A/N - Better late than never, am I right? Sorry for the delay, it has been a struggle to write but thanks for being patient and not spamming with demands for an update. I must be a glutton for punishment because I've decided that this final chapter will have two parts now. Here's part one. Enjoy!
Despite the pristine shape Brittany keeps herself in, she breathes heavily in the crisp December air. Her lungs feel like they're growing icicles and she's struggling to keep her hands from going numb in the frigid temperature. There's no doubt her nose is as red as Rudolph's by now and she can barely feel her lips as she calls out play after play, but she persists.
She always persists.
Afterall, this is the last football practice of her high school career. It's an important milestone for her but the couple of hours Coach Beiste added to practice makes it a little harder to enjoy – especially now that the sun sets earlier and the temperature drops faster. But Brittany figures high school football practices are a walk in the park compared to college level, so she goes through the motions as per usual and soaks in the moment while it lasts.
At the sound of Coach Beiste's whistle, everyone gets set for another play and Brittany readies herself for the snap.
When the ball is hiked, Brittany takes it into her hands and tries to drop back so she can fire downfield. The Titan defense is too aggressive for her new O-Line though and soon the pocket she's in begins to collapse. Defensive players are coming at her from all angles so she has to duck and dodge. It's a mad scramble to avoid a sack but there's nothing more to do than to throw the ball away for an incompletion.
When the play is called dead, there's some shoving amongst her frustrated linemen but she wedges herself in between the guys, forcing them apart with a firm push. The tension has been growing since last night's practice, but they can't fall apart now. There's too much at stake.
"It's alright, guys! We're almost there!" Brittany tries to encourage her team although she's starting to sense the discouragement, "Keep pushing! We'll get this."
"Jackson! Ridley! You have got to step it up," Coach drills for the tenth time, "Pierce was this close to a sack. You have to offer more protection than that or we're getting our butts handed to us tomorrow night."
The replacements for Azimio and Karofsky nod diligently. The two eagerly accepted the challenge when Coach Beiste called upon them to step up after dismissing Azimio and Karofsky. The only problem is that they mostly practiced on defense so protecting the quarterback is new terrain for them.
"This isn't Carmel's first rodeo, folks. They're the defending champs for how many years now? We have to do better than this. I know we can, we wouldn't have a record like ours if we couldn't," Coach continues.
And it's true. From where the Titans were as a team in the beginning of the season to now is a drastic improvement. Hell, they're playing better than they ever have! The loss of Azimio and Karofsky was only a minor setback, but the team has faced adversity before and they can do it again.
Besides, they're better off without them.
"Carmel's time at the top is over," Brittany adds as she looks around at her team, "Right, Titans?"
The team starts to hype themselves up again as they cheer on Brittany's words and the quarterback smiles proudly at the response.
"Alright, let's run it again and this time hold the line longer than half a second," Coach instructs, "We know Pierces has wheels, but she shouldn't have to scramble. Line up!"
The Titans all gravitate back to the line of scrimmage at the Coach's command and begin again.
With only two practices on offense under the replacements' belt and the big game just a mere 24 hours away, all Brittany can do now is have faith that they'll be able to iron out most of the kinks and everything will work out just fine.
It has to.
It's a restless night's sleep for Brittany before the big game, but that's nothing new. She always gets the jitters on game day, but there's something else that looms over her and she can't quite decided if it's good or bad. It lingers throughout her morning run and usual routine of getting ready for the school day. It's there as she texts Santana good morning and it's even there when she joins her mom and Pete for breakfast downstairs.
"Nice shirt, Petey!" Brittany compliments before pressing a kiss to the top of her brother's head.
Pete puffs out his chest and does a cute little flex to show off his custom-made Pierce Power t-shirt in WMHS colors. Brittany starts to mimic him and soon the two are having a flex-off at the kitchen counter.
Whitney can only laugh at the pair as she plates up their banana pancakes. That odd feeling still lingers as they all settle down to eat, but it's kind of comforting above anything else.
With her car keys in hand, Brittany's just about to head out the door when she catches a glimmer from the corner of her eye. The morning sun trickles in through the tiny opening left in the living room curtains and falls on a silver picture frame on the fireplace mantle. In the frame is a picture of a young Brittany wearing a football jersey that's two sizes too big and she's giving the camera a toothy grin as she holds a football that's two sizes too big for her tiny hands.
But behind her, supporting the ball in her tiny hands so she doesn't drop it is her dad and he looks just as proud as he always did to be there to support her. It's one of Brittany's favorite pictures of them – the first time she was introduced to football. It wouldn't be for a couple more years that she'd actually take to the field, but in that picture is where her interest begin.
It wasn't forced upon her. It wasn't her dad trying to live vicariously through her. It was just a moment between a father and daughter. A moment that shaped her and encouraged her to be this great athlete, but above all – a great person. If it wasn't for him, maybe she would've never touched a football?
Brittany starts to get a little choked up because he should be here. He should be in those stands tonight cheering louder than anyone else there just like he has done all of her life. He should be with her, looking just as proud as he does in that picture.
She starts to feel that familiar pain in her chest, the slow building anger, because it isn't fair. Of all the great dads in the world, why did it have to be hers? But then she remembers something her mom told her once after having one of her nightmares.
"He'll always be with you, Britt. He's in every pretty sunset and sunrise. He's there for every game and every one of your touchdowns. You might not be able to see him anymore or hear him, but he's there. You'll feel it."
It's not until that moment that Brittany begins to realize what that feeling that's lingered around her all morning might be. It's the first time she's really felt it in a long time and she quietly wishes he'd visit more often.
At that, she gives the picture one last smile before heading out the door.
When she arrives to WMHS' student parking lot, Brittany finds that she has beaten Santana to school for a second morning in a row. She chuckles as she remembers the garbled nonsense Santana had sent in reply to Brittany's Good Morning text and decides to head inside and wait for Santana by their lockers instead. The girl has been known to show up with just a few minutes left to spare before first bell and Brittany needs a little more time than that to get ready for class.
On the walk to her locker, Brittany is greeted by several students and faculty wishing her luck tonight. She smiles and thanks them like she has grown accustomed to doing over the past few months, although sometimes she still can't believe they all treat her like some type of celebrity.
She spots some of her teammates in the hall dressed similarly to her in their blue jeans and Game Day jerseys. The only thing Brittany's missing is her letterman jacket but she can thank the Puck Heads for that.
"Sup Pierce!" Puck calls out before he and Finn bump knuckles with her, "Ready for tonight?"
"Totally," Brittany responds confidently, "You?"
"Hell yeah!" Puck answers, "Can't wait to saw right through those guys."
"Seriously! Wish we got to have the school day off or something," Finn says, "Like a Titans Skip Day?"
"Dude, genius idea!" Puck replies, "No way I'll be able to concentrate on stuff today."
Brittany knows the feeling but she doesn't say that, "I know, that would be so awesome but no skipping. Coach checks if we're all in class."
"Damn," Finn and Puck grumble in unison.
Brittany only laughs as she continues her walk, "Would be cool though. I'll catch you later."
When she gets to her locker, Brittany starts pulling out the books she doesn't need yet from her book bag in exchange for the ones she'll need for her first class. She's trying her hardest to remember what she needs for class, but with the entire school going on and on about this game tonight it's difficult to focus on much else.
That Titans Skip Day starts to sound really good as she finishes up stuffing her book bag. She only wishes it were a real thing as JBI rounds the corner with his mic and cameraman in tow.
"Good morning, Brittany!" JBI says cheerfully, "Do you have time for a quick interview?"
Brittany's brows rise, "You're asking first?"
JBI's cheerfulness falters slightly, "New policy."
Brittany looks around the hall for Santana but she still isn't around so she figures she can throw JBI a bone. It'll probably be the last interview she'll have to do anyway and since he asked nicely, she might as well do it.
"Alright then. Shoot."
"Awesome!" JBI then looks to the camera guy and gestures for him to start filming.
Brittany straightens up and tries to prepare herself for whatever questions might be thrown her way. Surprisingly though, the first three are pretty easy for her to answer. In fact, it starts off as a relatively legit interview void of gossipy comments.
Key words though: starts off.
"What about the loss of Karofsky and Azimio?" JBI questions, "With the change being made just two days out from the big game, are there any regrets?"
Brittany takes a moment before answering, "I'm not going to question the decision my Coach made, so no I don't have any regrets. I don't really consider it a loss, it was more of gain. Taking their place are two players who have been on our defense's practice squad and they're super excited to show everyone what they've got."
JBI doesn't seem satisfied with her diplomatic answer and presses further, "How prepared can someone possibly be with only two days of practice? Doesn't seem fair to me."
"Well, you can thank Karofsky and Azimio for that," Brittany replies too quickly, "They were the ones that decided not to carry themselves like they should. Would it have been nice to get a little more practice in with the new guys? Sure, but they were the ones who let this team down, who let me down."
"So it was a personal matter that got them kicked off the team?" JBI presses.
Brittany grits her teeth, "If you want to know their story then go ask them for the details."
JBI backs off with a sigh, "Okay. So with a couple key players out of the way, do you have any concerns about the outcome of tonight's game?"
"No. We're going out there to win tonight," Brittany says confidently, "We're a resilient bunch of talented players, we can overcome just about anything if we continue to work as a team. Jackson and Ridley should be given more credit because they're doing fantastic given the short notice."
"Hopefully that'll reflect in tonight's game," JBI changes gears once he realizes Brittany isn't going to fall into his trap, "There's also a rumor going around that the entire hockey team has been required to attend the game tonight. Can you confirm this?"
"Is that considered a rumor?" Brittany questions. JBI nods eagerly but Brittany just shrugs, "Well yeah, Coach Beiste found out that they haven't actually attended a Titans game ever so she figured this would be the best way for them to get over their…feelings towards me and the team. A lot of their aggression comes from ignorance so hopefully tonight we can change that. It's important that we all support each other, we all play for the same school so when we succeed we all do."
"And if you don't win?" JBI presses, "The last time the Titans competed against Carmel the score was 23 – 7; you guys were demolished. It would be pretty embarrassing now with the Puck Heads there because you're not losing in front of just one rival, you're doing it in front of two."
Brittany feels her heart drop to the pit of her stomach. She hadn't thought about that before and she finds herself struggling to come up with a quick, diplomatic response.
"Why the hell would you say something like that?"
Brittany turns to the familiar voice and finds Santana walking up with this scowl on her face. The crowds of students quickly get out of her way as she saunters over to the pair. JBI looks like he's a deer caught in the headlights and Santana thrives on it as the scowl turns devilish.
"What's the matter with you, huh?" Santana snaps and gives him a little shove out of the way since he was blocking her locker.
"What?" JBI asks innocently. Brittany swears she sees him shiver.
"How about a good luck tonight or you've done an amazing job with the team this season?" Santana prompts with faux-excitement before the scowl returns, "God, the shit you spout. No wonder you're always in a dumpster."
Brittany stifles a laugh while Santana just shakes her head at him.
"I – I'm not always in a dumpster," JBI counters but Santana only waves him off as she glances at Brittany. There's just a hint of a smile there, but it's enough for the quarterback to find her confidence again.
"Well to answer your question, JBI," Brittany replies, "If we don't come out on top tonight, at least we played at all. Right? Have you competed in any Championship games lately? Has anyone at this school besides the Cheerios competed in a Championship?"
JBI's shoulders sink a little while Santana smiles proudly.
"Yeah, I didn't think so," Brittany adds.
"And on that note," Santana says to him, "Kindly fuck off."
Once JBI and his friend shuffle away, Santana's demeanor softens just a little more.
"Sorry I missed you in the parking lot," Santana apologizes, "I couldn't find my keys this morning and Quinn was meant to drop off your – "
Santana's sentence is cut off by Brittany stealing a quick kiss while they're shielded by their locker doors being open. Santana's lips are still a little cold from her being outside but it doesn't last once she has Brittany's on her. It's soft and sweet and for a second they forget they're even at school.
"Mornin'," Brittany says once she pulls away wearing her infamous mega-watt smile, "How are you?"
Santana blinks at the casual tone and lets out a chuckle, "I'm good now. How are you?"
Brittany looks down the hall where JBI is now trying to interview Puck and Finn. She shakes her head at that and laughs, "Well...it's a typical day at William McKinley."
"There's always something," Santana chuckles as she starts rummaging through her locker, "How are you feeling about today?"
"I feel good," Brittany nods, "I feel ready. A bit nervous because there's a lot riding on this game…"
"You've got nothing to be nervous about," Santana assures her with a smile, "You're the best of the best. Both on the field and off."
Brittany feels her cheeks pink at the compliment.
"I for one can't wait to see you play," Santana adds before sending her a smirk, "I've never seen someone look so good in that uniform."
"Okay," Brittany blushes, "Stop while you're ahead or else I might make you miss first bell."
Santana giggles seductively just as a group of freshman girls walk by them.
"Good luck tonight, Brittany!" One girl says, "You're an inspiration to us all."
Brittany gives them an awkward but polite smile, "Thank you."
They all chatter amongst themselves excitedly as they move on down the hall. Santana looks at them then back to Brittany as a smirk forms.
"I see your fan club is very active today," She teases.
Brittany rolls her eyes, "They're excited. It's the first Championship game for a lot of people here, they're bound to be a little…enthusiastic. Plus there's the whole first female QB thing that no one will forget so yeah, they're active today."
"Just remember who your real number one fan is," Santana flirts with a tug to the hem of Brittany's jersey.
Santana tugs a little harder causing Brittany to come closer as she quirks her brow.
"Right," Brittany smirks, "I might need more reminding later."
"Mhmm," Brittany hums, "I might need help warming up too."
"I bet you do," Santana teases as she leans in for a quick kiss, "Luckily, I'm good at doing both."
"God," Someone scoffs, "Get a room."
Santana scowls at the interruption but as she and Brittany pull away they find Quinn standing there smirking. One hand is on her hip while a coat protector dangles from the other.
"I see why you couldn't wait two more minutes," Quinn mentions with a chuckle, "Had to go and scar everyone with whatever's going on here."
Santana rolls her eyes playfully, "Please, our lips barely even grazed."
Brittany chuckles at that.
"Besides," Santana continues, "It was either wait on your ass for who knows how long or see my wonderful, amazing girlfriend. It was a pretty easy decision to make."
"Yeah yeah," Quinn jokes as she hands Brittany the hanger, "This is for you, Britt."
Brittany looks a little confused as she takes it but then she gets a peek of crimson red fabric from the opening of the bag and realizes what it is.
"Hey, it's my jacket!" Brittany exclaims.
"I rushed the order," Quinn shrugs as Santana helps Brittany unzip the bag.
"Thank you so much," Brittany wastes no time putting it on over her jersey. She was never one to walk around in her letterman jacket all the time, but she'd be lying if she said it didn't make her feel a little more complete now.
"Looking good," Santana winks before adjusting Brittany's collar.
Brittany blushes before turning back to Quinn, "I really appreciate this, Quinn. Let me know what I owe you so I can pay you back."
Quinn waves her off, "Don't worry about it."
"Are you sure?" Brittany asks, "A rush order like this couldn't have been cheap."
"It's fine, really," Quinn assures her, "Just kill it tonight."
Brittany only grins, "I can do that."
And the Titans do kill it…at first.
They hit the ground running and were able to score touchdowns on their first two drives, making the score 14 – 0 within the first five minutes of the game! The quick lead really got the crowd going in favor of the Titans – Brittany was sure she could hear her mom and Pete cheering her on all the way from the stands. Even the Puck Heads looked somewhat interested in the game. She and the team used all that energy and gave each play their all and then some.
For most of the first quarter, the Titans were crushing Carmel on offense and their star quarterback, Jesse St. James, was not happy about that. The guy practically threw a temper tantrum anytime the Titans scored, it was so sad. It's a surprise the refs hadn't called any penalties, but with a rivalry like there's everyone was ready for the tension.
Whenever the Camels would score, the Titans were all too happy to respond with a touchdown of their own. With the amount of touchdown passes Brittany was throwing, she was nearing a record-breaking game and they were still only in the first half.
It was a shoot out up until the ball was picked off of Mike midway in the second quarter which changed the tides in favor of the Camels.
With that small advantage, it was like new life was breathed into Carmel. From then on, it felt like Brittany and the Titans were playing catch up, just hoping to maintain their 14 point lead that the Camels were quickly closing in on.
Unfortunately on the Titans' next drive, they're unable to make it into the endzone. The Camels use that to their advantage once again and do what the Titans couldn't: score.
That brings it to 35 – 28 with the Titans still in the lead but only by a single touchdown.
"Not today, sweetheart!" A Carmel defender taunts in Brittany's direction after her pass was swatted down. The player jogs alongside her and flexes, "Maybe if you had guns like these you could get through me!"
Brittany does her best to ignore him, but he's been running his mouth all night and she's starting to reach her boiling point. She can't lose her cool though, not tonight, so she just keeps her eyes forward in hopes that he'll lose interest.
After another failed drive for the Titans offense, Brittany makes her way to the sidelines with her helmet in her hand. She's given a water bottle and takes a quick drink before wiping the sweat from her face with a towel. Although she's starting to get a little frustrated, Brittany keeps those feelings to herself as she reaches for the Titans playbook.
"There's got to be something we haven't tried," Brittany mutters to herself as she flips through.
She's looking for something that Carmel wouldn't expect from them, something that'll give the Titans that edge that's been missing so far. Though it's still early in the game, it feels like Carmel is starting to play one step ahead of them and Brittany wants to find a way to stop that before it's too late.
As she flips through the plays, constantly tucking the fallen strands of hair from her ponytail behind her ears, Brittany continues to look for that special play when she hears someone call out to her. Turning to the voice, she finds Santana leaning on the railing behind her.
"Want me to fix that for you?" She asks with a small smirk.
It takes a second for Brittany to realize that she's talking about her messy ponytail before she's jogging over to close the distance between them.
Santana's decked out even more so than usual in school spirited accessories and her Cheerios uniform is as vibrant as ever, but what catches Brittany's eye is the #12 drawn on Santana's cheek in red and black marker. She swears that wasn't there when she saw Santana before the game and it makes her heart melt.
Brittany knows many people have taken a liking to her, to the point where they wear her number to show support but it hits differently when Santana does it – especially since not many people know about them being a couple yet.
"You're wearing my number," Brittany points out as she turns her back so that Santana can reach her ponytail. She keeps her eyes trained on the field, hoping their defense doesn't let Carmel score.
"I am," Santana says as her fingers delicately pull the hair tie from Brittany's hair and starts to comb through the strands, "You don't know how many girls on the squad wanted to wear yours, I couldn't have that."
Brittany laughs, "Well I am pretty inspirational."
"I guess," Santana teases before getting to work on the braid, "How's it going out there? It looks like you guys are losing steam. Not getting tired, are you?"
Brittany scoffs playfully, "We're just getting started but I can see what you mean. Their offense isn't making it easy for us. They've definitely watched film."
Santana hums again as Brittany gets lost in thought to the feeling of Santana's fingertips gently scratching at her scalp. She's been so focused on the game and moving around that she hasn't noticed how cold it is out. A December winter in Ohio is very different from the ones she's used to in Florida, but she keeps her hands hidden in her hand warmer.
"We have to score once more before the half, but I think Carmel is starting to pick up on our routes," Brittany says, "I have to do something different. It can't be a sneak because I don't think they'll let me get away with it for a second time. I can't risk getting picked off again either because that's even worse, but what? What won't they expect?"
"Well," Santana sighs as her hands move further down Brittany's hair, "I can't say I know what most of that means but you got this. If anyone can make something happen, it's you. It's still early, maybe you'll wear them out?"
"Or maybe they'll just get stronger?" Brittany mumbles her worries.
"You can't think like that," Santana tells her as she finishes up and nudges Brittany around, "You've turned this team around and gotten them this far. You're going all the way, babe, I can feel it. Besides, you guys are in way better shape than them; at least, I know you're definitely in better shape. I can guarantee that one from personal experience."
Brittany smiles back lovingly and almost laughs when Santana accompanies her compliment with a wink. She's not used to being the one that needs the pep talk, but she's glad Santana's there to offer her one anyway. She didn't realize how much she needed the reassurance.
It makes those three little words start to float up, but she pushes them away for now. She needs her focus to be on the game.
"Thank you," Brittany says, "It really means a lot."
Santana only shrugs although she looks just as smitten.
"And thanks for this too," Brittany says as she glides over her newly braided hair, "Didn't know you could French braid."
"It's one of my many talents," Santana jokes, "Also one less thing you have to worry about. I'm sure you'll figure out the football thing too. Maybe you could have one of the guys throw it to you instead or something? Carmel would never expect that."
Brittany's eyes light up, "Oh my God, you're right."
Brittany gets to thinking out loud, "I've got Finn and even Sam. They both have pretty good arms. If I hand it off to one of them instead, I could totally slip through and get open."
"Wait, seriously?" Santana chuckles disbelievingly "You're really gonna try that?"
"Duh. It's a good idea," Brittany grins confidently, "God, I could just kiss you right n – "
"Offense! To the field!" Coach yells out, "Where's Pierce?"
"Shit. I gotta go," Brittany says before quickly pulling on her helmet and giving Santana a wink, "Wish me luck!"
Santana only waves her pompoms in return as she watches Brittany jog off.
Back out on the field, Brittany gets her guys ready for the first snap. She's going to try and get them into better field advantage because no way she's going to attempt to run for 40 yards. She can't risk getting tackled and potentially injuring herself so that's where Puckerman comes in handy.
"East 32," Brittany calls out to her sides; a running play, "East 32!"
She tracks the defense's movements, keeping her eyes on the linebacker that's been giving her a hard time all quarter. Thankfully Jackson and Ridley have been doing a great job of protecting her thus far, but all it takes is one wrong move to change that.
"Down!" She says and readies herself for the snap, "HUT!"
The ball is thrust into her hands and she's quick to get a good hold of it before she's passing it off to Puck. Brittany hits him square in the chest with it and he automatically wraps the ball in his arms, making this impenetrable cage, before he's crashing into defenders. Brittany throws a block in order to offer a little more protection, but Puck is only able to go a few yards before he's brought down.
It's a clean hit, but someone on the Camels makes a snarky comment and the next thing Brittany's knows is that Puck's getting in their face. Matt tries his best to pull him away, but another one of Carmel's guys shoves at Matt so now everyone's starting to get scrappy.
"Back off! Get back!" Brittany yells at her guys as the refs start to push players apart, "Come on, guys! Back off!"
With the two teams having years and years of rivalry history under their belts, Brittany was prepared for the emotions to show. She figured it would've happened a lot sooner, but she's grateful that it didn't. She needs her guys focused on the game, not getting wrapped up in a fight.
"Come on, Puck," Brittany coaxes as she gets her hand on the Running Back, "Don't let them get into your head. You're better than this."
"That asshole keeps talking shit!" Puck snaps, "I'm getting sick of it."
"Then shut him up with a play," She warns him, "You getting caught up in a fight doesn't help your team. It won't mean anything if you're ejected, will it?"
Puck quiets down, "No."
"Okay, stay focused then," Brittany says then pats him on the shoulder before gathering her guys for another play.
On their next play, she hands the ball off to Puck again and this time he's able to break free of his defenders and gets a crucial first down. Now that they're within good range to try Santana's idea, Brittany has to call a time out to tell her team about it.
When she does, they all look at her like she's crazy…at first.
"I like it," Mike nods, "I think it'll work. It's kind of crazy, but they wouldn't expect it. Plus they've been favoring the left so far too, it'll be good to switch it up."
"Exactly," Brittany smirks and looks to the time remaining before half time, "We're just shy of the two minute mark so if we can get another touchdown in and go for a two point conversion, I think we'll feel a lot more comfortable in our lead."
A lot of the guys like the sound of that.
"I'll take the snap," Finn offers, "Or hand off? Whatever you want to do, Cap."
Brittany smiles apologetically, "Actually I was planning on using Sam for this one."
Sam straightens up at the mention of his name, "Me?"
"Didn't you want to try out for QB or something?" Brittany replies, "I could use someone with your agility. No offense, Hudson."
Sam looks over to Finn, everyone does, but surprisingly Finn just nods proudly.
"Whatever it takes to win," Finn says and gives Sam a pat on the shoulder, "Kill it, dude."
Sam perks up, "Okay, what do I need to do?"
Brittany goes on to explain what she's thinking despite Coach Beiste in her ear telling her to do something different. With all do respect to her, Brittany sees an opportunity to shake things up and she can't play it safe with the play Coach wants her to run instead. She knows that there are recruiters in the crowd watching her and the other players and she's got to stand out if she wants that scholarship.
She gives one glance over to the sidelines where Santana and the Cheerios anxiously await the next play. They're all ruffling their pompoms as if they were beating drums but Santana's hands don't move quite as fast as everyone else's, she's too concerned about the game. Brittany gives her an encouraging nod though before turning back to focus.
When the ball is snapped, Sam grabs for the ball but it's not a smooth hand off. Thankfully, he's able to secure it in time to drop back and find Brittany crossing over the line of scrimmage. He hangs in the pocket for as long as he can so that Brittany can get into position but what she doesn't anticipate is the Carmel Cornerback closing in on her.
It's a jump ball and Brittany leaps into the air to catch it but as she tries to, the Cornerback makes a high tackle. Brittany's helmet nearly flies off as she's brought down hard on her elbow. As soon as she makes contact with the turf, she knows she's going to get an earful from Coach Beiste.
The ref calls it an incomplete pass, but it could've easily been picked off by that defender if they weren't careful which would've been even worse.
"Try again next time, Princess!" The Cornerback laughs in her face before the other defenders join him in celebrating.
She's slow to get up while Jackson and Ridley rush over to push the defenders away from her. The refs are already calling out the penalty against Carmel for that high hit and giving the Titans a first down, but Brittany can't enjoy it – her elbow's bothering her even more as she tries to loosen it up.
"Get over here, Pierce!" Coach yells, "Hudson, you're in!"
Finn looks warily between the two before getting his helmet on and into the game. Brittany does her best to put on a brave face but as she makes it to the sidelines and the trainer starts to fuss over her, she knows she's messed up.
"What the hell were you thinking out there?" Coach demands, "You know who you're playing against? You're lucky they didn't break your arm!"
"I'm sorry, Coach, I thought we could catch them off guard," Brittany replies.
Coach Beiste just shakes her head and looks to the trainer, "How is it?"
"Just some bruising," The trainer responds, "She'll be fine."
Brittany grits her teeth as the trainer wraps an ice pack around her elbow. The cold stings but not as much as Coach Beiste's disappointment.
Coach hardens her stare, "Hudson will close out the half. You just…go sit over there and keep icing that elbow."
"Yes Coach," Brittany replies before making her way over to the bench.
She feels this annoying sting in the corner of her eyes and a little in her throat, but she swallows it back. She was the one who made the decision, she has to pay for the consequences. Doesn't mean it hurts any less though.
Brittany drops the ice pack to examine her elbow for herself, noticing the redness but she can't tell if its from the pack or the hit. All she can do is count her lucky ducks that it's only bruising and not something worse.
"Hey B!" Santana calls out to her again from the other side of the fence. There's this concerned look on her face as she asks, "You okay?"
Brittany turns and gives her a weak smile and a thumbs up. That doesn't seem to satisfy Santana though and soon the Co-Captain is making her way around the fence to Brittany's side.
"You know you can't keep coming over here, Santana," Brittany says as her girlfriend starts to look her over, "Coach Beiste is already super pissed at me for that play. I don't need her pissed about you too."
"Please," Santana waves off, "You saw what happened the last time someone tried keeping me away from you while you were hurt?"
"Actually no," Brittany smirks, "My eyes were closed."
Santana gives her a look, "Well it wasn't pretty."
"I'm kind of surprised you didn't try running onto the field that time," Brittany jokes lightly.
"It didn't look too bad," Santana teases as she touches Brittany's elbow.
"Ouch," Brittany whines and Santana quickly withdraws her hand.
"Oh my God, I'm sorry! Are you okay?"
When Brittany starts to grin, Santana swats her knee.
"Not funny," Santana chastises before reaching for Brittany's abandoned ice pack, "You need to keep this on there. It'll reduce the swelling."
"I know," Brittany sighs, "It's just cold, Doc."
"It's supposed to be."
Brittany gives her a look and Santana gives it right back.
"Don't be stubborn," Santana tells her as she gently touches Brittany's elbow, "Looks sore."
"A little," Brittany says softly, "But you know what would make me feel a lot better?"
"A sweet lady kiss."
Santana quirks her brow and tries not to laugh, "A what?"
"You heard me," Brittany says and taps her lips, "Right here."
Santana chuckles but she doesn't make a move as she lowers her eyes to Brittany's elbow, "You really should be more careful and rest this."
Brittany's smile falters at the way Santana evaded the request, "That's what I'm doing."
She doesn't want to over think the topic change, but she can't help but think of it as just that. They had been going so well for so long, Brittany didn't think she'd have to experience Santana's hesitance again.
Santana sighs, "I mean you should – "
"I know what you meant," Brittany answers, "Finn's in for now but I'm finishing the game, Santana. I'll rest it later. I'm not sitting out any longer than I need to."
"But Britt – "
"Why don't you want to kiss me?"
Santana freezes, her words quickly dying upon hearing Brittany's question. Of all the progress they've made together, she didn't think she'd see Santana back peddling once again.
"I – that's not it," Santana stammers as her eyes drift to the stands, "There's just a lot of important people here – scouts and my parents and reporters – and a lot of cameras too."
Brittany swallows back the lump in her throat and tries to shake off the hurt because that's the excuse she wants to give? Brittany shakes her head, "Sure yeah. I get it. Appearances are important and what not."
"Wait Britt," Santana tries with a hand on Brittany's knee, "That's not it at all. I mean it is, but not…I'm not hiding this time, I promise."
Brittany bites her bottom lip, trying to keep that sinking feeling away. She wants to believe her, but they've been out together in public before, even kissed, so what's different about this time? If anything, Santana should care even less about the audience now after everything they've been through.
"I'm trying not feel hurt right now," Brittany mumbles and it's barely loud enough for Santana to hear.
"Baby," Santana sighs in a tone that Brittany isn't used to. It makes her feel soft and warm. Santana looks up at Brittany with her eyes pretty brown eyes, "I don't mean to hurt you. I just don't want what happened to me to happen to you too."
Brittany frowns at that, "What do you mean?"
"I don't want them taking your moment from you," Santana says, "I don't want you to get overlooked because the focus is on us sharing a scandalous kiss or however they try to spin it. I rather the focus to be on you and the team and your inevitable win."
Brittany stays quiet and Santana sighs.
"Maybe I'm being a little over protective here after what happened with me and Dani or dramatic or whatever but I know how this town works," Santana adds solemnly, "They'll take your moment like they took mine and I don't want that for you. You've worked too hard for this, Britt."
Brittany can't find it in her to feel as hurt as before now that Santana's explained her reasoning. She just stares back adoringly, "I think things are different this time around."
"Are they? Just look over there," Santana gestures to the fence where JBI and his camera friend are filming. Alongside him is another reporter from a sleezy Lima gossip magazine, "Fucking vultures. They already think they're getting a good show."
"But we aren't doing anything?"
"It doesn't matter. They'll make something up."
Santana flips them off and Brittany's quick to put her hand down.
"What are you doing?" Brittany chastises, "You just said – "
"If you flip them off they can't use the pictures," Santana says, "I saw Kristen Stewart do it."
Brittany frowns at her logic but doesn't challenge it.
"Look, there are eyes and ears everywhere waiting for you to put on a show," Santana tells her, "Let it be the right kind of show, okay? This is your night."
Brittany begins to smile as lets Santana's words sink in. Her heart begs Brittany to say those three little words that keep coming up, but her head speaks first.
"Yeah, okay. Tonight's my night."
"Exactly," Santana replies then teases in a lighter tone, "You and I can make a scene later, once you win this thing."
Brittany chuckles at that, "Okay."
"Okay," Santana tenderly squeezes Brittany's knee as halftime is called, "I have to go put on a show of my own now. I'll see you after."
This time Brittany's the one left watching as Santana jogs off to join her squad.
"We've got them right where we want them and you're blowing it by not playing smart!" Coach yells at the squad in the locker room. Some of the players begin to show signs of exhaustion, but Coach's booming voice grabs their attention, "Don't give your lead away! You're a better team than them. We know it, they know it so let's play like it."
Brittany nods to Coach's words before she's being rounded on.
"And you," Coach shakes her head, "You have one of the best arms out there, kid. You've got scouts all over the country with their eye on you. Do you really want to blow all of that by being cocky?"
Brittany stiffens. She didn't think that's what she was being by taking a chance, but she knows better than to argue with her coach.
"You've got good instincts but think about your team," Coach Beiste warns, "If you want to do some trick play like that, run it by me first and I'll give you the okay on whether or not it should actually happen."
"Yes Coach," Brittany answers.
"As for the rest of you," Beiste takes in a deep breath before cracking a proud smile, "As frustrating it is sometimes to watch you all play, you're doing one hell of a job out there. We expected Carmel to bring the heat but we love playing with fire, don't we?"
The Titans start to get rowdy at that and Coach's smile widens.
"Keep at it and we will come out of this on top," Beiste says, "Play hard, play smart, but most importantly have fun. This is your night, Titans, this is the legacy you're leaving behind. Make it a good one!"
Brittany feels her chest swell with pride as she nods along to Beiste's words.
"Alright, we've got a little time left so coaches talk to your groups," Beiste motions for the secondary coaches over while she turns to Brittany, "And you, come talk to me about this trick play you tried pulling. Maybe I can help you iron out the kinks."
Brittany's eyes widen but she doesn't question it and quickly gets to the drawing board.
After the Cheerios' halftime performance, the Titans come out with guns blazing. Coach Beiste's locker room speech had the entire team revved up once again. They were more determined than ever to finish out the game on top. Whatever it took, the Titans would do it just so that they could secure the Championship title.
Brittany felt a renewed sense of motivation as well. With Coach's speech and Santana's words keeping her focused on the game, she was unstoppable – even if her elbow was still a little tender. If Lima wanted a show, she was going to give them the best damn one they'd ever seen.
Apparently, Carmel had the same idea in mind.
Both teams played hard, both teams played smart, but only one could come out on top. The score had been tied at 49 – 49 for the most part and with just four minutes left in regulation – one of the teams needed to make a play or they'd head into overtime.
Brittany thrived on that kind of pressure. She loves the buzz of energy, the restlessness of the crowd, the determined looks on her teammates' faces. This is what champions are made of, moments like this where she can really show all the doubters that she can hang with the best of them.
"Alright we'll do bootleg right," Brittany calls the play, "Let's use up some of the clock. Once we score, we don't want them to have any time to make a play. Okay? Get some yardage and get out of bounds."
Her teammates nod before they all break to get into formation. Brittany takes her place too but first glances to the sidelines where she sees Santana cheering her on. Behind her is the entire hockey team and Brittany chuckles to herself when she sees they all look pretty invested in the game too.
"Down!" She calls out and her O-Line moves accordingly, "Down…HUT!"
The ball is snapped but the pocket never forms; Jackson and Ridley get overpowered almost instantly so Brittany has to scramble. She's looking left, she's looking right but no one's open. She thinks about throwing it away, but with so little time left on the game clock, she can't risk getting intercepted.
She has to tuck the ball in and run like hell.
Matt sees Brittany's in trouble and tries to run along with her to offer some type of protection and with his help, Brittany's able to cut the corner on her defender. She gets a few yards before she steps out of bounds.
As she slows herself down so she doesn't collide into any of the photographers there, a Carmel defender gives her an unexpected shove. Brittany tries to soften her fall as she's pushed into the bystanders she was trying so hard to avoid. She can hear the player trying to taunt her while the ref places the spot of the ball, but she doesn't bite. Brittany's teammates yell back at the Carmel defender who laid the late hit thought and question the ref's lack of penalty.
"Yo Ref!" Matt calls out, "You awake or you're just going to let them get away with that?"
"I'm saying!" Jackson adds, "How much they paying you?"
"Don't guys," Brittany says as she tries getting them to move on, "It's alright. I'm good."
Although Brittany agrees with them, the ref motions for the game to continue on. She can see Coach Beiste getting all red in the face at that, but Brittany can only get her guys into position once again.
With just minutes left on the clock, the Titans have to move fast and get out of bounds so they have the time to reset. If it gets to overtime then so be it, but Brittany would rather they wrap the game up now while they have the chance.
"Okay, let's get in range first before we dazzle them," Brittany says, "Blue 32 West. Okay? Blue 32 West."
It's a play action call so when the ball is snapped, Brittany fakes the hand off to Puck while Mike makes a run for the sideline. Along with Jackson, Puck offers more protection and secures the pocket long enough for Brittany to make a safe throw.
Mike brings it in virtually untouched and is able to get a few extra yards in before he's tackled out of bounds. The clock stops but Brittany still pushes her team to hustle to their new line of scrimmage.
During the next quick huddle, Brittany tries to rally her guys. They've got to make a play now or at least get a new set of downs. They can't turn the ball over at their current position, that would basically give the win to Carmel. They could try to get within field goal range and bring Kurt and special teams out for an extra 3 points?
But Brittany's never liked doing the bare minimum to win a game.
What they need is something…unexpected.
"I want to try that trick play again," Brittany mentions and everyone starts to disagree. She's quick to quiet them down, "I know, I know. It didn't work out too well the first time but that's exactly why we should do it now. They won't expect us to try it again. Coach worked it out with me during halftime, we just need to get to the 10 yard line."
A few of the guys still look unsure though.
"Scared QBs don't make plays," Brittany tells them, "I'm not scared. Are you?"
There are mumbles of hell no and I ain't scared.
"Okay then," Brittany nods and holds out her fist, "Who's with me?"
"I'm in," Sam says as he puts his hand on top of hers.
Mike follows suit, "Me too."
"Like I've always said…you've got balls, Pierce," Puck chimes in, "I'm down."
Everyone else joins and Brittany smiles at how they can all come together as one cohesive unit. They've grown so much since she first joined the team!
"Alright, let's do this!" Brittany cheers.
The Titans run up to their new line of scrimmage with less than a minute left in the regulation, but before Brittany can call the next play, Carmel takes a time out.
Brittany straightens up as the ref blows his whistle to signal the time out.
"Figures," Brittany sighs as she loosens her chin strap.
They had great momentum going for them, but Carmel's time out throws them off a little. Everyone's starting to get a little anxious with so little time left on the clock, but Brittany does her best to keep the Titans focused.
Meanwhile, the Camels look nervous as they glance at the Titans. It's not too common that they have such a close game like this. They've been a well oiled machined for so long, stacking up wins for years but Brittany and the Titans have thrown them for a loop.
All Brittany can do is stare back determinedly.
"Look at them," Puck jokes, "They're scared as shit."
"Should be," Sam smirks, "They're about to get their asses handed to them."
At that, one defender – the one that laid the late hit on Brittany – looks over his shoulder at them and sneers.
"What the hell you looking at, Punk?" Puck challenges.
"Easy," Brittany warns, "They're just trying to throw you off. Let's focus here. Everyone know their routes?"
She goes on to confirm that everyone knows what they're meant to do for this next play. She feels confident about it this time, because she's not going to let her team down twice in one night. It's the last play of the game, the last play of her high school career. There's no way she's going to blow it.
"Okay this is it, guys," Brittany tells her team, "This is what we've worked all season for, this moment right here. We know what to do, let's show them. Let's shut this game down already! Titans on me, Titans on three. One…two…three!"
Everyone puts their fists up and chants together, "Titans!"
The 30 second time out goes by quickly and soon everyone's coming together again at the line of scrimmage. It looks like Carmel is going to blitz which would've stopped Brittany's version of the trick play but not with Coach Beiste's tweaks.
Still, Brittany stays focused. She can't get too confident just yet. Anything can happen.
"Down!" She calls out before stomping her foot. Sam runs to her left while Puck stays in position on her right, "Hut…HUT!"
The ball is snapped and it's kind of like a game of hot potato. First it's in her hands then she smoothly hands it off to Puck. They split off in opposite directions while Puck keeps the ball tucked under his arm until he's within reaching distance of Sam. The ball is then handed off for a third time as Sam makes a grab for it and quickly gets into a throwing stance.
The Camels are all sorts of confused and in that confusion, Brittany is able to slip through a gap in the defenders where Mike is drawing out his man. With all eyes mostly focused on Sam, Puck and Mike – no ones watching Brittany.
The quarterback runs as fast as she can for the endzone while Matt runs alongside her, offering protection from the Cornerback who is on her tail yet again. This time though, she's too fast for him and when Sam launches the ball in her direction she's wide open.
All she has to do now is make the catch.
For a moment, it feels like time stops and everyone goes quiet as the ball sails through the air in a perfect spiral. Brittany keeps her eye on it just like her dad taught her and runs like hell until she is positioned underneath of it.
But the ball is slightly over thrown so Brittany has to reach up high for it. At the last moment, she turns and jumps up, the tips of her cleats scrape the turf as she makes the catch. She hangs on for dear life as the final seconds tick away and game buzzer sounds. She does her best to secure the ball to her chest but the sudden change in momentum has her falling to the ground on her back.
But she lands with the ball still in her arms!
Her breath is caught in her throat but she quickly rolls to her side to find the nearest ref. She's praying to anyone that's listening that she has landed in bounds and in the endzone, because if not? That would've been the greatest play for nothing.
It's the longest second in the world and she doesn't begin to breathe again until she sees both of the ref's arms shoot up.
"Touchdown!" The ref signals.
The crowd erupts in applause and soon Brittany's being hoisted in the air by her teammates Santana's got Coach Sylvester's megaphone in hand, using it to cheer Brittany on. Even the Puck Heads are whooping and hollering for them but it's hard for Brittany to hear any one thing. All she hears is the loud roar of the crowd, of her teammates, of the entire town of Lima celebrating the win.
On that cold December night, Brittany led the William McKinley High School Titans to their first Championship victory in over thirty years with a final score of 56 – 49.
A giant orange cooler of Gatorade is being dumped on Coach Beiste and Brittany's being carried on the shoulders of her teammates while everyone cheers them on. The Titans were the underdogs and they put on a great show and came out on top.
Brittany's nearly too stunned for words.
The guys eventually put her down in favor of celebrating with their friends and families and significant others who have begun to take to the field and Brittany finds a familiar sense of déjà vu as she watches on.
Just a few weeks ago, she was in this exact place – staring up at the stadium lights wishing that she could have what everyone else does. To love or be loved openly, to share this great moment with someone special just like everyone else. It's hard not to feel envious because even though she's surrounded by all of these people and she's come so far, she's still never felt so –
Brittany's heart skips a beat because she knows that voice. It's one she didn't expect to hear so close by but she turns anyway and finds Santana giving her this smug grin in the sea of people on the field.
It's such a sense of relief and it gets even better because soon Santana's jumping into her arms. Brittany surprises herself by how readily she catches her and hoists the girl up. Their smiles are big and bright and then Brittany's being kissed so deeply and it just about takes her breath away again – so much so in fact that Brittany loses grip of her helmet and it falls forgotten at their feet.
It's a kiss like that that makes it all worth it in the end. The battles they've faced on and off the field, together and on their own, it pales in comparison to this moment right here. Because in this moment, beneath the bright stadium lights, Brittany doesn't feel so lost anymore.
In fact, she's never felt so found.
When they pull away from each other seconds later, Brittany wears this pleased half-smirk and the look makes Santana let out a chuckle. Brittany's head is swimming in the high of that kiss and the win and she's still a little dazed but then a flash of a camera makes her quickly remember where they are and more importantly – who's watching.
She lets down Santana gently as she takes a look around uneasily. Crowds have already started to gather as the two teams form lines to shake hands and congratulate each other, but in amongst the players and coaches and family and friends are the cameras. It makes Brittany feel suddenly protective as she pulls Santana a little closer to her, remembering Santana's words from earlier.
"You know people are starting to stare, right?" Brittany mentions softly before looking to Santana, "Not that I'm complaining or anything, because I've always wanted to do that – especially with you and it was everything that I've ever dreamed of – but there are cameras pointed at us and you said earlier that..." Brittany loses track of her thoughts as she looks to the stands and sees Santana's family alongside her own and her jaw just about drops, "Holy shit, Santana, your dad is over there and he does not look – "
"I love you," Santana says all in one breath.
Brittany's swivels back to Santana in an instant, "You…"
Did her ears deceive her? How hard did she fall on that last play? Oh my God, did she hit her head? Is she concussed now? Her lips move but no words come out. Maybe she really is concussed?
"Pierce!" Coach Beiste calls out to her.
Brittany's lips part before she's looking to her coach.
"I got someone I want to introduce you to," Coach tells her as she gestures to a broad-shouldered man wearing an Ohio State cap.
Brittany nods, still just as speechless. She's caught between her present and her future, but her feet don't move. She wants to clarify what she heard Santana say. She wants to shout her response from the top stands of the bleachers but she's so speechless.
"You should go," Santana tells her, "You don't want to keep them waiting."
Brittany swallows hard and nods. She doesn't want Santana to get the wrong idea, but so much is happening all at once and it's like her voice has stopped working.
"I've got to go deal with something too," Santana adds and looks towards the stands where Hector and Maribel await her, "I don't think I can run forever so..."
Brittany frowns at her cryptic words and it adds to the list of things she wants to talk about, but Santana's already saying her goodbyes.
As she turns to walk away, something kickstarts in Brittany and she reaches out to catch Santana by the hand.
"Wait," Brittany stammers, thankful that she has suddenly found her voice again, "I – I'll see you at Puck's later, right?"
Santana glances at her dad and shrugs, "If I'm not grounded for the rest of my life."
"Pierce!" Coach calls out to her again.
"Coming!" Brittany answers and looks apologetically back at Santana, "I'm sorry I – "
"It's okay. Go," Santana gives her hand a gentle squeeze before letting it go, "Great game, B. I always knew you could do it."
Brittany can only return the weak smile before they're being drawn to go their separate ways.
A/N - Also don't forget to check out the really awesome gifset swiftagron made for this story on tumblr! I seriously feel so official LOL.