A/N Written as a FaberryCon Fundaiser fic for Poot, who requested a story that started with high school pezberry and ended with college faberry, where everyone can remain friends.
The first time Santana Lopez kisses Rachel Berry, they're both fifteen. They'd been sort of dancing around each other for a while, but after Santana admitted that glee club was the best part of her day and Rachel sang her heart out to Don't Rain on My Parade at Sectionals, Santana couldn't hold herself back any longer. She cornered Rachel backstage after they won and just planted one right on her.
They spent the whole bus ride home holding hands underneath Santana's folded-up Cheerios jacket.
The first person Rachel tells is Quinn, partly because Quinn is the spider sitting at the center of the sprawling web that is the McKinley High social hierarchy and would find out anyway, and Rachel would rather it be from her, but mostly… mostly because Quinn is her friend (most of the time) and Quinn always gives the best advice (even if Rachel doesn't always follow it). This time Rachel would, though. Listen. She feels lost.
"I don't get why you're asking me," Quinn says as she fixes her makeup in the mirror. Rachel had felt a discussion of this magnitude deserved to be done in person rather than over text, so she'd waited until she could find Quinn in school on Monday. She hadn't really planned on cornering her in the bathroom, but the opportunity presented itself, and here they are.
"Well, because… you're friends with Santana. I don't really—I just don't understand…"
Quinn sets down her pencil to look at Rachel properly. "What?"
"I mean, if she liked Brittany, or something, I could understand. But I just don't see… what she could see in me. What if it's all a trick? Santana isn't always the nicest girl."
Quinn sighs. "Look. Santana is like a toddler. She sees, she wants, she takes. She doesn't really have the patience for anything else. So if she's making moves on you? It's because that's what she feels like doing today. Either shut her down or go with it."
"Shut her down or go with it," Rachel repeats dutifully with a purposeful nod of the head. "Got it. Thank you, Quinn!"
She practically skips out of the bathroom, leaving Quinn to say "You're welcome" to the echoing tile.
The first time Rachel and Santana sleep together—not having sex, but just sharing a bed—it's Rachel's sixteenth birthday. Her dads let her have a sleepover, and she invites all of the girls from glee club (plus Kurt.) Everyone brings sleeping bags, to maintain the illusion of fairness, but nobody says anything when Santana crawls up into Rachel's four-poster and snuggles into the sheets.
"Don't be such a blanket hog," Santana grumps as she burrows in, and Rachel tries to stifle a giggle.
"I'm not hogging them, they're mine. Get your own."
"I like yours."
"I like you," Rachel says simply, and Santana groans, but then there's nothing but the sound of lips gently sliding together.
(Quinn shuts her eyes in the dark and is not listening, not listening, not listening.)
The first time Rachel and Santana sleep together sleep together, it's Valentine's Day.
Santana lets Rachel wear her letterman to school, only for Rachel to get slushied by Rick the Stick between third and forth period. Red. He says here's your valentine when he throws it. She keeps her chin up and doesn't give him the satisfaction of letting him see her cry, and goes to Chemistry in stained clothing.
Between fourth and fifth period, she gets to the east hallway just in time to see Sue Sylvester forcefully pull Santana away from Rick's prone form. She'd had him up against the lockers. His lip is split, but Santana's got a cut just under her eye socket where he'd apparently hit her back after she'd tackled him.
Santana gets suspended then and there—just for a day, thank god—so Rachel can't even see her until after glee club.
When she arrives at the Lopez's, she finds Santana on the couch in her pajamas watching an episode of Law and Order while holding a bag of frozen peas to her face.
"Oh, sweetheart," she coos without meaning to, "are you okay?"
Santana lowers the peas to reveal a pretty impressive black eye, the skin swollen and purple. "No, I'm pissed as hell."
Rachel sits next to her on the couch. "It'll heal soon enough, and I bet we can cover it with makeup until then. Does it hurt a lot?"
She reaches out with gentle fingers to touch, but Santana winces away. "I'm not pissed about my eye, I'm pissed about you."
"Me? What did I do?" Rachel asks, face falling.
"Wha—nothing. I didn't mean you you, I meant him and you. Wayne Regretzky. Like, what the fuck? Who the hell does he think he is, pulling that shit?"
"It's not like I'm not used to it."
"Well you shouldn't be!" Santana huffs, then falls back dramatically onto the couch. "And yeah, my face hurts. But are you okay?"
"I'm okay," Rachel says, and smiles, and means it.
"Then I guess today doesn't totally suck," Santana shrugs, before grabbing Rachel by the hand and pulling her down on top of her. "I don't even mind the shiner; it lets bitches know not to mess with me. I just wish it didn't clash with my dress."
Santana looks at her like she's dumb. "It's Valentine's Day. I'm taking you out."
For a second time, Rachel reaches out tentatively, fingers brushing against Santana's face. This time, Santana leans into her touch.
"Why don't we stay in, instead?"
When Rachel gets into NYADA and moves to New York, Santana moves with her. She didn't get into any colleges she liked more than she likes Rachel, and that was really the only deciding factor she needed. She figures she can work out the rest as she goes, and get a job in the meantime.
And besides, Quinn's just up the highway at Yale, so it's not like Rachel's the only person she knows on the east coast.
Actually, things are getting super juicy on that front. The second Quinn set foot in New Haven, she started dating girls. Like, seriously dating girls. For once, it's Santana's the expert when Quinn needs help, and she can't say she doesn't enjoy it.
Things are looking pretty good in Santana's world.
Rachel had thought moving in with Santana would be a wonderful next step in their relationship, but now that it's happened? She's not so sure.
It's not even the living together part of it that's the problem. Sure, Santana's a messy roommate—careless with her things, liable to wander about naked at inopportune moments, and greedy when it comes to the good leftovers—but these are things Rachel's known about Santana for years. Some of them she even finds endearing.
But it's the other part of it, the Santana-has-no-life-plan part of it, that's slowly eating away at them. Some days she'll come home from class to find that Santana never got out of bed; others, Santana will spend hours on end writing cover letters or pounding the pavement only to come up empty-handed and exhausted. Rachel's meeting new people all the time at school, people who are genuinely interested in her, people who want to be her friend, but she turns them down again and again, because she can't leave Santana alone. That would be selfish.
She talks to Quinn about it a lot.
Santana can feel Rachel pulling away from her. It's not like she has no clue why, but understanding that something's a problem and knowing what to do to fix it are two very different things. She feels totally lost, so she swallows her pride and does the only thing she can think of.
She calls Quinn.
"I don't get why you're asking me," Quinn says, and Santana can hear her typing in the background. She grinds her teeth and tries to be patient.
"It's just. Things have been kind of weird with Rachel lately, and I don't know. Now that you're all gaga for GOGA or whatever I thought maybe you'd have some advice."
"Girl on girl action. Oh my god, Fabray, if you're going to be a lesbian now you're going to have to learn the language."
"I'm pretty sure the only one fluent in Santana-ese is you."
"So not true; Rachel gets me," Santana protests.
Quinn pauses for a moment, and her voice is uncharacteristically kind when she finally responds. "Are you sure about that?"
Santana and Rachel stop being SantanaandRachel in March. Valentine's Day had been good, and they'd thought they were reconnecting, but… the long trek towards spring break was just too much for them. They don't fight, though they both cry—but if they ever want a chance at being friends, they mutually decide it's better to break up now than to break each other's hearts.
Rachel goes up to Yale for the weekend to deal with it.
Santana goes back to Lima.
The first time Rachel kisses Quinn, it's the middle of July. She stayed in New York because she got invited to a summer semester workshop that was just too good to pass up, and all of her friends—both old glee kids and new college ones—have been taking turns being her roommate for a few weeks at a time. It helps her keep her rent costs low, and it's actually really fun to play hostess and show people around the city she now thinks of as hers.
(It's still hard not to call the other bedroom Santana's Room, even though Santana rarely ever used it for that.)
But anyway. Quinn's been in town since the 4th, to see the fireworks, but now it's her last night in the city and they've been wandering around Central Park for hours. They'd wanted free Shakespeare tickets, but hadn't gotten a good enough spot on line and had ended up missing out. But since they were already uptown, and it was a nice day… well. Rachel's really glad they stayed.
She's not entirely sure when they started holding hands.
"Are you going to pick things back up with Veronica when you get back to school?" Rachel asks, because Quinn's been gently probing her about how she feels post-breakup all day and she's—for once—sick of talking about herself. She knows Quinn and Veronica weren't exclusive, but that's the last partner she remembers Quinn mentioning.
"Probably not. She's still not out to her parents, only she still likes her parents, unlike me, so there's a whole bunch of drama and stress there that I can't deal with anymore. If she wants to hide behind guys, that's her problem. I'm done with that."
Rachel stops walking, and pulls them both over to a large rock off the path. "Is that why you acted the way you did in high school? Or did you just… not know?"
Quinn closes her eyes, looking pained. "No, I knew. And I'm still trying to make up for all the damage I did when I wasn't being honest with myself."
"When did you figure it out?"
"I…" Quinn bites her lip. "You don't want me to answer that."
"Quinn. We're friends, aren't we? You can trust me. I promise not to judge. Was it Miss Pillsbury? Because I mean, in hindsight, she was very cute."
Quinn laughs, but it's shallow and she can't keep it up. "No, it was—um. Your sixteenth birthday. The sleepover? I guess you guys thought I was sleeping, but I could still hear you and Santana, and that's when I realized…"
Rachel moves closer, covering Quinn's hand in both of hers. "That you wanted that for yourself?" she finishes, when it's clear Quinn won't.
Quinn looks up at her, hazel eyes bright and piercing. "That I wanted you for myself."
Rachel doesn't even think about it. She just leans in.
They share a bed for the first time that very same night. All they do is talk, but—it's the most talking either of them have done in what feels like years.
Quinn does not leave New York the next day as planned.
Dating Quinn is everything like being with Santana, and nothing like being with Santana, and Rachel longs for the day when she stops comparing them.
The first time she and Quinn sleep together sleep together, it's the first time they've seen each other since the start of sophomore year. Rachel takes the train up to New Haven and when Quinn meets her at the station she just… knows. That she's on the right path to wherever it is she's going.
Quinn takes her to the Peabody Museum, and they look at dinosaurs all afternoon while talking about their new classes and new professors and all of their plans for the semester. It's still so new, having a partner with priorities that line up with hers while not needing to include her, and it's all Rachel can do to restrain herself until they make it back to Quinn's dorm.
She makes Quinn come, but she's prouder of herself for making Quinn laugh.
The first time Santana sees Rachel and Quinn together, it's Thanksgiving. The whole glee gang decided to meet up since they were home for the holidays, and while she contemplated not showing up, she'd never forgive herself if she was that much of a fucking pansy.
That doesn't stop her from pausing outside Breadstix and just looking in for a minute, to get the lay of the land.
She'd be lying if she said she was fine, watching Quinn's arm casually drape itself behind Rachel's shoulders, watching as Rachel steals food from Quinn's plate—which means Quinn ordered something vegan just for Rachel's benefit. The small touches, the looks… all the things she used to do, all the things she never did enough.
She steels herself and walks through the front door, and something in her thaws when Rachel looks up and suddenly starts beaming at the sight of her.
"Hey, you made it! Oh my gosh, I'm so glad you came. How are you?" she asks, all in a rush.
"I'm okay," Santana says, and smiles, and means it.