Santana lay in her bed, smiling at her dull white ceiling with her phone pressed against her ear. Brittany had the afternoon off and decided that just texting was boring and had surprised Santana with a phone call – not that the latter was complaining, at all. Talking with Brittany just felt so easy, so she was glad to have an excuse to actually speak to her friend outside of a night-time bar setting. "You know we've been on this call for over two hours already?"

"Oh shit, have we really?" Santana's eyes widened and pulled her phone away to check the time, "You know you could have hung up on me ages ago. Has your day really been that boring?"

"You could have ended the call too. And no actually, my day got pretty exciting about two hours and sixteen minutes ago." Santana bit her lip to stop her smile from showing, not that Brittany could see it anyway. "I've had the whole apartment to myself this afternoon while my mom's at an appointment so I've been really making the most of it. It was a lot of dance parties in my pj's before you called."

"Wow, lucky you. If only I could ever get my apartment to myself but either Rachel is singing at the top of her lungs from her room or Kurt is hogging the tv to watch Murder She Wrote."

"I'm sure they're not that bad. You just really love to be dramatic."

"And is that a crime?" The brunette smirked. Brittany just laughed in response and Santana wished she could hear that sound all the time.

With the phone balanced carefully between her ear and shoulder, Santana got herself ready to head out of her apartment to get some coffee. She didn't have the heart to end her call with Brittany just yet so thought she might as well just bring her along on her trip. However, when she went to grab her leather jacket, she frowned when she noticed it wasn't in its usual spot by the door. She closed her eyes to try and visualise the last time she saw it and sighed when she realised exactly where it would be.

"Ugh did I leave my jacket at the bar last night? I can't find it anywhere."

Santana could feel Brittany's hesitation over the phone as she went quiet for a couple of seconds before speaking.

"Would you think it was strange if I said I was wearing it right now?"

"Britt! This isn't a finders keepers moment," Santana scolded but with a laugh. She should be mad that the other girl basically stole her jacket but the thought of how Brittany would look in her clothes shut her up real quick.

"No, I know," Brittany paused, "I just didn't want to forget to give it to you next time you're at The Unicorn Barn so I decided to wear it so I had no chance in losing it - because I've done that…a lot. Don't ask Sam how many of his beanies I have in my apartment just because I take them home for safekeeping and then forget to give back."

"I dunno Britt, sounds like the excuses of a klepto. Also a crap excuse to wear my clothes."

"Maybe. I mean I do rock your leather jacket look. I'm a total badass right now."

"Oh I bet you are Britt," The brunette giggled, "The cutest little badass NYC has ever seen."

Santana blushed as the words came out of her mouth and was thankful Brittany didn't comment on her compliment.

The two then continued talking as Santana made her way towards her local coffee shop.

"Oops, sorry! I didn't see you there."

Santana frowned; the other girl definitely wasn't talking to her. She then heard voices and chatter from the other side of the phone and took a guess that Brittany was also taking their call on the road.

"You headed out too?"

"Yeah, I really needed a morning pick-me-up coffee and was gonna grab something for my mom before I have to pick her up."

Just as Santana was going to ask where Brittany was headed, her eyes glanced across the street. Immediately they locked on a familiar head of blonde hair about to head into the exact same coffee shop she was on her way to.

"Greenwoods do amazing Iced Caramel Macchiatos if you want to try something new," Santana smirked to herself as started to cross the street towards her friend.

"Well I normally just get the hot chocolate but- Wait a minute," Brittany frowned as she started to look around her, "How do you know I just got to Greenwoods?" The only pair of eyes Brittany could see looking in her direction belonged to a pigeon atop a trash can. She squinted her eyes as she slowly walked up to it, suspicious that perhaps her earlier lunch got spiked with drugs or Santana had got mixed up with a nasty sorcerer. "Santana?" She whispered towards the pigeon.

Santana watched the entire encounter unfold and tried her hardest to hold in a laugh as she approached Brittany from behind. She couldn't help but find her utterly adorable. To put her friend out of her misery, Santana tapped Brittany on the shoulder and saw the girl let out a huge sigh of relief and smile brightly.

"I'm still human. I was coming to Greenwoods too," Santana realised there was no point in talking through the phone now and hung up the call, leading to Brittany following in her footsteps. "Great minds think alike it seems. Cute jacket," Santana winked at the other girl and nudged her playfully with her shoulder.

"Why thank you. Think I might keep it. I totally rock it don't you think?"

"Absolutely, Britt-Britt," Santana smiled. She had really wanted to say more, maybe told her she looked gorgeous or totally hot in her jacket but saying those words out loud would feel like admitting to something she wasn't sure she was ready to face.

Brittany had then gone to remove the jacket from her body – only kidding about keeping it as she felt quite bad for wearing it about all day without permission. She had said it was because she didn't want to forget to give it back – which was partially true. However, she couldn't deny that it felt nice to walk around with the intoxicating smell of Santana's perfume surrounding her all day. It had felt like she was with her rather than just through a phone. Fortunately for the blonde, Santana had immediately shook her head as she had begun to remove it.

"Nah, you keep it. I've been meaning to get a new one anyway, the zipper's a bit busted."

"Oh so I'm just getting your broken hand-me-downs?" Brittany raised an eyebrow with a playful smile.

"It'll add to your new rough badass image," Santana grinned as she pulled on the collar of the jacket to straighten it up and locked eyes with Brittany. They both froze for what felt like an hour (but really was no more than thirty seconds) and just looked at each other with shy smiles. It was a raw and almost intimate moment that Santana hadn't felt before and she wouldn't admit it, but it lit her insides up in the best way. Soon though, their little bubble was burst when someone bumped into Brittany's shoulder and the two broke eye contact with nervous laughter.

"Let me buy you a coffee to say thank you?" Brittany gentled asked, wanting to extend their unexpected time together as much as she could

"I would never say no to something free."

The girls quickly joined the growing line that was almost out of the shop and waited to be served their coffee. They continued chatting amongst themselves, but every few seconds, Santana would glance down at the time on her phone and tap her feet impatiently as she would see how slow-moving the line was. It was Wednesday, so Brittany knew Santana had an afternoon class soon and was probably making sure she didn't miss it.

"You got class soon?" She still asked the other girl, not wanting to seem too weird that she had her class schedule pretty much memorised at this point.

"Unfortunately, yes. I got put in a group project with little miss perfect so I wouldn't hear the end of it if I skipped," Santana rolled her eyes, annoyed that one of her favourite classes had now become the bane of her existence due to her most hated classmate. "I swear, Quinn thinks she's the professor at this point – with the amount of shit she has to say about my work. I'm just so over her." She scoffed. They almost had a full-on fight the other day. Quinn got mad because Santana was using the wrong colours in their presentation, but Santana thought using pink and green was too tacky and like projecting a giant watermelon on the screen. Purple and blue looked way better – but apparently, it was 'rude' to just go in and change everyone's work without permission? Santana thought that was a clear overreaction.

When Santana mentioned the name 'Quinn,' Brittany was quite surprised. This was the first time she had heard of someone else who had the same name as one of her closest friends. She would have to tell her Quinn that she had a name twin out there in New York City. One that was clearly much more of a bitch than her Quinn.

"I wonder if she likes bacon sandwiches too?" Brittany mused out loud. Santana turned her head to look at Brittany with a completely confused look on her face. To her, the question had come out of absolutely nowhere and she wasn't sure how to respond. Fortunately, before Santana had the chance to think of what to say in response, they were next in line.

"Hi, can we have a medium iced caramel macchiato, a small hot chocolate, and a large cold brew please?"

Santana raised her eyebrows in surprise that Brittany knew exactly what to order for her. She hadn't even mentioned what she was craving once. Brittany sensed Santana's surprise and went to clarify. "Oh, you mentioned last week that you like cold brews on days you're busy or have class because it doesn't get gross and mildly warm as quick. So I just assumed," She finished sheepishly.

"Thank you," Santana spoke quietly, with a soft smile on her face. It wasn't just a thank you for the drink, and both girls knew that. It was an expression of real gratitude from Santana that the other girl had bothered to remember a seemingly insignificant fact about her like that; that she actually and genuinely paid attention to the things she said. It meant a lot to her.

"Well I better get going anyway, my mom gets out in ten," Brittany sighed. She had really enjoyed her afternoon with Santana, both on the phone and in person. She didn't want to have to go back to reality just yet, but they had their obligations. "I'll see you Thursday?"

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Santana beamed "I'll text you after class – if I survive."

The two girls waved at each other with bright smiles – that would last the rest of the day – before turning in the opposite direction of each other. Santana almost wanted to kick herself for not making friends with Brittany sooner, this closeness they've created with each other is maybe one of the best things that has happened to her in recent memory. It was just so fun, so easy, so safe. There was still a bubbling feeling of fear that would creep up when she dwelled too much on what it all meant and how it could be taken from her so easily – especially with how Santana was. However, she was determined to not let it eat at her, for once in her life.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

"Are you sure we can't convince you to come with us?" Quinn pleaded as she sat on the opposite side of the bar, waiting for Sam to finish helping Brittany set up for the night. The couple were preparing to leave for one of the regular get-togethers of their friends from high school. Sam, Quinn, Brittany, Artie, Mercedes, and Tina had all pretty much managed to remain a close friend group since they graduated about five years ago and made a pack to always meet up at least every few months to make sure they never lost touch. Unfortunately, Brittany didn't always keep up her part in this deal.

"And who is going to be in charge of The Barn tonight? With the two of you going, it's just me and Mike on tonight. He only just started, I'm not gonna be an asshole and leave him a whole bar to manage alone." It was a weak excuse, and Brittany knew that her friends knew that. It was a Wednesday night – their quietest, with only about half of the bar full at any one time – and Mike had actually proven himself to be a very skilled bartender over the past few months, rarely ever needing help anymore. Plus, they still had two other people who were always happy to come in last minute to pick up shifts. Point being, Brittany was not needed at the bar tonight.

"Britt, this is the fifth time you've bailed on us. You used to be the most popular person in our grade, and now I have to seriously convince everyone to keep inviting you to these meet-ups."

"You know I wouldn't mind if you stopped trying," Brittany shrugged as she tried to make herself busy behind the bar to avoid opening up the lid on a conversation she had kept a lock on. She felt awkward and found it hard to make all the words in her head make sense when they came out of her mouth.

"C'mon, you don't mean that," Quinn frowned, knowing this wasn't like Brittany to not care about her friends like this.

"And what exactly am I supposed to say to everyone? 'Hey Guys! I know all of you are either working super hard in college or killing it in your proper adult jobs. Me? Oh you know, I'm still at my mom's bar where I've worked since we left high school. No, I don't have any plans to work anywhere else.' Like compared to where everyone else is that? I can't"

"I've worked here since I was sixteen so what's your point?" Sam Challenged. It was true, Sam had been working at The Unicorn Barn officially for longer than Brittany and had never been embarrassed about it when it came to telling people that. He loved his job and wouldn't change it for the world.

Brittany rolled her eyes at her friends' continued prodding and gave Sam an apologetic smile for the accidental insult his way. "It's different for you and you know it. You also run that music club at the middle school for struggling kids, you have a hot ass girlfriend – you have other good stuff going for you."

"Brittany, you now run this, super successful, bar in New York City – legally this is your place. I think that's a pretty good thing to brag about."

"But it's not Julliard, is it? It's not the dream I spent all four years of high school talking about," Brittany mumbled as she fiddled awkwardly with her hands in front of her.

"Britt…"

"Just because you're not there now, it doesn't mean you'll never be there. Mercedes only just signed her record deal two months ago after working at it for all these years. It can still happen for you."

"Yeah, when I'm fifty and paid off all mom's medical bills. Or she miraculously gets back to her old self," Brittany raised her voice and slammed her hands down on top of the bar in frustration. She then closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths to stop herself from getting too emotional.

Quinn noticed the change in Brittany's face as her mom was brought up and knew exactly the reason she was avoiding talking about. "That's what this really is about, isn't it? You don't want to come because they'll ask about her?"

"You know how much our friend group loves her. All the nights she'd let us all just hang out here. And all the things she did for us, she was everyone's 'Mama Whit,' ya know?" It was true, Brittany's mom became like a second mom to all of them in high school. Karaoke night had only become a thing because the older woman had heard how much Mercedes was in love with the idea of becoming a successful singer one day – and the fact the whole group loved a jam session now and them. She gave Mercedes the space to practice singing in front of strangers to build her performance confidence, and it just became the weekly tradition that still goes on today.

Then there was the summer she started dating Artie in sophomore year and after noticing the boy couldn't get around the bar himself, Whitney spent a whole weekend by herself making the entire place wheelchair accessible. Her mom did everything she possibly could to make The Unicorn Barn a haven for her and her friends and they loved the woman for it. It was the one place they could all go where they knew they would be safe, supported, and accepted. That was the woman Brittany wanted them to remember her as. The woman who could turn dirt into literal gold without batting an eye.

"Unless you two would like to ruin the image of the woman who was like a superhero to all of us by explaining to them how she now cannot even take a bath by herself," Brittany raised her voice with a frustrated frown across her face. She was never one to ever get even slightly cross with her friends but her frustration with the whole situation made her upset. Not with anyone in particular, just how unfair it all was and hard it could be at times to reconcile with.

"Sorry. It just really sucks you guys," She sighed as she rounded the front of the bar and plonked herself down on the stool next to Quinn, her head buried in her hands. Both Quinn and Sam remained silent as they watched her. They wanted to let Brittany get her frustrations out uninterrupted and gave her the silence to think her thoughts over.

"I mean, don't get me wrong, I love working here. The Unicorn Barn is my favourite place in the entire world. I think it's just…knowing this wasn't my plan, that this wasn't supposed to happen to mom, it's hard to accept, you know? I wasn't supposed to start looking after her until I was already a successful woman in my fifties who has lived her life. Not when I'm barely in my twenties having accomplished nothing."

"Britt, why didn't you tell us this was bothering you? We could have been there for you."

The girl shrugged at Sam's question, "It doesn't usually bother me; I can normally cope pretty well." It was true though, Brittany usually got by the day-to-day with no problem. She had been her mom's full-time carer for over two years now so her daily routine was just instinct by this point. That still didn't mean that just because it was easier to do now that she loved doing it or seeing her mom that way now. "It just makes me sad sometimes I guess, when I think about it too much."

"Well, promise to tell us next time you think about it too much?" Quinn asked and reached over to squeeze Brittany's hand comfortingly.

Brittany nodded in response. She was extremely thankful to have good friends like Sam and Quinn in her life. However, sometimes she forgot the whole world didn't live inside her head and that she actually had to voice things out loud in order for people to help her. Although that's what did make the couple her absolute best friends – sometimes they just knew exactly what was going on in her brain before she could even get the words out. Brittany secretly suspected that they both actually had mind-reading powers and didn't want to reveal themselves to the public. Her previous tests of this theory remained inconclusive, but she wouldn't give up trying.

Just as Brittany was about to put her theory to the test again, Quinn pulled her out of her distraction from the subject at hand by putting an arm around her shoulder and pulling her into her.

"You know you don't have to say anything to the guys you don't want to, okay? They all just miss you, Britt. Nobody can get people up on the dancefloor like you can. Please Come?"

"I'm just not ready," Brittany spoke after mulling it over for a few silent moments and avoided eye contact with her friends to avoid seeing their disappointment. "I still have some emotions about the direction things have gone that I think I need to process right now. But…I do miss everyone," She smiled sadly. Even though she hadn't really kept in touch for a while, they still meant a whole lot to her. "Just let me work on things for a bit." Brittany stayed silent for a few minutes, her two friends letting her quiet contemplate things to herself. She kept her head down and drew random patterns from a spilled drop of drink on the counter as she thought about everything she had just brought up.

After a few more minutes, Quinn decided to try one more time to see if Brittany would go with them to the get-together, even though she knew what the answer would be. "So you're absolutely sure you don't want to go?"

"No, not this time. But…give me a bit of a heads up for next time and I promise I'll go, okay?" Brittany smiled and gave a resounded nod. She was determined to not let her friends down yet another time, even if that meant swallowing her own pride and facing her own fears surrounding the situation.

"Maybe when next time comes around, your crush will turn into a hot piece of arm candy for you to brag about."

"What, hold up. You didn't tell me you had a crush? Who is it?"

"Her name's Santana, she comes to The Unicorn Barn a lot." Brittany sighed out, knowing exactly where their conversation was headed and how embarrassed it would make her.

"Wait…Santana? Last name Lopez?"

"Yup, that's the one!" Brittany grinned not noticing the way Quinn pulled a disgusted face at the confirmation that her friend did, in fact, have a crush on the Santana Lopez.

"Eww really Britt? Of all people, you like her?"

"Wait you know San?" Brittany tilted her head in confusion. She was sure she had never actually told Quinn about Santana or had never mentioned her by name if she had ever brought her up. This was way too much emotion for hearing her name for the first time and not the fun teasing she had expected.

"She's in pretty much all of my college classes and she's a complete and utter bitch. Actually, that seems like too nice of a word for her."

"Hey don't say that! Yeah sure, she can be mean and hot-headed sometimes but she has a total sweet side you've just not stuck around long enough to see."

Quinn just scoffed and rolled her eyes at the mere thought of Santana being anything more than the insufferable monster she was during class. The girl was the devil incarnate in her eyes and the fact that out of everyone in the city, she decided to be nice to the literal angel that is Brittany, it seemed like the most ridiculous prank she's ever heard of.

"It's true, babe. You should see how gooey she gets around Britt. She was calling her 'Britt-Britt' all last night and was helping her draw a crayon map of New York to plan out where Lord T would flee to if Britt cornered him about all the missing cat food."

Quinn narrowed her eyes at this completely alien version of Santana. She wasn't entirely convinced, but there must be some truth to it if even her boyfriend was vouching for her. "…She didn't even laugh or make an insulting joke about the things you say that cat does?"

"Nope! She treats every incident very seriously and I've never ever heard her say anything even slightly mean. And I would notice because she has this adorable 'mean mug' she always puts on when she's insulting people, but she never has it on around me." Sam even nodded with Brittany in confirmation as she spoke. He had been on the receiving end of a few of Santana's insults and death glares but she always seemed to soften around Brittany. Even when the girl would hardly speak to Brittany, there would still never be a hint of sourness whenever she would look at her. It was part of the reason Sam believed Brittany's crush wasn't as one-sided as she thought.

Quinn still wasn't completely buying it though. "This has got to be a different Santana. The Santana I know would rip our Britt's heart to shreds."

"Well I know something Santana would want to rip of Brittany's and it ain't her heart."

Both Brittany and Quinn stared at Sam in confusion, unsure of where he was going with his comment.

"Your clothes, Britt." That seemed to fill Quinn in as she snorted. However, Brittany just looked even more confused as she looked down at the outfit she was wearing.

"No she wouldn't. She says I look super cute in my outfits; she'd never want to ruin them like that."

"No, I- You know what, it's probably better you don't understand that. I need to workshop that one a bit more," Sam frowned as Quinn laughed at his disappointment, but she gave him a soft kiss on the cheek to wipe it from his face – which was successful.

After about twenty more minutes of prepping and opening up The Unicorn Barn to its first customers of the night, Sam and Quinn were now on their way out of the door, leaving Brittany behind the bar. The couple were a little disappointed they hadn't managed to convince their friend to come along but things were looking more positive moving forward. That was still a win in their books.

"So definitely next time?" Sam Smiled hopefully.

Brittany nodded, "Yeah, I promise. You can let them know I'll be there."

"We'll tell you all about it when we get back. Don't be too bored out of your mind without us."

"Don't worry, I've already got that covered," Brittany grinned as she ushered her friends out the door. What she had opted to leave out was that she had already messaged a certain someone to come keep her entertained on the slow shift – to which this special person had just responded, making Brittany jump up and down in excitement.

[Sent – 5:58pm]Hey San, are you doing anything tonight?

[Sannybear – 6:21pm] Nothing I can't change for you, why? You need my dazzling company at the bar tonight? ;)

[Sent – 6:22pm]I would want nothing more :-)

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

The sound of the Barn's door being flung open made Brittany's head snap up from her boring task of seeing how many peanuts she could throw into a shot glass (her current record was twenty in a row). There had only been about fifty people max the whole night so far, the slowest night in a long while. So any sound of a newcomer was a surprise to Brittany. Luckily for her, bursting through the door with arms full of takeout was quite possibly her favourite person in the whole world. Boredom was definitely out of the question now for the rest of the night.

"Okay, next time we do this we're getting it delivered. Hauling these bags six blocks was a goddamn nightmare. I got chased by pigeons for seriously a whole mile." Brittany laughed as Santana huffed over to the bar with the food she had messaged her to pick up for dinner. It looked like the other girl had been in a fight with pigeons rather than just chased by them, as her hair was all over the place and her mascara had smudged a little bit at the side. However, it didn't stop the girl from looking as effortlessly stunning as always.

"I did get it delivered. I'm just very picky and want only the hottest delivery drivers in the city to handle my food."

Santana blushed as she turned her gaze down to the counter and mumbled, "Yeah, well…shut up. Do you want your burrito or not?"

"Gimme gimme," Brittany made a grabbing motion with both hands towards the burrito Santana was holding.

The two ate in relatively comfortable silence, with glances and smiles shared between them as they ate.

"Why'd you not get Sam to come to keep you company tonight?" Santana questioned as she moved to tidy up their mess after they had finished their dinner "At least he could help you out behind the bar. All I can do is drastically decrease your stock levels."

"Hey, you bring me good food as well so you have your uses," Brittany grinned cheekily as Santana playfully hit her on the shoulder in response, "Also, he's out meeting up with some of our other friends and I got stuck on bar duty."

"Awww poor Britt, missing out on all the fun."

"I'd much rather spend my night with you instead," Brittany quietly spoke with a smile. She wanted to add that being around Santana felt like somebody had cast a magical spell because she always felt like she was floating and time had stopped around them. That may have been too much though, and too silly so she held her tongue.

"The feeling is mutual," Santana smiled sweetly before covering up her softness by adding, "I mean, I was about to have a board game night with Berry so I was happy to have an excuse to escape."

Before any more words could be exchanged between the two, they were interrupted by one of the regular bar patrons.

"Hey Lil Pierce, can I have three Unicorn Dusts? We just found out Kate's divorce got finalised, so we all wanted to celebrate."

"Oh my god really? That's amazing, Adam! I'll have to tell mom; she'll be so happy for her. It feels like years she was in that legal battle."

Santana loved seeing the relationship Brittany had built with all the regulars of The Unicorn Barn. The other girl always remembered birthdays, anniversaries, every little detail about pretty much everyone at the bar. Brittany was so genuinely caring and Santana loved that about her.

"You ladies want anything? On me." Both girls really appreciated his generosity but both decline his offer and Brittany went on to make the bar's signature slushy cocktail. It started off as a deep purple at the bottom and perfectly faded to a light pink at the top, garnished with cotton candy. Santana gawked as she watched. Sure she had seen the drink plenty of times but had never seen Brittany make it so expertly like that.

Once Brittany had finished, she offered to bring them over to the table. "Thanks so much, we're just this way," Adam paused before heading back to his table and turned back to Santana, "It was good to see you, Santana. Brittany says you're doing great at college, keep it up, kid!" Santana couldn't stop herself from smiling. The encouragement and kindness from a guy she barely spoke to was drastically different from the other older adults in her life – namely her parents. The regulars at The Unicorn Barn had weirdly become to feel like her family, even though she didn't even know half of their names.

When Brittany came back from dropping off the drinks, she noticed Santana leaning over the bar and looking around nosily.

"You trying to swipe some free alcohol for yourself?" Brittany questioned with a raised eyebrow and couldn't help but laugh at Santana's wide eyes at the thought of being in trouble.

"No! No of course not. It's just, how do you do that? How do you make the drink have that perfect fade and not mesh into a weird poop colour?"

"I can show you if you want?"

For the next hour, Santana managed to make three versions of the cocktails – all catastrophic failures. She gave up when the last one somehow looked like the literal colour of vomit.

"You are possibly the worst bartender I have ever seen," Brittany laughed and flicked a peanut at Santana which landed in her eye.

"Ow Britt! What the hell was that for?" She shrieked as she flicked one back at her. Now that had completely set off a barrage of peanuts, candy, and sugar being thrown at each other as the two girls laughed loudly – attracting the attention of some of the patrons. Also unbeknownst to them, Sam and Quinn had just walked in from their night out and were silently watching the two with smirks on their faces.

Brittany grabbed Santana by the wrists with one hand and with the other, she grabbed the soda gun and gave her hair a short spray with it. It caused Santana to loudly gasp and try to grab it off the other girl while laughing loudly. Soon both girls stopped and let their laughter die down as they looked at each other.

"I hate you so much right now."

"No you don't," Brittany smirked. No, Santana really didn't. She just didn't know how to say that. Both girls were then brought out of their quiet little bubble as somebody cleared their throat behind them, leading them to both jump apart from each other.

"Wow…you really weren't wrong, Britt. Look at this, the devil might actually have a soft and fluffy side after all." Santana's brow furrowed in confusion as she heard what sounded like the voice of her most hated nemesis. As she turned to the direction of the sound, she was sadly correct in her assumptions as stood in the doorway beside Sam was goddamn Quinn Fabray. The last person she ever expected to show up at The Unicorn Barn.

"Fabray? What the hell do you think you're doing here?"

"She's Sam's girlfriend," Brittany whispered in her ear. She gave the brunette's arm a squeeze and a look that could be clearly translated to Santana as 'be nice.' If it were anyone else, that kind of look would make her want to do the exact opposite, but it was Brittany so she would try and play her version of nice.

"Trust me, I've been coming here way longer than you, so your words hold no weight here. Brittany and I go all the way back to high school, so don't even try it." Quinn's obvious smugness was almost enough to have Santana jumping across the counter and grabbing her by the hair but another look from Brittany kept her restrained.

"Yeah but Britts likes me better so," Santana shrugged, "You're just very lucky she's here because that is what's saving your ass. I'm not about to upset her tonight."

"Oh, so you like actually like her then? I didn't know you did feelings like that."

"I don't," Santana snapped in protest and looked anywhere but near Brittany, "But she's my friend and I do have a heart you know. I'm not a monster." Quinn laughed and looked at her with a tilted head and raised eyebrow "Okay I'm not one all of the time."

Quinn sighed. She looked over at Brittany and saw how happy being around her nemesis made her and she didn't want to ruin that for her. As much as it pained her to have to do, she opted to suggest a temporary truce. "Okay, Santana let's make a deal. No nastiness, no feud – just for tonight? We'll put all the shit we've said about each other behind us until the clock strikes two and we have to get out of here. Deal?"

Santana considered it for a second. She actually loved her little feud with Quinn but she had been having such a good night and didn't want to put herself in a bad mood just because of Quinn. "Deal. And we go back to feuding right after tonight?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way, Lopez," Quinn gave her a fake smile, which Santana returned.

It had been just a few hours since Sam and Quinn returned and both Quinn and Santana hadn't exactly been super strict on their deal. There was still a large selection of teasing insults thrown each other's way and they were still bickering every five minutes. However, there seemed to be more of a playful undertone to their words this time instead of their usual intentions to cut each other down.

"Okay quit it. Tell her she can't just keep skipping the songs I pick because she thinks they 'suck ass.' We each get turns to play our music and she's breaking the rules."

"It does suck ass. Britt says your music taste hurts her ears and if Britts says she doesn't like the song, I'm going to change it for her," Santana glared at Quinn before moving to look at Brittany and immediately softened and smiled at her.

"…It's true Quinn. I just don't think I can get behind this obscure Celtic Folk phase you're in right now, please don't make me."

Quinn huffed at the fact she'd been ganged up on by both Santana and Brittany, "I thought you two were cute for a moment but now I think I've come around to finding this pairing annoying."

"Don't hate just cause together we're more powerful than you and Bieber over there could ever be."

"Oh please, you could never compete with us," Both girls narrowed their eyes at each other and smiled. Almost as if they sensed an argument with each other was coming and they were actually excited about it.

"So…are we ready to lock up now?" Sam questioned with a clap of his hands. All of the other patrons had left by now which signaled a slightly earlier close for them. It also meant Santana and Quinn would be stopped from bickering about yet another thing. They were put to work on taking glasses to the storeroom to stop them from having free hands to potentially smack each other with.

"Well, that's everything! Not that it's actually clean in that back room. My bedroom is in a better state than back there," Santana screwed her face up as she thought about how much of a mess everything was. At least it was hidden away from customers.

"You're welcome to be our janitor if you'd like," Sam joked with a grin.

"Eww, no thanks. I don't think even I can rock the overalls look."

"Of course you could, you look hot in literally everything," Brittany chimed in as she walked over to grab the keys. The comment was meant to just be in her head but of course, her mouth did not want to cooperate with her brain.

"Thanks Britt," Santana surprisingly shyly replied. She couldn't deny how good it made her feel whenever Brittany complimented her and said things like that. Not that she would say it out loud. Even after the moments they had been sharing recently.

Sam and Quinn watched the pair with matching smirks on their faces, things seemed to definitely be developing between the two and even Quinn could admit that she was happy to see it. They were cute together and Santana was actually tolerable around Brittany which felt like a miracle that such a thing could happen.

"Well, I'm going to walk Quinn back," Sam finally spoke up, "You walking Santana, Britt?"

Brittany glanced at Santana as she silently asked, to which the other girl just nodded.

"I'm not a dog, I don't need 'walked', but yes Britts is accompanying me home as always."

Sam just laughed at Santana's words and shook his head. Quinn then moved to give Brittany a goodbye hug and gave Santana a short nod.

"See you, Britt. Santana. A pleasure to see you not as your usual raging bitch self."

"Wish I could say the same," Santana spoke with less venom in her voice as normal and even managed to muster up a smile towards Quinn, "See you in class tomorrow, Fabray."

They waved the couple off and the two girls started their walk home in silence. Brittany was worried she had done something wrong as Santana wasn't even looking in her direction. Thankfully though, Brittany didn't need to be worried for too long as she felt something nudge against her hand. She looked down and saw Santana had her pinkie out for her to take. Brittany beamed widely at the gesture and quickly wrapped her pinkie around Santana's before the girl had the chance to change her mind. The two girls finally locked eyes with each other and smiled as they continued silently on their usual walk home that had become their routine after every night at The Unicorn Barn. Words didn't feel needed tonight. Just quiet 'goodbyes' and a kiss on the cheek from Brittany that she just couldn't resist doing. Neither girl could keep the smiles off their faces as they both lay in their beds that night.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Santana thought she could get away with the surprise phone call from her mom a few weeks ago being enough contact for the older woman to last a least a good couple of months. Unfortunately, her mother rarely ever did things that would suit Santana and always seemed to do the exact opposite of whatever it was she wanted.

Her mom had texted her earlier that day asking to have a 'long overdue' Skype call. She was good at pretending it was because she cared about wanting to actually see her daughter, but Santana knew it was a bullshit excuse to make sure she hadn't gone completely off the rails and was still keeping up with her appearance. God forbid her mother found out she sometimes went to morning classes in sweatpants and a tank top – she'd have a heart attack.

"Santana. Nice to finally see my daughters face with my own eyes," Her mother flashed that obnoxious, fake smile that Santana wished she could slap off her face through the screen, "If only you would come home once in a while, I wouldn't have to nag you to do these things."

"Hi mom. You look like the same haggard old witch as always."

"And here we go," Her mother sighed out in frustration, "We have not even been on the call a minute and you're already at it with the attitude."

"If you didn't want to deal with my attitude, you could always just not call me. Since you don't seem to be able to handle it."

Santana watched her mom close her eyes and pinch the bridge of her nose, which made her smirk. It was very satisfying to know that she could so easily get under her mom's skin. She saw it as the payback she deserved for always being able to get under hers without even trying.

"So how are classes?"

"Fine."

"Are you still grading above average?"

"Yup."

"How are things in New York?"

"Good."

Santana knew her short, revealing nothing, answers would piss her mom off. Her mom hated not knowing anything and the younger Lopez reveled in the fact she had information about her life she could dangle over her mother's head but never give her. Even if it was just mundane things.

"Is this really going to be the whole call? Come on Santana, I'm trying to have a conversation with you here."

The younger girl scoffed and rolled her eyes, "You? Trying? This is brand new information."

"Don't roll your eyes at me," Her mother gave her a stern look. Not that intimidated or would deter Santana in the slightest. The older woman then took a deep breath plastered on her signature fake smile, "Now, what have you been doing with yourself in between college-related things?"

"I don't know…" Santana shrugged, "I go to The Unicorn Barn a lot I guess."

"…Is that a strip club or something? For your type of people?"

That comment really got her hands balled up into fists. She knew what 'your type of people' meant and hated how dismissive her mother was about her sexuality like that. The woman never rejected her or took her coming out extremely badly, but the way she would stay things like that, she'd rather her mom just came out and said she hated it than just throw out those sneaky double-take jabs.

"No. No it's a bar. I go there to see Britt and hang with Kurt. It's like, fun or whatever,"

"Who's Britt?" The younger girl really wished she could have gone back to five seconds ago and erased any mention of Brittany – her name just sort of slipped out. She didn't like the fact that her mom even knew Brittany's name and made her uncomfortable that she had a sliver of information about that happy portion of her life.

"Just a friend. She owns the bar." No way was Santana ever going to tell her mom anything more.

"She owns her own business? Now that's doing something productive with your life. Shame it's a bar though. I don't like how your friends with someone who supplies you alcohol." Of course the woman would find a way to bring things back to how much her daughter has 'failed' in her eyes. It was what Santana loved the most about conversations with her mother.

"Jeez, it's not like she pours the booze down my throat. You act like I'm some immature alcoholic or something."

The older Lopez raised her eyebrow challengingly, "And you really think you're not?"

"Oh fuck off mother. Don't look at me like that. Like you didn't have vodka breakfasts almost every day when I was in high school," Santana snapped. She was done with this conversation and would have hung up there and then if her mom wouldn't just call her ten times afterward in a rage.

"You don't think I had a reason for that? That I wasn't under unprecedented amounts of stress with work and you?"

"Work I could believe was a valid reason but to get stress from dealing with me, you would've had to actually be there. And I could probably count on both hands the number of times you were home for more than a few days at a time."

"At least I was able to keep myself under enough control to actually hold down a stable life."

A bitter laugh was let out from Santana as she heard the word 'stable.' That word had never been in her mom's vocabulary, and it was laughable that she was sat there, looking her daughter right in the eyes and pretending like she was any form of stable.

"Oh, I didn't know we were telling stories today."

Of course, her mom had just ignored her jab and insinuation and continued her tirade, "But you? You couldn't go even one day without getting into fights or talking back to teachers, or just being a general delinquent."

"And now you're drinking yourself till you're stupidly numb and refusing to get treated for a condition that you are basically inflicting upon yourself at this point. You wouldn't be dealing with any of this if you would go to a damn doctor, Santana. But you would rather walk to an early grave than get over your pride or ego or whatever the hell it is that is stopping you."

Santana felt tears prickling her eyes as her mind took her back to the one place she yearned to forget. That hospital haunted her every night she shut her eyes. "You don't know what that place was like for me," Her voice cracked at the end of her sentence, and she kicked herself for showing such weakness in front of her mother. Not that she even noticed or cared.

"Santana, you were only in for like a week at a time for a couple of years when you were in middle school. Can't you get over it?"

Oh how she wished it were that easy. That she could just wake up one day and decide 'you know what? I'm over this trauma. Time to move on' – that would be fantastic. Unfortunately, the world doesn't work out that way. Those memories were with her forever.

"I was in there alone and scared for those years. You visited me maybe three times? You would just dump me and pick me up like you were getting a vacation from me. Do you have any idea how fucking scary it is to be abandoned by your family and having doctors and nurses poke and prod at you while you have no real understanding of why this is happening to you? No, I don't think you do," The younger girl angled her camera out of the way so she could wipe the tears building up in her eyes without being noticed.

"I would call the nurses for updates every day." Santana found it quite comical that her mom thought being on the phone with a nurse for barely five minutes was sufficient enough parenting.

"Oh wow, parent of the year over here."

Once again, Santana's mother ignored her remark and continued on her rant, "Even if it was all really that bad, you could still have learned how to deal with the pain rather than destroying your body the way you are right now." Santana rolled her eyes at that. She didn't think of what she was doing as destroying her body. It was simply an easy way to curb her pain that didn't involve medical intervention. It was genius if you asked her.

"I'm serious Santana. You know what? If you end up fucked up on the side of the street from all this drinking, you can lie there in your own vomit before you even think about calling me, because I'm not going to help you. It's a waste of breath."

Silence fell over the call. Yeah, her mom had said all sorts of nasty things before, but for some reason this really hit Santana hard. To think that she could be in such a situation, and her mom wouldn't give a damn. She shouldn't be surprised, this was her mother she was talking about but still, it hurt to hear the venom in the older woman's tone when she spoke.

"You're doing this all to yourself, this is all your fault at this point and I'm honestly embarrassed to see this version of my daughter." Santana didn't even have anything witty to say or an insult ready to throw out. It was like the reality of how little her mom thought of her was actually setting in for her – and as much as she loathed her, it hurt.

"Okay well, I have an appointment with a client in ten minutes. I'll call you at some point soon. Hopefully your attitude is fixed by then, but I highly doubt it. Bye Santana," Her mother waved dismissively and swiftly ended the call.

"Yeah. Bye." Santana seriously had to restrain herself from throwing her laptop across the room after the video call ended. As always, speaking to her mother got her riled up. However, this time her emotions were at eleven. Whenever her mom would bring up her hospital visits when she was a kid, it just brought back too many memories she spent so much energy trying to forget. It resurfaced a lot of the resentment she had for the older woman as well, which didn't help with the already crumbling relationship they shared.

In order to try and calm herself and let her emotions surrounding the situation out, Santana decided to get Kurt to meet up with her. He was the only person she was truly comfortable dumping her feelings about her mom too – since he had seen first hand how awful she was.

[Sent – 1:23pm]Where are you?

[Sent – 1:23pm]I need to vent. She's fucking evil.

[The Gay Von Trapp – 1:24pm]I'm just finishing up in class. Meet me in the cafeteria at 2?

[Sent – 1:28pm]On my way.

-x-x-x-x-x-x-

Kurt hurried over to their usual cafeteria table and frowned when he was finally stood in front of Santana. Her eyes were red and she was sniffling as she poured half a flask (of presumably vodka) into her coffee.

"Have you been crying?" His voice laced with concern.

"No, no um it's just hay fever or whatever." Kurt knew that was a bullshit excuse, especially with how hoarse her voice sounded but didn't press anymore.

"Okay, so what happened?"

Santana went into detail about the entire video call and all the things her mother had said. When she finished, she looked up to Kurt to see what he was going to say to comfort her.

"I don't know why you let the things that woman says get to you. She tells you the same insulting things time and time again, just in slightly meaner ways each time. Just ignore her, you know it's all bullcrap. Or you tell her to stop contacting you and finally cut her off. You don't deserve a mother like that."

Santana had been expecting a little bit more than that and was a little disappointed at his words. "Oh wow thanks for those revolutionary words of wisdom, Gandhi."

"What? That's the best I can offer you, Santana. I don't know what you want me to say at this point that I haven't already said." It was true. They had been through this time and time again and it was hard at this point for Kurt to find the words that would help in a situation that was just going to happen again.

"Well I was hoping for something better than 'don't listen to her!' That would be like me telling you in high school to just 'shut your eyes' when those football guys would beat the crap out of you as if that would do a damn thing to make it feel better."

Kurt frowned, "No no. We're not talking about me, we're talking about you." He knew Santana was just trying to deflect towards the emotional pain he had faced in the past in order to not think about her own or stop herself from being attacked about her inability to cut her mother off.

"I'm just saying, you got tormented by those guys so much so I'd thought you'd have a bit more sympathy for me in this. You got called every derogatory name under the sun and who was the one who constantly had to calm you down from all those damn panic attacks? Oh yeah, that was me. You didn't suck it up. You didn't fight back. You were a pussy who just stood there like a sad punching bag and let them go at you over and over again." Santana was avoiding all eye contact with Kurt as she spoke. She knew she was going a bit far but she was just so upset and needed to get it out. "So it's pretty pathetic that you're sat in front of me right now preaching to be the bigger person and 'ignore it' or to stand up from myself when that's something you could never get the balls to do yourself."

"You know how hard that time was for me. You know just how much they tore me down."

"And you don't think dealing with my mother is hard for me too?!" Santana had started to yell now, gathering them quite an audience in the cafeteria.

"The difference between us, Santana, is that I was basically a scared little kid back then. You're a fully grown adult who still can't face her own mother and would rather drown herself in a bottle of whatever alcoholic beverage you can find than just say no to your mother after twenty-three years of dealing with her."

"Well you wouldn't know what it's like to deal with a mother for twenty-three years. Especially one like mine," Santana trailed off with a mumble. Already regretting her words.

Kurt's eyes had immediately filled with hurt and anger at Santana's comment. That was one thing that was off-limits and she broke the rule. "Okay no, stop right there. I'm done. I'm leaving. I'm not doing this with you right now. For you to bring my high school trauma into this, unprovoked, and now say something like that? It's just completely uncalled for." He stood up and started to put his coat back on. He was not about to sit and listen to Santana when she was like this. "Until you get your nasty attitude in check – I will not be engaging with you. I'm just too exhausted with you."

"Kurt, come on don't be so dramatic. Yeah I said what I said, but we deal and move on from it every time we snap," Santana rolled her eyes. She knew she had gone too far but tried to cover it up with a lame excuse that she wasn't even one hundred percent sure she believed herself.

"Maybe I don't want to just 'move on' anymore. If you don't want to pull back on this ugly version of yourself, then you can be a drunken miserable mess on your own."

"I'm not a drunken miserable mess though"

"Yeah well, tell that to your mother. She might not be as crazy as you say she is. Seems like she's telling some truths about you," Kurt spat out.

"I can't believe you would be siding with her right now."

"I didn't believe you could stoop this low with your insults. I guess now we're both disappointed in each other." Hearing that her best friend in the world was disappointed in her felt like a punch to the gut.

"Either you sort yourself out or this" Kurt gestured between the two of them with his hands, "Is done with."

"Fine maybe this is done with then," Santana muttered as the two glared at each other from across the table. The death stare match only lasted a few seconds, but to everyone around them in the cafeteria, it was a very uncomfortable and long few seconds.

Soon enough though, it was Kurt who broke the eye contact to storm out. It was then that Santana had noticed that their total blow-up had attracted the attention of almost every single person in the room.

"I suggest you all either put your attention back on your plastic ass horse meat burgers or hand over your wallets, for compensation for treating a private conversation like a free show," Santana yelled. She then stormed out of the cafeteria, unsure of where she was storming to. Her head was tilted down as she walked, to stop the strangers she passed from seeing the tears streaming down her face. In what felt like the blink of an eye, she was about to lose her best friend. The only person who knew the real her and stuck beside her regardless. Although, maybe Kurt was only just now seeing the real Santana and even he couldn't handle it. If she could make him leave, what's to say the exact same thing wouldn't happen with Brittany? She couldn't deal with thinking about all that right now. All the eyes on her felt suffocating. She just needed to get away.

XXXXXXX

A/N: Another update coming at you! I hope you enjoyed this long-ass chapter as much as I did writing it!

So I started writing this and ended up planning out Way too much for one chapter, so I've split this plan up into 2! The second part will most likely come after next week though because I'm literally leaving right this minute to go into the city from Thursday – Sunday to go see some drag shows (for anyone who keeps up with RPDR I'm seeing Rosé, Gottmik, Jimbo and Scarlet Bobo – so freaking excited!). If there are any errors (I'm known for not having a brain so it's Very likely) I'll get them fixed asap when I return :-)

Also want to just quickly touch on some q's I got from a comment – I had made some changes to the first three chapters before I uploaded ch4 but my stupid ass forgot to actually add the changed chapters to the fic lmao I'm still clearly getting used to uploading (everything should be updated now so if you wanna reread to clear up any confusion, now you can!) Also to clarify, Santana and Brittany would be about 23 in this fic, as would most of their friends in this fic!

For the people who have been so kind enough to leave me comments filled with kindness and encouragement – omg thank you, I appreciate y'all so much! It means so so much to me to hear people be excited over a story I'm so excited about as well, it very much touched my overly emotional self. Love to you all!

Have a wonderful week! Remember you are loved and appreciated, and I'll check back in next update 3

~ Jules

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