "this is so hard." the brunette said. Tears formed in her eyes with frustration and she swiped angrily at them with her bandaged hand, yelping slightly when she made contact with her face. Brittany furrowed her brow - further if it was even possible - feeling the hurt Santana was suffering. "Do you remember when you told me you liked me because to me you were just Brittany Pierce from Lima, Ohio?" the Latina asked having composed herself a little. Brittany smiled, squeezing the hand in her own at the fond memory. "Of course." she replied warmly. Santana smiled sadly and glanced at the ceiling, hoping to find some sort of inspiration there; however, all she received was a blinding spotlight, causing her to avert her gaze immediately.
"Britt, you were amazing tonight. I was mad at you but you blew me away, completely." Santana said with a new found confidence. "And that scares me because I don't know if I fell in love with you or your character. I don't know if I fell in love as Santana or as a fan. Or maybe it was just lust. I don't know, it just felt so powerful." she stated as simply as she could put it even while still trying to fathom the meaning in her own mind. "I mean," she continued, looking at Brittany. The blonde wore a blank expression, so she tried to further explain, "you were so good and I was so involved in the story and I felt everything your character felt and you have this way of conjuring these feelings for your character, but it was still you, I could see you, but it wasn't you." Brittany began nodding her head slowly. "But you said you like me because I see you. Just you. And now I'm confused because I have all of these feelings. Today I had so many different feelings that you gave me and I don't know where one ends and the other begins."
"Ok." the dancer replied. "Forget today, or don't forget today."
"Not helping." Santana said with a wry smile. The blonde smiled softly.
"Why don't we start from the beginning." Brittany offered with a shrug. Santana nodded in affirmation, followed by a gigantic yawn. "Or you could just go to bed?" the blonde suggested.
"I don't talk much about feelings Britt." Santana revealed, "I think it's a case of now or never, before I lose my nerve." she said honestly. "Tell me how you feel." the brunette requested carefully. Brittany smiled broadly, revealing her pearly white teeth, and brought their entwined hands up to her chest and placed them over her heart. "Please." Santana added, feeling the beat of the blonde's heart beneath her hand.
"I really, really like you. Like more than a best friend like you." she said excitedly. "I wake up and I wonder where you are and what you're doing and all through the day too. It's like I can't stop thinking about you." Santana smiled at the blonde's words. When Brittany said it, it seemed so uncomplicated. Why did she have to turn everything into a conundrum? "And I just want to see you and hear your voice like all of the time. I miss you when we're not together." she concluded, bringing their hands higher. She placed her lips on the back of Santana's hand, her eyes never leaving the swooning depths of the Latina's beautiful brown orbs.
"Me too." Santana stated. "I knew I wanted more after your amazing city tour." she grinned. "And you," she said accusingly, pointing a finger and prodding the blonde in the ribs, "go and say something stupid and get me injured." Santana smirked, her tone light, as to not intimidate her companion. "But you took care of me. You showed me what it was like to be able to rely on someone and that was both liberating and scary." Brittany remained quiet, not wanting the brunette to stop and bring down the shutters. "And then I saw you with what's his name and it was the perfect excuse to freak out." she explained. Scrunching her eyes closed, Santana took a deep breath, encouraging herself to continue along the honesty path, "I was angry with you, and him, and myself." she said. Her teeth gritted slightly as she relived the emotions, feeling them pass through her body. "And damn Kurt, my apparent fairy god father, forced me to stay and watch." She chanced a look at the blonde. Her eyes were focused on Santana, each word being absorbed like a sponge. "You go and do that, be the perfect performer, the most incredible dancer I've ever seen and it confuses the hell out of me." Santana concluded. She flopped backwards, her back hitting the cushions softly, "I didn't know whether to love you or hate you."
"Please don't hate me." Brittany said sadly, inching closer to the brunette, "I would never intentionally hurt you." she said. "I cried when I got to the theatre because I did that." Brittany pointed to the bandage on Santana's injured hand. The chef smiled and engulfed Brittany into a tight hug.
"You didn't do that." Santana cooed into the blonde's ear, "It was an accident." she said. "And if it hadn't have happened, I wouldn't have known what it was like to wake up in your arms."
"So soon." Brittany added. Santana pulled away slightly, confused by the words. Brittany shrugged, "It would have happened eventually." she smiled. The Latina laughed heartily, admiring the dancer's confidence. Once her giggles subsided, she yawned again. "Forget about the show." Brittany stated, reverting back to the conversation at hand. "Forget about Mike." Santana winced at the sound of the dancer's name. "You're a wonderful chef Santana, but it's not your food I want to spend time with." Brittany hoped that would help the brunette straighten a few things out in her head. Watching the other woman think about her words, brought a sense of accomplishment to the young Broadway star. "How do you feel?"
"Like I just want to be with you." Santana stated simply. "I felt like we were stuck before today, like were just only ever going to be just friends and I wanted more than that. But I was afraid you didn't feel the same."
"You had me at 'err yeah'." Brittany replied, causing the brunette to form another frown line upon her complexion. "They were the first words you said to me." she elaborated. Realisation dawned on the chef. It had been her reply to the blonde's 'Long day?'. The memories came flooding back. Despite her tired and dishevelled appearance, Brittany had wanted to talk to her regardless and to Santana, anyone who could bear her company after such a long hard working day deserved the highest reward.
They gazed at one another for what seemed like an age, conveying all feeling through silent communication. Brittany remained motionless, Santana held all the cards, it was her evening. The brunette thought endlessly about the words exchanged that night. Ever so slowly she gravitated towards the blonde. Her eyes flickered briefly to her intended destination, Brittany's pearlescent lips gleaming in wait and want. As Santana drew closer, their eye lids fluttered shut simultaneously, the anticipation was agonising until their lips finally met in a crescendo of emotions. Weeks of built up tension and longing was released in the kiss. Santana's lips stroked Brittany's with such sweet tenderness and love, conveying each emotion she harboured in her heart. The Latina raised her hand and softly stroked the blushed cheek of her partner's face whilst gently using her tongue to lever Brittany's smooth lips apart. Entwined, their tongues began a slow private dance, full of passion and promise. There was nothing urgent about the contact, it was relaxed as if they had all the time in the world, enjoying the feel of one another. Slowly and reluctantly they pulled apart, opening their eyes, refocusing on each other. Broad, giddy smiles were plastered across both their flush faces.
Sweeping the blonde up in a hug once again, Santana clung on for dear life, afraid that if she let go she would become lost. For once, outside of the kitchen and in the realm of real life, she felt like she was where she belonged, safe and entwined in Brittany's arms.
Laying in bed with Santana cuddled into her side, Brittany pondered the extraordinary day she had endured. There was nowhere else she would rather be. Having worn one another out with revealing heartfelt conversation, Brittany as observant and thoughtful as ever, was concerned over the Latina's wellbeing. She took control and decided further discussions could wait. Santana yawned loudly again. Her eyelids were growing heavy and she was fighting to stay awake. The pain meds had kicked in and had a strangle hold over her, pushing her further and further into a state of wanton sleep. Brittany looked down at Santana's weary body adoringly and could see the girl barely had anything left to give today. Santana literally had thrown everything she had left into the talk with Brittany. Following a physically demanding day, the brunette had laid out her soul, explaining to the dancer everything she had been feeling. It was exhilarating. It was exhausting. But ultimately, it was a talk that had needed to happen to propel them forward. If today had proved anything, it was that both longed for something beyond the friendship they had forged. Even in the dark room, their future looked bright.